Briefing Notes Training Workshops: Government of Canada



briefing notes training workshops

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Editors' Association of Canada     Clarity International      Click for the BBB Business Review of this Training Program in Ottawa ON     International Association of Business Communicators      Plain Language Association International



Scheduled Workshops: Ottawa

At present, there are no scheduled workshops in the Ottawa area. In-house workshops, however, are available at any time and anywhere.




In-House Workshops

An Investment That Will Yield Dividends for a Lifetime

In-House Briefing Notes Training Programs — Where and When You Want Them — Anywhere in Canada





What You Will Learn

A Briefing Note Is Just a Series of Manageable Tasks

Some people write to put their thoughts on paper. Others write to discover what their thoughts are. Most of us do some of each. Whatever your approach, this workshop is designed to equip you with the skills, knowledge and tools you need to prepare effective briefing notes.

In an era of severe information overload, it is vital to use the written word effectively and efficiently to influence decision-makers. This course will:

  • demystify the writing process for you
  • give you the thinking and planning skills you need to achieve results and avoid pitfalls in writing briefing notes

This workshop teaches how to write clear, crisp and compelling briefing notes. Over the course of two dynamic days, you will learn:

  • how to use a step-by-step model that enables you to prepare briefing notes systematically, efficiently and effectively

  • how to give yourself a frame of reference that will provide sound guidance throughout the writing process

  • how to write strategically

  • how to manage your time effectively

  • how to understand your audience's needs

  • how to develop compelling content that targets your audience and your objective

  • how to vary the degree of detail you use to suit audience needs

  • how to use facts, opinions and arguments

  • how to summarize

  • how to organize your briefing notes in a way that fosters ease of understanding
  • how to use the appropriate format for your briefing notes
  • how to write briefing notes in a clear and crisp style that achieves brevity and ease of reading
  • how to apply the finishing touches needed to avoid problems


Approach to Teaching

An Energetic and Rewarding Learning Environment


Each workshop is limited to 15 participants.

Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  This workshop does just that for briefing notes, using the innovative step-by-step model shown below.

Time Commitment

To obtain optimal learning results, this in-depth program asks for a significant time commitment from participants:

Briefing Notes Format

The format that we normally teach is shown here. Its key elements are:

  • purpose line
  • subject
  • summary
  • issue
  • background
  • considerations
  • conclusion or recommendation(s)

We believe there is much merit in this format. It economizes on space while providing headings that accommodate any need that could arise.

Pre-Workshop Exercise: Research Paper

Two weeks before the workshop, we send participants a 20-page research paper by e-mail. They spend about three hours reading the research paper and doing an exercise with it before the workshop starts.

Workshop Lesson Plan

The workshop’s two-day lesson plan is built around three streams of learning:

  • a challenging case study (based on the pre-workshop exercise), in which participants progressively apply the techniques learned from the step-by-step model to develop a full briefing note in point form
  • writing in a clear and crisp style

Workshop Techniques

During the workshop, we use diverse techniques and tools to create an optimal learning environment:

  • lectures with slide presentations
  • group discussions
  • written exercises
  • oral exercises
  • the case study, in which participants work in small groups to plan, develop, organize and format the content of a full briefing note in point form
  • a hard-copy manual of 245 pages, complemented by answer sheets for the exercises

Post-Workshop Exercise: Final Briefing Note

At the end of the workshop, the instructor asks participants to complete a post-workshop exercise. In it, each participant develops the case study into a final-form briefing note. We provide a template for this in Microsoft Word format.

Within two weeks of the close of the workshop, each participant submits his or her final briefing note for the instructor’s review, sending it by e-mail in a Microsoft Word file. The instructor then responds with comments, edits and and his own version of the final briefing note.

We believe we are unique in offering this measure of personal feedback.

Certificate of Achievement

Participants receive a certificate of achievement if they:

1. complete and submit the pre-workshop exercise before the workshop starts; and

2. attend at least 12 hours of the workshop itself; and

3. complete the post-workshop exercise within two weeks of the close of the session.



Step-by-Step Model for Briefing Notes

Writing a briefing note can seem like a bewildering challenge at times.  As Henry Ford said, however, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”  The model above does just that for briefing notes.  It sets out the tasks that we all deal with — consciously or not — in any briefing note.  The model helps us to address those tasks methodically and with sound reasoning.

The step-by-step model is a tool, not a rule.  No two people will use it entirely alike.  In theory, you should first write a frame of reference, then develop the content, then select the medium, and finally prepare the message itself.  In practice, you will probably find yourself jumping back and forth from one stage to another.  Even so, the model provides important insights into what to think about, when to think about it and how to think about it.

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Who Should Attend

These training workshops are designed for those who write, edit and approve briefing notes in the Government of Canada, including:

  • policy and program advisors

  • technical and scientific specialists
  • administrators
  • managers

The course focuses on briefing notes prepared for senior management and Cabinet ministers. However, the techniques taught apply equally to briefing notes prepared for supervisors, colleagues or middle management.



What Is Included

The registration fee includes:

  • two days of workshop instruction, discussion and practice
  • personal feedback on the pre-workshop exercise and the post-workshop exercise
  • workshop manual, exercises and other materials

  • lunch and refreshments on both days (for scheduled workshops only)
You will also have:
  • online access to a 390-page easy-to-read reference manual
  • online access to over 274 templates (each in MS Word and WordPerfect) for briefing notes, briefing books, memos and letters





The Challenge

Say It All, Say It Well.  Say It Wisely, Say It Briefly.

A briefing note is a powerful tool of access to leaders — to influence their decisions, their actions and their understanding of issues. In this regard, writers (and their managers) face a complex challenge. They must deliver expert insight and strategic acumen with clarity, brevity and professionalism — all presented in an optimal organization, format, style and tone.

Our Mission

Excellence in Briefing Notes Training

Writing for Results Inc.'s mission is to deliver training that provides Government of Canada employees with the tools, techniques and knowledge needed to excel at preparing clear, crisp and compelling briefing notes.


Our Vision

National Leadership

Our vision is to be nation's foremost provider of briefing notes training for Government of Canada employees — offering outstanding value at a reasonable cost for clients anywhere in the country.



Evaluations from Briefing Notes Workshop Participants

Click the button below to view cumulative average evaluations of briefing notes workshops held to date.

Participants rate 21 factors on a scale of 1 to 10. The cumulative average rating to date is 9.0 out of 10.

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image 6 Evaluation Averages image

Participants' Comments on the Briefing Notes Workshops

A useful course in providing a clear understanding of the contents of a briefing note and how to tailor them to your audience.

T.S., Briefings Coordinator

The instructor patiently addressed all of our questions and concerns. Very instructive!

J.F., Policy Analyst

The course helped me develop a more systematic approach to writing briefing notes; this was achieved by breaking the note down into its component parts.

K.K., Policy Analyst

An informative, innovative, well paced course useful for beginners and experts alike.

M.A., Manager, Corporate Planning and Reporting

Excellent workshop!

H.Z., Environmental Program Officer

The course is a sensible, structured and interactive approach to dealing with the challenges of distilling complex topics and issues into clear and concise briefing notes.

P.C., Director

I did learn a lot from this workshop. The instructor is well-organized and has tonnes of experience.

A.F., Policy Analyst

Excellent instructor and material. A very enjoyable learning experience.

S.C., Species at Risk Biologist

Great course.
D.S., Manager, IT Risk Management

The pace, content and methodology used in delivering this course was just right. This information will be enormously helpful in my future briefing note writing endeavours.

R.S., Analyst

Excellent workshop! Not only did the instructor provide solid expertise in the subject matter, but provided a very positive and friendly environment.

J.D., Senior Programs Officer

Very informative and helpful.
S.C., Program Coordinator

This workshop will be very useful in preparing effective briefing notes in the near future. I am happy that I took this workshop.

S.R., Evaluation and Regulation Specialist

Very informative breakdown of briefing note construction.

R.N., Staff Officer

I really enjoyed the course. I learned a lot and appreciated all the tips and tidbits. Thank you Rob!
J.N., IT Security Analyst

Bravo! Excellent tutor. Excellent reference documents. Excellent learning experience.

J.P., Coordinator

Very informative, helped me greatly!

A.H., Finance Administration Officer

Very well presented. I recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to be more efficient in writing briefing notes.

R.T., Team Leader

This was a very practical workshop that will help me to be more efficient in development of my briefing notes.

P.B., Account Manager

I thoroughly benefited from the hands-on instruction given by Rob Parkinson. The course on "The Art and Science of Successful Briefing Notes" took the fear out of the task of writing briefing notes. It provided a solid framework for future reference, and I would strongly recommend this course to all government departments.

C.J., Senior Program Officer

Well thought out, methodical approach. Thorough, engaging, fun.

E.S., Senior Branding Officer

Excellent training program.

F.R., Environmental Program Specialist

This workshop provides invaluable information on the process of synthesizing vast disparate information into one easy-to-follow briefing note.

M.-C.R., Research Coordination Officer

The discussions and exercises we did as part of the workshop were quite intellectually stimulating and deepened my understanding of the principles of briefing and writing.

N.K., Project Officer

The course is excellent. Rob draws on extensive experience and lays things out in a way that is easy to understand.

C.M., Policy Analyst

Even for someone who does not write formal briefing notes, this course will be really useful for anyone who has to provide advice to management.

J.P., Data Development Officer

Excellent breakdown of all of the elements of a briefing note! Very well done.

D.L., Business Analyst

This session was extremely well organized and presented. The real world experience and extensive knowledge of the instructor made him a valuable resource we should all have access to. The course was extremely well priced for the value it provided. I would recommend it to anyone.

K.S., Content Review Analyst

A useful learning experience!

M.L., a/Manager

Very useful for francophones writing briefing notes in English.

M.-E. M., Analyst

I learned a lot of useful information on developing effective briefing notes. I especially enjoyed discussions with colleagues within other branches in the Government of Canada.

R.V., Science Advisor

I found it very useful and I will be able to correct a lot of mistakes that I have been making in the past. The step-by-step model is easy to follow and useful for other writing assignments, not just briefing notes.

T.E., Senior Policy Analyst

I finally understand the difference between a “good” briefing note and an “excellent” briefing note.  Thank you.

G.K., Community Advisor




Organizations served to date include:

  • Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Bank of Canada
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Canadian Coast Guard
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Canadian Institutes for Health Research
  • Canadian International Development Agency
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Department of Justice
  • Environment Canada
  • Finance Canada
  • Health Canada
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Industry Canada
  • Measurement Canada
  • Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation
  • National Research Council
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Passport Canada
  • Polar Continental Shelf Program
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • Service Canada
  • Transport Canada
  • Treasury Board Secretariat


About the Course Leader

Rob Parkinson -- Briefing Notes Workshops

Rob Parkinson has over 35 years of experience in management communications — gained
as a consultant, an instructor, a manager,
an editor and a writer in
both government and
the private sector.

He has specialized in briefings for senior executives for over
19 years, including six
years as the editor for the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Canada. While there, he designed the department's standards for briefing notes — bringing about substantial improvements in the quality of material prepared for the Minister and the Deputy Minister.

Rob has led successful workshops for managers, lawyers, policy analysts, technical specialists and administrative staff in diverse government and industry environments.

Rob has a B.A. from Trent University and an M.B.A. from the University of Ottawa.



Contact Us

Writing for Results Inc.
420 Gloucester Street, Suite 1610
Ottawa, ON
Canada K1R 7T7

Telephone: (613) 231-3305

E-mail: Writing for Results Inc.



Revised March 21, 2015