3 Tips for Nailing Your Board Presentation, Part 1

Making a presentation to the board of directors can significantly impact your career. Learn 3 tips for making an effective board presentation using a board presentation template.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #178

3 Tips for Nailing Your Board Presentation, Part 1

by Lisa. B. Marshall

Have you been asked to make a presentation at a board meeting? Are you feeling a bit nervous? Today's episode is for many of my clients and readers who are experienced professionals, leaders within their organizations who’ve been asked to deliver a board presentation.  


Even if you've presented to the board previously, most people experience anxiety when asked to make a board presentation. So the question is, why do confident educated professionals fall apart when they have to present to the board of directors?  

It's for a good reason. Members of boards are generally very smart, experienced, and successful professionals. They are interested in facts, well-developed ideas, and plans. 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. Of course, this makes it challenging for the person on the receiving end. Today, I'll talk about 3 tips to avoid the dread and sleepless nights and help you to make an effective board presentation.  

Tip #1: Prepare Your Mind
The purpose of a board presenation is to provide clear, concise, and compelling information so that the board can make strategic financial decisions for your company or organization.

To make an effective board presentation, you need to not only understand the issues, you also need to present them easily, smoothly, and concisely at differing levels of detail.  You need to be able to think on your feet and respond to difficult questions (and possibly difficult questioners) in a clear, concise, and compelling manner.  Make no mistake, board members are evaluating your abilities based on your communication skills as much as they are evaluating the information you present.

So, the stakes are high. Yes, board presentations can potentially damage your  career, but if delivered successfully they will likely advance your career. So my fist tip is to think of this as an incredible opportunity to show off your skills. You were chosen, not someone else, to make this presentation and that means that whoever invited you believes in your abilities to make a fantastic presentation.  You should too. 

Tip #2: Understand Expectations
Next, it is important to understand why you were invited and what you are expected to deliver. If it was a friendly invitation (and you're not leading a project that has gone horribly wrong), then ask whoever got your name on the agenda what you should be presenting and why now? You are trying to understand the stated and perhaps unstated goals of the presentation. Ask what possible reactions or objections might be and from whom. Your sponsor needs for you to be successful so they should be willing to do what it takes to help you understand the exact purpose and agenda for your presentation.  

Tip #3: Develop Your Board Presentation Template
As with any critical communication, you need to be able to boil down your thoughts into one core message. I like to use a single-page board presentation template that has a space in the center for your core message surrounded by lines for your three for supporting key points with empty bullets for your two or three forms of support. 

First, create your core message based on “what and why now” you learned. The core message should be one or two simple sentences stated in clear language. It might take some time to get this worded correctly, but it’s worth the effort. 

Once you have the core message, the next step is to define 3 or 4 (and only 3 or 4) key points that support your core message. If you can’t distill your work into a few ideas, then you haven’t worked hard enough to sharpen your messaging.  Then, for each of your points, you should put together 3-4 different forms of support.

Remember, that support for your key arguments comes in many forms including: financial or statistical evidence, research conclusions, stories, testimony, analogies, etc. You won’t use all the forms of support in your planned presentation. Choose your best evidence for the presentation while keeping the others in reserve to address questions or concerns.  

Check out The Public Speaker episode 45 for a template of how to develop effective presentations

That’s all we have time for this week. Next week we’ll pick up from here with three more tips for nailing your board presentation.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker.  Passionate about communication; your success is my business.


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About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.