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

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 and get access to Julie Garland McLellan's conference speaking, coaching and mentoring or in-housing training services.