How to present like a boss to the board

Apple boss Tim Cook.

It can be a daunting task to present your ideas to a group of peers or business prospects, so it’s no surprise that the task of giving a presentation to the board of directors is known to send some into a panic.

There are a number of situations where you could find yourself presenting to the board, whether it be suggesting a new strategy or direction for the company, proposing a budget for review or simply giving an update on an ongoing project. No matter the context, or the type of board you are addressing, the fundamental principles for wowing these decision-making bodies are the same.

Giving a great presentation to the board is not as difficult as it might sound, but getting it right can be the difference between getting that important strategic proposal approved or declined. To help you best prepare for that all important board meeting, make sure you incorporate these top tips into your planning and presentation on the day.

1. Know your audience

This is the first and arguably one of the most important steps. Even if your day-to-day job doesn’t put you in direct contact with your board of directors, it’s important to have some idea who you’re trying to impress and ultimately influence. Knowing their individual personalities may prove difficult, but learning everyone’s name, background and understanding what each person hopes to get out of the meeting will help you tailor the presentation where possible. For example, if you know the chairman is influential you may target them in order to advance your idea among the board.

2. Plan the structure of your presentation

In the preliminary stages of putting your presentation together, try assembling the idea of your presentation with sticky notes on a wall. This will help you to create the basis for your finished presentation, creating a logical path that both you and the board members can follow.

3. Start big, then cut down

After you’ve planned out the order and topics you wish to present on the day, write down every single piece of information that you wish to communicate to the board. Then prioritise and reduce your information to only the most important key messages. It’s likely that your audience will only retain about 20% of what you tell them on the day, so it’s vital to edit ruthlessly, keeping your messaging simple, impactful and concise.

4. Make your data more memorable

Putting an excel spreadsheet into your presentation will look clunky and make it hard for board members to remember the important numbers or information that could influence their decision. Instead, visualise your data by using colourful images and infographics. Not only will it make for a nicer looking presentation, but it will also increase memorability, with studies showing that retention of information increases exponentially with a visual aid.

5. Tell them what you’re telling them

When you present, tell the board members upfront what your presentation structure will be. A quick overview of the main messages you will be communicating with them will ensure that they understand your logic and the timing of your presentation. Additionally, consider having a recap of those main points again at the end of your presentation to refresh your audience’s memory.

6. Keep the detail out of your presentation

Rather than having dense, text-heavy frames within your presentation, opt for keeping what’s on screen to a minimum. The presentation should be all about the individual and how they communicate a clear narrative to the audience, rather than relying on the information on-screen to do that for you. Use visually engaging slides with little text to tell your story, and leave the detail for the handouts at the end of the presentation.

7. Have your eye on the prize

When it comes to presentation day, keep your desired goals for the presentation in mind throughout the whole delivery. Try to guide the board members towards this goal by focusing heavily on the most crucial parts of the presentation, or generating discussion and intrigue. If you think your topic may be contentious for the board members, tell them how you’re going to solve a problem they have. If you know that one of the board members will be the person making the final call, make it your mission to influence them.

Like any challenging situation, presenting to your board of directors can be rendered an achievable task with some simple planning and preparation. When you’re next called in to present to the board, keep calm, follow our steps and see how rather than being something to dread, it can be an exciting, career enhancing opportunity.

Here’s a presentation explaining how to present like a boss.

Emma Bannister is an official accredited Prezi Expert and with her team at Presentation Studio, she has spent the last nine years helping individuals and companies such as Qantas, Westfield, BHP and Telstra deliver visually pleasing and highly effective presentations that connect powerfully with audiences. Emma uses Prezi — a cloud-based presentation software — which unlike slides, has a zoomable canvas that shows the relationships between the big picture and fine details. She regularly tweets at @emmab_ps.

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