The 411

October 17-18, 2023
9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.


$750 (+hst)
Discounts available.


Meet the Instructor

David Kardish

David Kardish

David Kardish, APR, is a founding partner and current President of the Centre for Excellence in Communications.

read bio


"The structured debate took me out of my comfort zone. I liked working in collaboration with other participants."

"The course content was delivered clearly and succinctly in an engaging manner. I'm always pleased with the course selection and delivery of courses from the CEC."

"Well organized and presented. Instructor was very knowledgeable. Good balance of classromm and breakout group time."

G091 -

NOTE: The workshop content described below will be delivered through ZOOM ONLINE on two consecutive half-day sessions. Agendas and other relevant workshop documentation will be sent to you by the workshop instructor at least three days prior to the date of the first session.


This interactive professional development workshop has been designed to support individuals tasked with the responsibility of communicating risk to the public or preparing those who are responsible for delivering contentious information in controversial situations. Communicating risk to the public or providing information in contentious situations is not for the feint of heart! Today, organizational stakeholders, target audiences, detractors and critics are more knowledgeable and better equipped than ever before. Communicators need to be expertly prepared to develop and deliver oral presentations, answer hostile questions and effectively respond to the challenges posed by stakeholders, audiences and publics in highly charged and adversarial settings.

Communicating risk and controversial information to the public ensures that accurate, understandable and timely information is provided to those who need it most. Increasingly, all levels of government, private and voluntary sector organizations want to insure that they are the primary source of information on risk and/or controversial issues.


Communicating Risk and Contentious Issues to the Public will provide workshop participants with the skills required to learn how to prepare and successfully deliver complex information, debate controversial issues and maintain composure during aggressive questioning from hostile individuals and groups.

The workshop participants will acquire the following skills:


This highly innovative workshop will be beneficial for communications practitioners working in the private and voluntary sector and mid-level and senior government officers who regularly communicate risk or controversial information to the public.


In addition to the course workbook and exercises, you will also take away useful templates, handouts and references for additional reading.


Thinking Things Through: Innovating through analysis and ideas
Engagement: Working effectively with people, organizations and partners
Strategic Thinking: Innovating through analysis and ideas
Excellence: Delivering results

8:45 - 9:15 Introductions and Workshop Overview
  • The participants will introduce themselves, outline their expectations for the workshop and the challenges they face on a regular basis when asked to communicate risk and/or controversial issues to the public
9:15 - 10:00 The Basics of Communicating Risk and Contentious Issues
  • Through the use of an interactive conversation, the instructor will provide the participants with key definitions and the participants will provide examples and illustrations of communicating risk and controversial information
  • The participants will review and discuss the risk-issue-crisis continuum and relate this continuum to the internal and external environment in which they work
  • This session will conclude with a discussion of the basics of risk and contentious issue communications including how and why perception usually trumps reality and the importance of building a solid reputation based on trust
10:00 - 10:15 HEALTH BREAK
10:15 - 11:30 Exercise — Participation in a Structured Debate
  • The workshop instructor will frame a debate question and the workshop participants will engage in a structured debate using processes outlined by the instructor
  • Following the debate, the participants will discuss lessons learned in presenting and debating risk and contentious information in a public environment
11:30 - 12:15 Preparing to Lead or Participate in an Outreach Initiative
  • The participants will brainstorm the steps that they would follow to successfully prepare for and later undertake an outreach activity designed to communicate risk or a contentious issue
  • The participants guided by the instructor will order the outreach process steps from start to finish
  • Lastly, the participants will discuss and resolve the major challenges faced when preparing to participate in an outreach initiative
12:15 - 1:00 LUNCH
1:00 - 2:00 Developing Oral Briefings and Presentations that Communicate Risk and Contentious Issues

During this interactive session, the participants will discuss the following:

  • How to develop an oral briefing and/or presentation
  • How to deliver an oral briefing and/or presentation
  • How to segment stakeholders, audiences and publics
  • How to build a coherent messaging regime
2:00 - 2:15 HEALTH BREAK
2:15 - 3:00 Preparing for Difficult Questions and Managing Hostile Audiences
  • Participants will learn about several processes designed to identify difficult questions
  • Within this session, participants will discuss techniques for actively managing difficult questions and addressing hostile audiences
3:00 - 4:00 Case Study
4:00 - 4:15 Wrap-up and Evaluation
  • The instructor will complete a brief ‘lessons learned’ session with the participants and the participants will complete an evaluation of the session