How to Show You Care (Virtually) During Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Prepping a presentation for Cybersecurity Awareness Month? Follow these tips for connecting with employees and upping engagement with cybersecurity.

Prepping a presentation for Cybersecurity Awareness Month? Follow these tips for connecting with employees and upping engagement with cybersecurity.

If October means Cybersecurity Awareness Month, then September means scrambling to prepare something fun for October.

As you put the finishing touches on your prep for next month, I’d like to offer some tips to ensure the connections you make with employees around cybersecurity are meaningful and lasting.

2020 has changed so much, and promoting security best practices and know-how directly to your employees is no different.

No more talking at lunch-and-learns.

No more filling up the company cafeteria with tables full of tchotchkes.

No more getting the local FBI agent to come tell cool stories to employees.

This year, it’s all virtual.

We can’t deny it: we’re all going to miss the human touch this October.

But just because most Cybersecurity Awareness Month events are going to be virtual doesn’t mean that they can’t support your goals of helping employees connect with cybersecurity.

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Tips for Connecting with Employees

I’m going to assume that you already have the “right content” for your presentations. After all, the facts about what employees should do to protect data aren’t really in dispute.

The real trick is motivating employees to care enough to take action. Here are three ways to solve this problem:

Tell Stories

What better way to help people understand how their actions can help than a good story?

Stories allow people to imagine themselves acting like the characters they’re reading or hearing about, and there are many stories out there about people who protected their companies and their families by acting in CyberSmart ways. Often the best stories are your own, so don’t hesitate to let employees see that even you, the cybersecurity expert, had to learn a few things along the way.

Be Positive

We all know that cybercrime is scary, but scaring people about all the cybercriminals isn’t the right way to build resilience or a long-term commitment to action (see my recent piece on fear if you don’t believe me).

To really empower your employees to take charge of their digital lives, emphasize the positive feelings associated with mastering password management, securing your browsing, or becoming a better phishing detective. Remind them of the positive long-term impact cybersecure actions will have both at work and at home. There are so many positive associations with good data protection practices—let those come to the fore in October.

Be Real

If ever there was a time to let people see the “real you,” it’s when you’re giving a virtual talk about cybersecurity.

Everybody is sick of virtual presentations, and a big part of what they’re sick of is the lack of human connection and feeling associated with seeing a person alone on camera. That’s why it’s so important that you show people your passion for your work.

If you’ve got hobbies or personal stories or just little things that get you up in the morning and make it worthwhile to do your job, let your audience see these in a meaningful way. They will like you better as a result, and they’ll be more likely to connect with cybersecurity in ways that support your goals.

The Best Cybersecurity Presentation

I’ve spent the last several weeks preparing talks that I’m going to give for our customers, and as a result I’ve been studying the way others give presentations. Lucky for me, I got to attend a series of talks as part of the Forrester Security and Risk event.

Some of the talks were boring as hell (I won’t name names): people dressed formally, sitting still in front of the camera, clearly reading from a prepared script, often talking in a near monotone. I couldn’t care about WHAT they said because I was so bored by HOW they said it.

Other speakers tried too hard—they waved their arms and made dramatic statements, but it was clear that they were following directions about how to inject energy that just didn’t fit their personalities.

Share Your Passion, Not Just Your Presentation

But a couple presentations really stood out. Forrester analyst Chase Cunningham gave a talk about Zero Trust. Nearly every slide depicted scenes from action movies, while he filled his talk with stories about how The Rock or Bruce Lee might deploy Zero Trust principles. Cunningham didn’t read from a script and he didn’t wave his arms—he just talked with passion and conviction about things that mattered to him.

Fellow analyst Jinan Budge took a totally different—but equally authentic—approach as she talked about navigating the complex emotional terrain on security leadership, weaving in stories about her childhood emigration to Australia and her daughter’s business cases.

As you prepare to talk to your employees this coming month, think about how you can infuse your talk with passion you bring to helping people care about cybersecurity.
Yes, that’s really Michael McDonald.

My favorite presentation, though, came at the end of a long morning of talks. It was a white haired guy, sitting at a keyboard, playing and singing the songs that I had listened to as a teen: Michael McDonald, singing some of the greatest hits from his long career with the Doobie Brothers and as a solo artist, including “Minute by Minute” and “Taking It to the Streets.”

His talent and his obvious love of music were so pure and authentic that the audience “erupted” in appreciation in the chat bar at the side of the screen.

I don’t think I’ll try singing my presentations anytime soon, but I sure was inspired by McDonald’s talent and authenticity. As you prepare to talk to your employees this coming month, think about how you can infuse your talk with passion you bring to helping people care about cybersecurity. It will make a real difference.

CONFESSIONS OF AN AWARENESS NERD

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