Gorvett, Morse, Volkman
In a recent paper titled “Communicating in Crisis Situations,” the cross-disciplinary team of Bryant faculty members Rick Gorvett, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Mathematics department (left), and Casualty Actuarial Society Fellow; Christopher Morse, Ph.D. (right), Professor of Communication; and Julie Volkman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Communication, collaborated on recommendations for actuaries and other “quants” who need to more effectively communicate important information in challenging times.
Professors Gorvett, Morse, and Volkman on “Communicating in Crisis Situations”
Apr 27, 2020, by Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD, RI – Communicating technical information, particularly in times of crisis, can be a challenge. For experts in the quantitative disciplines, it is often difficult to translate detailed information about complex issues into simple, key points that can be understood by an audience of non-experts.

In a recent paper titled “Communicating in Crisis Situations,” published in the Casualty Actuarial Society E-Forum, Winter 2020, the cross-disciplinary team of Bryant faculty members Rick Gorvett, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Mathematics department, and Casualty Actuarial Society Fellow; Christopher Morse, Ph.D., Professor of Communication; and Julie Volkman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Communication, collaborated to examine this challenge and propose recommendations for actuaries and other “quants” who need to more effectively communicate important information in challenging times.

Crisis situations are often marked by heightened levels of stress and uncertainty. Emotions, such as fear and anxiety, can block overall receptivity of an audience, making it even more difficult to process complex information.

Crisis situations are often marked by heightened levels of stress and uncertainty. Emotions, such as fear and anxiety, can block overall receptivity of an audience, making it even more difficult to process complex information. This is exacerbated in many cases when people “who are tasked with conveying information make assumptions about both their message as well as who they are talking to, which often causes confusion or reduced understanding.” These assumptions combined with the use of jargon or specialized vocabulary “can have severely negative impacts."

How can experts with critical information more effectively communicate complex information to audiences with varying degrees of knowledge and understanding?

In difficult circumstances, conveying information is not enough. How can experts with critical information more effectively communicate complex information to audiences with varying degrees of knowledge and understanding?

  • Simplicity and repetition. It is important for individuals to remember that they must be simplistic and repetitive in the conveying of their information. They must be prepared to deal with audiences wanting to avoid what they are saying or challenging it.

  • Know your audience. While the speaker may feel that they are speaking “plainly” they must examine their use of jargon and appreciate the experience level of those they are speaking to.

  • Manage the message and expectations. Finally, while a speaker may believe that the solution being presented is logical and practical, he/she must understand that if the proposed solution deviates too much from the established norm, the audience may reject it as their uncertainty causes them to fall back on what has been done beforeor, at the very least, what is comfortable and safe.

The full text of the article can be found at the Casualty Actuarial Society website.

Read More

Related Stories