Presenting to a Board of Directors: They’re the Toughest Crowd You’ll ever Face Part II

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Presenting to a Board of Directors: They’re the Toughest Crowd You’ll ever Face Part II

February 22, 2010 Board Presentation Skills Edit

Katherine (not her real name) was part of a growing sales team and was given the opportunity to market her client's new service to boardrooms across Australia. The service was fresh and had a real chance to succeed if presented strategically.

Katherine had prepared for her presentation well in advance and thought she was ready to tackle the board's often judicious and opinionated outlook. Katherine arrived early and showed a level of respect to the board that turned heads and impressed.

Remember, "Please" and "Thankyou" are important words-even if you do feel like you're sucking up.

Katherine was off to a great start. She continued to win the board over by addressing their primary concerns and carefully outlining the risks. This was all done with minimal technical jargon. This is where most people go wrong when presenting to the board. Use lots of technical jargon and you will lose your audience.

Katherine was smart and spoke in a language that the board understood-money. She produced quality information with just the right amount of PowerPoint usage.

Unfortunately however, Katherine's presentation lacked sound understanding of the fundamental aspects that make a board work.

Mistake #1 Katherine was unaware that board members tend to favour the predictability of standard templates for reports and board papers. What Katherine should have done was ask the board for this prior to the presentation and used it as a guideline for her own board paper. Hers did not include an appendix and graphs, charts and illustrations were sparse.

Mistake #2 Although Katherine understood the leadership role of the Chairman in the boardroom environment, she did not completely understand just how critical his role is nor did she fully appreciate it. What Katherine should have done was have a quick word with the Chairman about the timing of her presentation during the coffee break prior to presenting. Saving time in the boardroom is greatly appreciated.

Furthermore, during Katherine's presentation a board member who had a relationship with Katherine in the past made a personal attack against her. Shocked, infuriated and not knowing what to do, she made the mistake of retaliating. This made her look unprofessional and she lost all credibility. What Katherine should have done was turn directly to the Chairman, as this is definitely the Chairman's responsibility to resolve.

Mistake #3 The agenda sets out what is included in each section of the board meeting to assist maximum flow and support the board's discussion. Katherine did not bother to find out where on the agenda her presentation sat and what preceded and proceeded it. If Katherine had known, she would have realised her presentation had been slotted into the "Any other business" section and hence would be rushed.

She was unable to explain to the board to excuse her ‘rough edges'. Also, Katherine did not adjust her energy level to suit the position of her presentation in the agenda. She spoke faster, when she should have been speaking a little slower out of consideration for the board who had just sat through a series of presentations-Katherine's being one of the last.

Boardroom expert Julie Garland-McLellan is behind providing the insight into the do's and don'ts in Katherine's boardroom presentation. To learn more tips and tricks to avoid finding yourself in the above situation, please visit www.boarddirectorspresentations.com and get access to Julie Garland McLellan's conference speaking, coaching and mentoring or in-housing training services.

Presenting to a Board of Directors: They’re the Toughest Crowd You’ll ever Face

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Presenting to a Board of Directors: They’re the Toughest Crowd You’ll ever Face

February 07, 2010 Board Presentation Skills Edit

Jason (not his real name) was stoked when given the opportunity to work with some local clients who happened to be part of a much larger corporation. The corporation was looking at rebuilding their corporate image and websites-which quite frankly were a dog's breakfast at the time. Jason was asked to present to the board.

Jason was truly ecstatic as he was then given the chance to bid for the contract. Having presented many times before and confident in his presentation abilities, Jason was all fired up to fly out in a couple of weeks to present to the company's board committee. Potentially, it was a fantastic opportunity for his company and career prospects.

Unfortunately, Jason failed spectacularly. He failed to understand that board presentations are different from executive, social or entertainment presentations. They must be tailored specifically for the boardroom environment in order to be effective. It is vital to understand that boards are not like any other audience. The techniques that have been practised and perfected for executive presentations may not work in the boardroom. Bottom line, things that work elsewhere can fail here.

So before you think you know it all-like Jason did, think again.

Mistake #1: Jason overlooked the critical step of doing research on the company. This includes (as a bare minimum!) reading the company's mission statement and goals. He also did not make use of the company's quarterly reports that were readily available and failed to look for initiatives that they were working on at the board level.

As a result, when the board members later asked themselves the questions "Who is the best?" and "Who understands us?" Jason's presentation was long forgotten. Remember that the people on the board aren't going to care about technical jargon. They know they want a website, and they know whoever does it will make it work, and will likely improve what they have. Try to focus on showing them that you understands their wants, needs and concerns.

Mistake #2: Jason had not had a good night's rest prior to the presentation. He had stayed up all night revising his presentation. Do not do this. Prepare well in advance so you can get a good snooze the night before and be fresh faced, clean and ready to go the next day.

Mistake #3: Jason also forgot the art of positioning. If you want to win over a tough crowd-and trust me, boards are the toughest crowd you'll ever face, you must position yourself in line with their main concerns. Usually, a board's main concerns are that of corporate survival and success.

Jason failed to talk about how the improved website he was selling will perfect their business and corporate image. If he was really clever, he could have turned his presentation into a branding conversation, making sure he understood the exact image the board had in mind of portraying to the world, and played to that. It would have also been a really great idea to do a comparison of their present website versus one of his design.

Mistake #4: Jason's confidence got the better of him. He thought he knew it all, and assumed the board did too. Assumptions are the mother of all-you know the rest. He failed to ask questions from the board to make sure they were on the same page. You must ask questions! Don't just come in and present. Be efficient too. Board members are very busy people and do not appreciate you wasting their time.

Do a VERY short spiel (cut the BS and fluff!) which will then give you more time to turn it into a conversation. What are they looking for in the websites? What are three major initiatives they're working on to improve their whole company right now? Where do they want their business and website to be in five years?

Remember-Discussion and facilitation is a board's preferred mode of presentation. Avoid what expert board presenters refer to as "death by PowerPoint". A healthy Q & A session at the end is always favourable. You must be able to answer any question thrown at you quick and honestly, and you must know what you are talking about. If Jason had known this earlier, he would have removed futile slides and only kept the slides that capture the most critical and important points that really matter to the board. He would've also avoided looking like a mumbling idiot when a board member asked him a question and he attempted to ‘wing it'. Bad idea.

Boardroom expert Julie Garland-McLellan is behind providing the insight into what went wrong in Jason's boardroom presentation. To learn more tips and tricks to avoid finding yourself in the above situation, please visit www.boarddirectorspresentations.com and get access to Julie Garland McLellan's conference speaking, coaching and mentoring or in-housing training services.

What Went Wrong in the Boardroom part II

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What Went Wrong in the Boardroom part II

January 27, 2010 Board Presentation Skills Edit

Just when you think you've heard all the boardroom horror stories-think again.

Most of us are aware that a board member has a personal responsibility and liability to the shareholders of their organisation.  If board members make the wrong decisions they may face very serious consequences such as:

  • Being banned from serving as directors in the in the future
  • Fined
  • Found liable for damages
  • Jail time

With the possibility of facing jail time at the back of their minds, it's easy to see why corporate survival and success are a board's greatest concerns. As a board presenter, then, your role is to address these concerns first and foremost, as clearly and succinctly as possible.  Remember-without identifying and discussing the risks that keep board members awake at night (the elephants in the room!) it will be very difficult to calm the board members concerns.

What I bet you didn't know is that board presentations are dangerous not just for the board members, but the board presenters too. Many promising executive and board careers have been blighted by a poor presentation in this arena. It is the highest level of corporate life and the stakes are similarly high. It is a strange and uncommon environment where protocols, behaviours and legal liabilities may be very different from those in executive life.

Two recent court cases in Australia highlight the importance of effectively presenting to boards to avoid future risks. With these court cases, you will have a greater understanding of how there is a responsibility upon executives presenting in boardrooms that is as great as, if not greater than, the responsibility of the directors who will make decisions based upon those presentations.

In the James Hardie case (insert a footnote reference to NSW Supreme Court decision in Australian Securities and Investments Commission v. MacDonald (No. 11) 2009) ASIC alleged that executives, including the CEO, Company Secretary and General Counsel failed to advise the board that a stock exchange announcement was worded "in too emphatic terms".

The court agreed. The court also found that the CEO and CFO failed to discharge their duty of care and diligence by failing to advise the board that reviews of the proposed course of action were limited to the logic and legality of the course and did not consider the appropriateness of the underlying assumptions.

It is obvious from this case that there is a responsibility upon executives presenting in boardrooms that is as great as, if not greater than, the responsibility of the directors who will make decisions based upon those presentations.

In the OneTel Case (insert a footnote referencing) it was alleged that the executives 'profoundly misled' the board as to the true state of affairs of the company. After a long and detailed court examination the court held that the executives had not misled the board.

The board reports and presentations had been sufficient for the directors to have formed a correct view of the financial status of the company.

In the James Hardie case much attention has been focussed on the reputational damage, legal costs, fines and banning orders (a court prohibition on being involved in the management of a corporation which effectively prevent individuals from returning to their former employment even at a different or smaller company) imposed on the directors. The executives were found guilty of more offences than the directors and faced larger fines and longer bans. The lack of public interest is not a reliable indication of leniency.

In the OneTel case there were potential liabilities for $92 million stemming from actions taken subsequent to the board reporting that was the focus of the court's inquiry.

Presenting in the boardroom is a high risk activity.

To receive the proper and careful presentation needed to avoid finding yourself in the above situations, please visit www.boarddirectorspresentations.com and learn more about expert Julie Garland McLellan's conference speaking, coaching and mentoring or in-housing training services.

What Went Wrong in the Boardroom

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What Went Wrong in the Boardroom

January 18, 2010 Board Presentation Skills Edit

So you've put in the long hours and hard work. You know that board paper like the back of your hand. You think you're pretty much set to take on the boardroom. But think again.

There's nothing worse than putting in the time and energy to present in the boardroom and not reaping the rewards. Presenting to a board is unlike any other form of presentation. This is because of the nature of your audience and the various boardroom environment protocols.

Boards are a difficult audience to sway. Therefore you must put your presentation in context and address the board's core priorities and concerns (e.g. profit). A board will react negatively if you simply regurgitate your board paper and avoid explanation and discussion.

The following is a true story highlighting how things can go wrong in the boardroom and consequently, the necessity of careful preparation and attention to boardroom etiquette.

Mark (not his real name) was a senior human resources manager for a large multi-national company.

He was asked to present the company's HR strategy to the board at a one day strategic retreat. Mark worked hard and wrote a great board paper outlining the move to competency based frameworks and the expected results of this upon the ability of the company to attract and retain the best staff. Pay scales, promotional arrangements and leadership development were all covered in detail.

Mark failed, however, to justify his presentation in line with the board's primary objective-profit.

He failed to relate the need for the best staff to the need of the company to compete for scarce qualified human resources from a small pool of skilled individuals. He also failed to explain that the philosophy of management was that the best people would provide a competitive advantage by allowing the company to perform better than its rivals.

He assumed the board would understand this. They would have understood if they had been initially informed-but they had not been and therefore it was difficult to understand. The board viewed his presentation as a poor attempt to justify a large budget that was not directly related to generating profit.

To make matters worse Mark read his paper to the board. They had already read it themselves!

Mark did not make eye contact or engage the directors in his presentation. He just read to them for an hour. He had practised and worked through the key points of his paper in the exact time allotted.

The board was bored stiff.

The board subsequently cut the HR budget and Mark was offered a ‘lateral demotion' in the next corporate restructure. He left soon after.

Up until that catastrophic presentation he had been recognised as one of the next leaders of the company with a real chance of leaving HR to become a general manager and possibly a C-Class executive. After the presentation he was shunned by the people who had formerly supported him and although he could not have failed to know that the presentation was the cause of his new ostracism, he was never given a second chance at that level. It was safer for his bosses to ensure that he was never seen by the board again.

Nobody prepared him to effectively present and nobody helped him when he failed to do well in a presentation to the board.

This is where Julie Garland-McLellan and her ‘Presenting to Boards' service steps in. The quality of Julie Garland McLellan's expertise in the board presentation arena is a direct result of her very own lived experience as an executive presenter to some of Australia's largest and most important boards, and being on the receiving end of many presentations as a company director.

Feel free to find out more about Julie Garland McLellan's conference speaking, coaching and mentoring or in-housing training services at www.boarddirectorspresentations.com.

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