My father, Shelby Yastrow, has attended hundreds of board of directors meetings. As a senior executive at McDonald’s he attended every company board meeting, and he has served as a board member for companies like Great Clips for Hair, Cold Stone Creamery, Franchise Finance Corporation and Martin Engineering.
During a recent family vacation we were talking about what makes for a good board presentation, and our conversation led me to these 10 tips to remember as you prepare and deliver a board presentation
Have an out of body experience
Before (and during) your board communications, always imagine what the conversation looks like from the board’s point of view. Pretend you are a board member, and see the scene from their perspective.
Don’t assume the board knows what’s going on
They don’t. They may be seasoned executives, but outside board members will never know as much about your subject matter as you, because they don’t work on your company’s issues every day.
Do assume their patience and attention span are limited
Board members have to absorb and interpret tons of information in a limited time. Your ability to communicate succinctly is almost as important as your ability to communicate content. And, if they trust you to be succinct, they will allocate more attention to what you have to say.
Communicate the things that matter
A critical factor for effective board communication is your ability to paint a clear picture of what’s going on, help board members cut through all the noise they hear and help them understand the most important things that matter to the organization.
Talk about results, not about what you are doing
Yes, the board wants to know what you have done, what you are doing, and what you are going to do. But they only care about your actions if they can clearly connect those actions to results. Focus on outcomes, not inputs.
Think conversation, not presentation
Although you need to present information to your board, always look for opportunities to turn presentations into conversations. The board will be much more likely to pay attention– and to agree with you– if you engage them in dialogue.
Your PowerPoint is not your presentation
A CEO’s administrative assistant once asked me to “send my presentation” to her a few days before a board meeting. Of course, she wanted me to email her some PowerPoint slides. But PowerPoint slides are not my presentation. They are only background support.
Don’t read the board a bedtime story
If you do use PowerPoint or other visual support, don’t ever read to the board, or they will doze off. Limit the number of printed words you show them, and create dialogue with the board around those printed words.
Don’t dump statistics on the board
Use statistics to reinforce your points, instead of using your points to reinforce statistics. A few choice statistics can be very effective support for your points. But if you throw too many statistics at the board the most important numbers will be lost.
Never be obsequious
Never. Ever. If you have weak knees, they will knock you over. And if you are too deferential, they will not respect you and will discount what you say. Demonstrate confidence; stand your ground if you believe in your position, and act with the poise of a peer.
Effective board communication is critical for your success. In fact, these communications are some of the most important business communications you will create. Communicate well with the board, and they will never be bored when they communicate with you.