The Board of Directors in today’s corporations are more sophisticated, capable and engaged than ever before. They are also more at risk for management decisions as well as regulator and shareholder expectations.
Board members are often experienced business people with in-depth knowledge in a field or area of business. But they are not likely knowledgeable about every area of business. Some will bring experience in risk or audit while others will have expertise in brand, innovation or marketing. This can make it very difficult for an executive to know what to present to the board.
It has been common practice in the past for executives to provide an in-depth pre-read that might include deep analysis of every aspect of the business. Today it is much more common to provide shorter more focused pre-reads that include the most salient facts. Appendices are an excellent place for the analysis and relevant facts to support the high level points.
In the past it was common for an executive to come to the board and do what is known as a “page flip”. Taking the directors through their presentation from start to finish. This practice was often unsatisfactory for many presenters as it was common for a board member to jump in when they wanted clarification. Many presenters never get to finish their presentations, which meant that they weren’t able to convey their story.
Today it makes much better sense to change the way we present to boards. Rather than trying to methodically take the board through the entire presentation presenters are now beginning to zero in on the crux of the presentation. A good test of this is to be able to say in a matter of a few sentences what you want the board to know. For example “In the Western Region we have a perception issue whereas in the Eastern Region we need to increase awareness. There for all of our marketing strategies are focused on the specific needs of the regions.”
A good test in preparation for your next board meeting is to deliver your top line message in 5-6 minutes. Present to an audience who understands business but doesn’t know YOUR business and ask them to tell you what they just heard “in a nutshell”.