5 top tips for presenting to the board: rules of engagement for executives:
One of the most popular requests we receive is from executives asking for advice and practical tips for making engaging board presentations. I’ve been there and it can be daunting when you’re new to it! To help, our governance team has pulled together their top 5 tips for presenting to the board. Being prepared will increase engagement, this means more informed board and better outcomes for all.
When executives are called on to report or present to their board, they are often thrown in the deep end. Having not been part of prior board discussion, they may lack the context required to strike the right balance between representing their business well and engaging the board at the level required.
Here are the top five tips – not just to survive your board presentation – but to thrive and establish yourself as a reliable and valuable representative of the business.
Tip 1 – Question everything
Before you even think about your presentation, make sure you fill in the gaps. Think about everything you need to know to underpin your success. Ask questions so you are absolutely clear on what you need to present.
Apart from knowing WHAT you need to present, you also need to establish WHY the board is interested and what level of detail they need.
Directors are time poor and board agendas are often ambitious. Knowing the specific angle of their interest will help you ensure the necessary content is covered and anything that it is not pertinent is removed.
As well as making the best use of your time, the board will appreciate you hitting the mark and your understanding of their priorities.
Tip 2 – Do your research and prepare for questions
You know what you’re presenting and why. Now it’s time to understand the broader context – whether in your organisation, your industry or government for example.
If you are being asked to present on cyber-security risks to your organisation for example, ensure you are across any recent security breaches or close-calls that might have ignited board interest. It would also be wise to look at industry trends, case studies and how other organisations may have acted in a similar situation.
You’ve been invited to the board because you are considered the best authority on your subject matter. Ensure you are just that. They want to learn from you. The board will ask questions to further their knowledge and you’ll be well received if you appear well prepared, confident and can educate them clearly on the subject.
Tip 3 – Know your audience
A top tip from the best communicators is: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
Who are the board members you’ll be addressing? What is their career experience? What are their ages and cultural backgrounds? Use any resources available:
• Look them up on LinkedIn. They will be able to see you’ve viewed their profile anyway so why not add them as a connection and introduce yourself as a way to warm up before your presentation;
• Google them to see whether they are spokespeople for certain issues or organisations that might help you engage them. Alternatively, are there any sensitivities you need to be aware of so you don’t inadvertently make a faux-pas?
• Reach out to your manager and fellow executives who have presented before. They may have valuable tips to share about how the directors like the flow and format of their presentations.
Tip 4 – Connect the dots
You want your presentation to resonate so increase your chances by making a few important connections for the board. When preparing, consider:
• How does your presentation relate to business purpose, strategy and values? Are there changes you could make to ensure it aligns with the direction of the business?
• What are the organisational risks involved? A great presentation will acknowledge risk, not ignore it. You are there to inform the board and risk is a critical part of that.
• What are their personal liabilities? Directors carry a great deal of personal responsibility and liability for the organisations they represent. You will be guaranteed they’ll listen if you translate your key messages into actions that may impact them.
Tip 5 – What’s in it for me?
You’ve been invited to the boardroom for a reason. You’ve been identified as someone who can provide information the board needs.
Apart from profile building, make sure you use this opportunity to consider what else may be in it for you. Whether it’s highlighting an under-recognised function of your team or the possibilities you see for the future through a new project for example. If relevant and authentic, include content that meets your objectives while also supporting the key messages you want to convey to the board.
Like any presentation, it is more likely to go well if you are well prepared, confident and knowledgeable. So do your homework for the best chance of success!
You can follow Global Governance Initiative for practical resources or learn more with our introduction to governance, ‘Governance and You’ on our website www.ggi.community.
About the author:
Brad Sherringham is Managing Director of Global Governance Initiative and a passionate advocate of governance for social good. During his 10 year tenure as CFO and General Manager of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, his awareness grew that to make a difference to society, good quality governance tools and resources had to be accessible to all organisations, regardless of their size or financial ability. Global Governance Initiative is the result.
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