For many leaders, public speaking or giving a presentation is not a favored part of the job. After all, it’s possible that your leadership position has less to do with giving good presentations and more to do with other competencies. However, most leaders are eventually called upon to give some kind of presentation or deliver a speech, and it’s very likely that it will be a presentation for the board of directors.
There could be any number of reasons to give a board presentation—a brand new idea or an update on a company initiative, perhaps. To help make the most of your time before the board, here are six tips:
1. Give Them the Headlines First
At the very beginning of your presentation, give a condensed version in the form of headlines. In other words, distill the main ideas of your presentation into just a couple of key sentences—the headlines. Ask yourself, “if this presentation were a newspaper story, what headline would make people read the story? What information would go in the first paragraph?”
2. Tie Everything Back to the Business or Strategic Objective
Remember, the board’s primary focus is on business growth and the bottom line. Your presentation should always come back to those issues, but it should also connect to current, specific strategies and objectives. The board has targeted those strategies and objectives for a reason, and they will want to see how your work, ideas, or initiatives support those targets.
3. Anticipate Their Questions
As you prepare your presentation, spend some time thinking through the potential questions the board will ask. Be prepared with detailed answers, but never talk for more than one to two minutes without checking back to make sure you are answering the question. Questions don’t give you permission to head down a 10-minute rabbit hole with detailed facts and complex charts.
4. Consider Your Audience
Yes, it’s the board of directors, but are they formal? Casual? Somewhere in the middle? Are they creative types, or do they prefer hard data? Tailor your presentation to your audience as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to use stories or illustrations to make a point. Obviously, giving a board presentation isn’t an invitation to do stand-up comedy, but under the right circumstances, a good story can make powerful connections and improve your outcomes.
Before you give your presentation, practice it out loud. Film yourself, if possible, or ask someone to listen to your presentation and critique it. If you’re going to give your presentation via video, test your camera, microphone, and lighting, and make sure you know how to use all of your technological tools. Work out all of the bugs well before you have to step in front of the group.
6. Channel Your Nerves
The nervous energy you feel before public speaking can be a feature, not a bug. Consider that it can energize you and bring conviction and animation to your speech. People will remember a presentation that’s energized and animated. Remember, you practiced, so now you just need to pour that energy into the presentation and make it memorable.
Giving a board presentation doesn’t have to be terrifying or ineffective. With planning, practice, and focus, you can make your case in a memorable, compelling way and drive growth within your organization.