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

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