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The Secrets to a Successful Board Presentation

November 17, 2014 / Blog board presentations, presentation tips

As you know, delivering a presentation can be challenging. You have plenty to prepare and accomplish before facing the audience. You need to prepare your talking points and make sure your data is well represented through visual aids.

Since there’s a lot at stake, you might feel a lot of stress and pressure to achieve the best outcome. However, this feeling usually doubles when you’re expected to address a corporate board. For a lot of professionals, board presentations can be a fear-inducing event since there’s very little room for error.

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Board members have the power to make or break the ideas you put forward. If you’re successful, the decisions they make as a result of your presentation has the potential to propel your career forward. Despite the anxiety you feel because of it, board presentations are a wonderful opportunity. To make the most out of it, you need to prepare well-developed ideas backed up by hard facts and data.

As public speaking expert Lisa B. Marshall writes,

Members of boards are generally very smart, experienced, and successful professionals. …They usually grasp ideas and issues very quickly and ask penetrating questions. In addition, board members are often very busy and don’t like to waste time. They want and expect concise presentations as well as crisp and accurate responses to difficult and complex questions.

If you want to make sure that your ideas survive their scrutiny, you need to be in control of what you say and show them. Here are a few tips that might help you unlock the secret to a successful board presentation:

Craft your core message carefully

Board members aren’t very interested in long discussions. They want to see a presentation that’s well-structured and straight to the point. For that, you need to set a clear direction for your presentation. It’s important to identify and craft your core message. This will be the main idea behind your presentation. The anchor that will keep your presentation from floating wayward.

Ask yourself some key questions to make sure you’re on the right track. What are you trying to say? What are the members expecting from you? Why did they invite you to speak in the first place? Do they want to hear a status report? Are you requesting funds for a new project? The word “craft” suggests careful attention to details, so make sure you consider every information you may have available.

Keep your talking points short

Board members often have busy schedules, and you won’t have a lot of time to explain everything and go into detail. If you want to complete the presentation you planned, you need to make sure that you get straight to the point. Draft your report and include only the things that are pertinent for the members to know. Any detailed explanations can be written on an accompanying report or handout. According to Norbert Kubilus of Tatum CIO Partners, it’s wise to keep your presentation under the allotted time. Try to shoot for at least 3/4 of the schedule to give yourself plenty of time to address questions.

Create visuals that are clear and concise

The slides you present should highlight the message you’re delivering. Like your talking points, your visuals should be clear and straight to the point. Unless you want your audience to tune out, it never helps to dump all your information and data on a PowerPoint presentation. One way you can keep your board presentations engaging is by investing time on creating visuals that are clear and concise. Use images and illustrations to bring life to your points. Translate your data into charts that are easy to comprehend. You can take a look at our portfolio for examples.

Give yourself time to rehearse

It never hurts to practice your board presentation, especially if you’re feeling pretty nervous about it. Rehearsals will help you feel more comfortable once you’re finally in front of the board members. After practicing the way you speak and present yourself, you’ll feel a lot more in control of the situation you’re in. Rehearsals are also good for memorizing your talking points. If you don’t want to bother with cue cards, practice as much as you can.

Aside from practicing your talking points, you should also consider how you’ll address possible questions. It’s common for board members to interrupt presentations to ask for more details. Try to identify which questions you’re most likely to get and start practicing how to answer them.

Be ready to improvise

With most presentations, your role as presenter is to address and inform the audience. The scenario is quite different when it comes to board presentations. As Stephanie Overby writes, “presenting to the board is less about you addressing an audience than it is about the audience addressing you”. Your role here is to present ideas that will be useful for the board. That means that you’ll have to address questions in the middle of your presentation, or that you might have to go back to a previous slide to provide details. Sometimes, you might also get a question you don’t have the answer for.

You can’t possibly prepare for everything that might happen, so stay alert and be ready to improvise. Make sure you know every aspect of your presentation well. Study the data you have, even if you can’t include everything in your slides. If you’re faced with a question you can’t answer, be honest about it. Acknowledge that you don’t have the answer and that you’ll follow up with them as soon as you can.

While a board presentation can be nerve-racking, it’s also a great opportunity that can forward your career. Make the most out of it by preparing as much as you can. Follow these tips to fine-tune every aspect of your presentation. Careful planning can help you achieve the best outcome possible.

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