I’ve noticed something interesting happens when people are asked to present to a Board of Directors. 

Understandably, they become very nervous. Their fear is that they will not look or sound intelligent, or they may be caught out with a tricky question. And so, they cram in as much data, jargon and gobbledygook as they can, to make themselves sound important and use up all the allocated time with the hope of preventing any further questions. 

And here’s what happens:

One of the Directors can see that they are nervous and so she smiles, and nods encouragingly. Across the table, Jeremy sees Sally leaning in, smiling, and nodding. And he thinks to himself: 

“Hmmmm… Sally seems to understand this, I want to be seen to understand it too!” 

And so, Jeremy starts nodding as well. And Greg and Shahin notice that Sally and Jeremy nodding, and they nod as well!

Finally, the person presenting to the Board finishes their presentation. The Chairperson looks up, he has not understood any of the detail of the presentation but as all the Directors are smiling and nodding, he doesn’t want to be the stupid one, so he concludes with:

“Ah, yes, thank you for that very informative presentation. Very good. Ummm, other any questions? No? Well, let’s get on to the next agenda item.”

Sound familiar? I believe this is happening in boardrooms all over the world. 

So, what can we do to help people deliver confident and persuasive presentations the Board?  And how can we empower the Directors to ask the questions that they need answers to. 

Here are some suggestions for better board presentations

1.  Create context 

      • The best Boards are made up of diverse individuals with a variety of life experience, work, and education. They’re smart but chances are they are not an expert in your field
      • Because of this, you need to start at the top and provide context. Use language that is understood by all
      • Ensure you have a clear objective and know what it is you’re asking the Board to do. What is it you want? Do you need a decision? Action? Or feedback?

2.  Understand what they need

      • It is important not to drag them ‘under the hood’ into operations. You want to provide an executive summary that also highlights the challenges that the Directors need to know about
      • What are the Director’s pain points? Ensure you address these

3.  Flip your presentation

      • Boards make better decisions when issues are discussed. 
      • Instead of talking for 25 minutes and allowing five minutes of questions, consider delivering a five-minute presentation and facilitating 25 minutes of Q&A

4.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

      • When preparing your presentation overlay your mind map with an argument map to uncover some of the curly question is that may be asked. This will enable you to prepare answers in advance
      • Here are some tips for thinking on your feet
      • It’s okay not to have all the answers on the day.  When this happens, tell them what you do know and then explain that you will need to check the figures and email them the following day

5.  Prepare your materials

    • Whenever you present you need three forms of information
      1.  Brief bullet point notes to keep you on time and on task
      2.  Slides that should be highly visual with photos, diagrams, and minimal text
      3.  A report that contains all the supporting data
    • If you put all the text and date on your slides, you risk increasing cognitive load and in turn reducing retention

Years ago, I worked with a very innovative company. Once a year they would approach individuals at every level of the organisation. They selected one of the truck drivers, someone on the assembly line, a salesperson, front of office receptionist, someone in engineering and a person from procurement. They then asked them what their burning work issues were, their challenges and pain points and ask them to give a presentation to the Company Directors.   

When they had picked the employees up off the floor, they called me in to run a two-day workshop helping them collect and collate their stories and experience and craft informative and engaging presentations. I loved doing it as over the two days I could see them growing confidence and step into this new role. 

It was such a fantastic exercise for an organisation to do and it gave the Directors a glimpse into all levels of operations within the company. 

Something to think about, yes?

And if your team needs help with their presentations – give me a call.

Here is some feedback from my Presenting to the Board workshop:

  • Huge value, gave me so much food for thought
  • Changes your hallway of thinking and approaching presentations
  • An interactive, insightful and interesting guide to presentation skills
  • Would absolutely recommend this course
  • Fantastic – can’t think Sharon enough for engaging style and depth of knowledge she shared with us


Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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