Dear Meeting Guru,

"It is pretty easy to get caught up in your presentation but you want to ensure you don't release any company secrets during the "open forum" part of the presentation. You may be proud of your company's talents or performance over the competition, but how do you ensure you don't "spill the beans?"

Anonymous

Blessed Meeter,

Remember that most employees sign a confidentiality (or non-disclosure) agreement when they join a company. This agreement stipulates that any information that could affect your company’s ability to compete effectively is not to be shared with the outside world.

Most companies will reiterate the importance of confidentiality when they pass on sensitive information. If participants in your meetings have a tendency to ‘spill the beans’ when outsiders are present, you should consider delivering a statement regarding confidentiality before the meeting. Remind everyone that key pieces of confidential information (such as the identities of potential customers, marketing strategies, company finances or manufacturing processes) should not be discussed in the presence of outsiders.

The legal definition of confidential company information is "trade secrets." To qualify as a trade secret, information must meet the following three criteria:

The information must not be "generally known or readily ascertainable" through proper means.
The information must have "independent economic value due to its secrecy."
The trade secret holder must use "reasonable measures under the circumstances to protect" the secrecy of the information.

During a presentation it can be difficult to evade a direct question regarding sensitive information. Try prepping your employees beforehand by giving them an umbrella phrase they can use if they’re asked to impart confidential information. Try something like, "Unfortunately I can’t answer your question as that information is regarded as company confidential. Do you have any other questions that I might be able to address?"

Alternatively, you may be able to answer a question using an example or presenting a hypothetical situation. In either case, simply indicate that although you can’t comment on a specific case, you’d be happy to address the question using an example. Always be up front about this with your audience.

If you’re inviting outsiders to a meeting, preparation is key. Remind all participants about the importance of protecting your company’s trade secrets. If you can, try to anticipate questions that may lead to the misappropriation of sensitive information, and highlight these potential pitfalls to your employees.

Remind your employees of the following saying from the wise philosopher Confucius, "Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you." If you want people to protect your privacy, do the same for your company! Remember that pride in your company is useless if employees are giving away the competitive edge!

Until next time… may good meeting karma always be with you.

 

 


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