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Taming the Butterflies

As a former internal audit trainee, I am all too familiar with “pre-meeting anxiety”. Whether it is an initial scoping meeting or a meeting to discuss a draft report and recommendations, meetings with audit clients can be an intimidating experience.

Having studied Drama and Theatre studies at University, you might think that this is something that would come easy to me… If only! Not only was I was new to audit but I was new to the NHS too. I was on very unfamiliar ground. At least with a performance I could rehearse and go over and over my lines to make sure I was word perfect.

Starting out as a trainee, I often felt intimidated in interviews or meeting situations. What questions should I ask? Have I understood the subject properly? Can they tell I have no idea what I am doing?

The truth is, I did know what I was doing and I just lacked the confidence in my own ability. Despite preparing for meetings and doing my research, I sometimes stumbled over my words and waffled unnecessarily around a point, failing to clearly communicate what I wanted to say. I found this most difficult when meeting with more senior client staff.

Over the last four years my confidence in these situations has naturally improved. As with anything, practice makes perfect and the more you do these things the better you get at them. Some would argue that communication skills are one of the most important skills when auditing. Good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship after all. Few things can derail the audit client’s perception, confidence, and trust of internal audit faster and more profoundly than ineffective communications. It was therefore my responsibility to ensure that I wasn’t the one ‘letting the side down’.

Here a few things that I find useful when preparing for and attending an audit meeting.

 Sarah Hatherly, Auditor

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