How To Present to a Board: Five Key Principles

Original artwork by Katie Rhead

Just before I was getting ready to present a key proposal at a major board of directors meeting, a colleague who was the CFO (now a CEO) reminded me, “there is no such thing as a good board meeting — just one where nobody gets fired.”

That’s not far from the truth. I’ve seen too many self-inflicted career wounds in front of a board. I’ve seen executives go into board meetings full of confidence and come out crushed. I’ve witnessed senior leaders do such a lousy job presenting to a board that it damaged or destroyed their careers.

That’s a real shame since it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are five fundamental principles I’ve learned from the numerous times I’ve presented to boards (as well as watching others) to keep in mind when it’s your time to craft and deliver your own board presentation:

  • Be Prepared: Just like a boxer spends one hour of training for every minute in the ring, put in the time to get ready. Your presentation needs a compelling storyline, key messages and solid evidence. Try to anticipate all the questions a board member might ask. Then practice enough to make sure you can present it flawlessly if someone wakes you up at 3 a.m.
  • KISS the Board: KISS as in “keep it simple, stupid.” I’ve witnessed too many board presentations in which you’d think the presenter got paid by the word. Follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10–20–30 Rule of PowerPoint. A presentation should (Read more...)