You have received an invitation to present to the management board. Great. This shows the board’s desire to hear more about your suggestions. Now it is important to get this presentation right as it can make the difference between having your proposal approved or declined. So what important questions should you ask yourself before presenting? How to make sure that you are well equipped to fulfill the expectations of the board?
Here are our seven attention points for earning their support:
1. Urgency: "Why is the subject relevant?”
In other words: Why is it a good time for the board to listen, get informed and decide – taking into consideration what is happening in and outside the organisation? The answers to these questions will help you to make a good introduction, keep their interest during your presentation and end with a call to action.
2. Restricted amount of time: “Are you ready to present the information that matters to them quickly and clearly?"
Make sure you get the essential information across within the restricted amount of time you have available. Board meetings are often jam-packed with a long agenda, so be prudent to stick to the schedule as board members might be impatient.
3. Who is who and objections: “How is my agenda aligned with other stakeholders’ agendas - who is likely to interrupt me?”
Make sure you know what you are stepping on. Who is on the Board? How do different interests clash? Imagine beforehand from whom you would expect an objection to come and how you could respond. Think also how you can make use of the support of your allies present in the room. What would they say? This helps you also to decide if you should already take some actions before the presentation (e.g. sending documents in advance etc.).
4. Structure: “How do I grab the attention of the board members? How do I set a call for action? Will I specifically state that there will be time for Q & A, or will I be replying on the go?”
Regarding your structure, make sure you follow the ABC model – Attention Grabbing, Body, Closing. Regarding the body, a good tip is to write down your message in a short paragraph. Underline the conjunctions used. This will help you highlight the relationship between different themes (causal, time, contradictory), which will then make it easier to expand to a longer message.
5. Language: “How have I tailored my presentation to their level?” What is your listener’s background? Board members might get impatient when they think they know the content already or when it is too complex. So do not tell them things they know, nor assume knowledge they might not have. After you present the summary, let the group drive the conversation. Often, they want to go deeper into certain points that will help in their decision making.
6. Pros and cons: “What are the risks and the benefits?”
No matter if your presentation is intended to inform, persuade or explain, the risks/benefits aspect is an important element in every message. Make sure those are clear.
7. Tone: “How credible am I? How does I show my confidence?”
Decide on words and gestures that reveal your confidence in your message without being a “know-it-all”. It is always a good idea to run a test presentation before a colleague and ask for feedback.
Although boards come in all shapes and sizes, the principles of presenting to decision-making bodies are the same. So make sure you prepare what you want to say, in what order and through what channels, and tailor your responses to individual and group needs. Be aware that preparation is 90 % of success and don’t forget that presenting to a board is a great honour which can help you to find strong advocates for your ideas.
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