How to present to a board of directors

The most effective board members can communicate their ideas, perspectives and points of expertise clearly and concisely. This is doubly true when presenting these perspectives to the board as a whole. If you’re a new board member making their first presentation or you haven’t crossed the invisible line to present for a while, here are five quick tips for success.


Don’t talk like TED; get to the point.

When you’re deep into the complexities of your specialism, it’s easy to put overdo the level of detail needed for your presentation. Or use it as a moment to show off your in-depth knowledge of a subject. But as To The Point At Work says: “Don’t talk like TED, get to the point.”

Just as you would expect from a guest presenter, focus on information quality and relevancy. Time pressures likely exist for all board members so respect their time and the agenda by keeping to the point. Factual and substantiated. Honest and complete. Short and simple. In other words, go by the old acronym KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).


Give a balanced perspective

When you are looking to influence your fellow board members and encourage them to vote in a particular direction, it’s easy to omit certain risk areas. This should be avoided - always share the pros and cons of any proposal.

Being honest and transparent about the risks as well as the benefits allows all board members to make informed decisions. The most effective boards hold people with a diverse range of experiences and perspectives and may see certain risks in a different light. Or a light that you hadn't necessarily considered. 

While you are there to inform the board from your expert viewpoint, it is important to allow other board members to provide their perspectives on your approach.


Present your data in the right way

When presenting data, the key word to remember is relevancy. Background data is crucial, but it is your job to glean insights from the data - not your audience. As HBR mentions: “Data slides aren’t really about the data. They’re about the meaning of the data.”

Going back to the KISS acronym - another key tip is to only make one point or insight per chart. Share the data points that are relevant to making your insights - and limit the rest. Focus in on the most important learning from each chart and highlight the implications of this insight.


Use your knowledge of other Board members

As a board member, you have the advantage of knowing the key concerns and needs of your fellow board members. Use this to communicate effectively. 

This may mean positioning your presentation to focus on community impact rather than return on investment. Or delving deeper into areas that you know your fellow board members will be less experienced in. Or it may just mean simplifying the more complex technical jargon.

Ultimately, it’s important to tailor your presentation to your audience and address their most prominent concerns. And as a member of the board yourself, you should have a unique level of insight to do this.


Start strong and end well

Studies show that humans tend to best recall the beginning and end of what they read, hear and see. With this in mind, gather your most important points into an opening summary that will be communicated when your audience is paying closer attention.

To drive action, use the opening and closing moments to review the presentation’s purpose, key points and proposed actions. This will increase the likelihood that the board will feel informed and confident when making a decision.