Improving actuarial communication

Improving actuarial communication

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Speaker(s): Zachary Brown (Milliman)

Insurance is a tremendously important industry full of intelligent and talented people. Many of them have amazing ideas that could revolutionize the way insurance companies help people manage risk in their lives. But communication is vitally important - it doesn't matter how great your ideas are if you can't explain them to other people or convince them that they will work.

I believe our industry could do a much better job of communicating its value than it is currently doing. A group of Wharton professors has labeled insurance "The most misunderstood industry," and PwC recently noted that, "Despite the obvious importance of insurance, asserting this sense of purpose has become a challenge for insurers." Actuaries in particular face challenges explaining their work to non-technical audiences.
In my presentation, I will highlight common mistakes that actuaries make when presenting their work, and offer practical, concrete suggestions for giving better presentations. In particular, I will focus on three essential elements of clear communication:

  1. Keep the audience in mind: the goal of a presentation is not just to share expert knowledge, but to share it with a specific audience. Actuaries often assume that their audience has a high amount of background knowledge on specific topics, and thus launch into a detailed technical discussion instead of starting with the basics.
  2. Focus on useful information: actuaries have detailed expertise across a wide range of topics. When presenting, they have to pick and choose which information is useful for their audience to learn about, and which information constitutes technical details that are only useful for a select few.
  3. Find a way to clearly convey complex topics: it is difficult to explain abstract theoretical concepts. Using specific examples and analogies goes a long way in helping the audience understand and remember these complex topics.

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