Presenting to the Board – 7 Tips to Get You Through It

 

One of my favourite quotes about presenting is from George Jessel who said “The human brain is a wonderful organ.  It starts to work as soon as you are born and doesn’t stop until you get up to deliver a speech.”

Many of the people we work with would agree with this (especially the ones we meet on our presentation skills courses!)   So yes… standing up to deliver a presentation can be a nerve-wracking experience in itself, but what if we dial up the pressure factor a few more notches by inserting a room full of Board Members as your audience?

When presenting to a Board, it’s important to follow all the usual best practice guidelines – for example, having a clear, organised, message; bringing it to life with examples; case studies and simple visuals.  We’ve got plenty of resources to provide guidance and food for thought on these areas (see the link at the end of this post) but it’s also crucial to recognise that presenting to Board Members means presenting to a specific audience who are likely to have different expectations and needs, compared to other audiences you may present to – for example, your peers or customers.

Having recently had a request to include a session on Presenting to the Board for a specific training event, I spoke with several Board Members, as well as people who present regularly to Boards, and have learnt lessons along the way.   Here are seven recurring tips that came up…

1.Undertake some Stakeholder Management

At some point, while you’re developing your presentation, don’t be afraid to seek guidance or feedback from a Board Member to: check how they like to receive information, check your numbers, check for blind spots, avoid surprises, manage concerns with specific Board Members, etc.  One Board Member highlighted that this is also an effective way to warm up the relationship ahead of the presentation.

2. Include ‘Triggers’ for Individual Board Members

A Board is made up of a group of people who will bring different biases to the presentation.  So, the advice is to look through the lens of each Board Member and ensure you include information that will trigger their individual interests, for example, financial information for the CFO; ‘impact on people’ information for the HR Director. This will also help you to anticipate the questions you may be asked.

3. Be Brief

While you could prepare a longer presentation, Board Members are more likely to thrive on facts that are presented in a clear and concise manner and delivered in a relatively short time span.  Therefore, keep it high level, prioritise the details that need to be covered as part of the presentation and leave other details for the Q&A.

4. Keep it Simple

When it’s time to stand up and deliver your presentation, don’t assume the Board Members have full clarity on why you are there or what you will be presenting on, or even that they have all the background and detail.  You may have sent them information in advance but there’s a chance they didn’t read it or they’ve now forgotten it.  So, remember to make a clear statement of your purpose, vision and/or objectives early on and refer back to these when asking for your recommendation or proposal to be considered. One Board Member told me that if you don’t do this you risk the audience being lost when it comes to your ‘punchline’.

5. State your Assumptions

It’s likely that any proposal or recommendations you make will be based on some assumptions.  A Board will want you to be clear about the assumptions you’ve made and why you’ve made them. Board Members don’t want to be baffled during the presentation as they try to work out what assumptions you’ve made to get to ‘important figure X’, nor do they want to waste valuable time in the Q&A querying your assumptions.

6. Don’t Hide Anything

Board Members don’t like nasty surprises – in the short or long term. So, it’s important that you don’t omit or downplay problem areas or potential risks. To exercise effective oversight, the Board needs to be aware of these areas. Provide evidence that you’ve thought about the negative aspects and have ideas to reduce their impact.

7. Don’t Forget your Personality

One final thing to bear in mind:  Board Members are human beings too!  It goes without saying that presenting to a Board – even one you know well – should be done professionally, but that doesn’t mean the Board Members want you to leave your personality outside the door.  They are more likely to warm to you, and your presentation, if you present in a conversational way that is friendly and accessible, not stiff and corporate – so don’t forget to bring along your personality.

Of course, all these tips can apply to any presentation you deliver but it’s particularly important to implement them when presenting to a Board.  We have lots of other resources that offer tips and techniques for planning and delivering presentations.   Click here to be taken to our Presentation Tips resource page.

Posted by Gill Bonello

 

 

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