What Went Wrong in the Boardroom

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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