We’ve compiled some tips for board or C-suite presentations to help you get through your end-of-year planning. The last few months of the year give many of us opportunities to meet with our executive teams or boards as our organizations finalize plans for the next year. There may be a few long days, and possibly some stress involved, but the output (we all hope) is a clear and actionable plan for the year ahead.
But keep in mind: your c-suite or board won’t help you solve your problems unless they know about them, identify them as important, and understand the positive outcomes of addressing your particular needs. So, you need to be good at positioning your concerns and ideas so that executive leaders want to invest time and resources where you need them.
How you can influence decision makers: Tips for Board or C-suite presentations
There are myriad resources on how to communicate effectively. Some offer general guidance, while others can be very specific to an industry or discipline. (Communicating with automobile manufacturing union leadership might be different than communicating with a group of tax reform supporters.) Below are some common considerations.
1. Be prepared
Your executive or board member audience appreciates well-prepared presentations. Presentations that are not well-prepared may damage credibility, limit executive willingness to provide support, . Poor preparation could mean lost opportunity.
If you are the one giving voice to an issue, providing contextual information on an obstacle, or running through performance data, knowing the underlying insights or where to get them builds tremendous credibility with your executive audience.
2. Know your audience
Whether via research or prep meetings, get to know your audience well in advance of your presentation. Which executives will be in the room? What are the backgrounds of each of the members you’ll be presenting your information to?
Knowing who will be in the room can help you tailor the presentation when applicable, so you are not telling them things they already know, nor assuming knowledge they might not have.
3. Design your message with your desired outcome in mind
If you have a particular action or decision from the executive team or board as your goal, then your presentation’s flow, tempo, tenor, and content all need to work together to lead your audience to the decision point.
Articulate your end goal, in no uncertain terms. Then work backwards from that goal to shape the journey your reader must take to reach only your end goal.
4. Don’t speak to be understood; speak so that it’s impossible to be misunderstood
As you prepare for your presentation, you’ll likely have multiple ideas for how to state your position, make your pitch, justify your budget request, etc.
Don’t include ALL your ideas or pitch points in your attempt to be understood. If you take that approach, you may end up rambling without communicating the ‘meat’ of your message. You won’t be concise or powerful, and that could leave both you and your audience feeling as though something is missing.
Instead, edit your message so that it’s impossible for it to be misunderstood. Remove redundant words and phrases. Delete superfluous adjectives and qualifiers. If you can get some trusted colleagues with good editorial skills to review your presentation AND the request you may make, that will help you focus on core elements.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you’re going to present at a c-suite or board meeting is to rehearse. Of all the public speaking tips and tips on presenting, of all the strategies for how to speak to executives, and of all the suggestions you can find about how to present information at a board meeting, rehearsal is the lynchpin.
Rehearse for brevity, since executives and board members must consider many issues in a constrained timeframe. Rehearse for clarity, in order to reduce the chance that you may be misunderstood. Rehearse so that you can speak to your audience; not merely recite.
A solid grasp of the information you’re presenting will also allow you to rely less heavily on tools like note cards and PowerPoint. “PowerPoint is a tool, not a presentation”
Don’t just practice alone. Ask a colleague to listen to you. That person can let you know if you’re speaking too fast, or if you need to make more deliberate eye contact. Are you stooping (which can make you seem unsure of yourself or your topic)? Your colleague can let you know. Are you loud enough? Ask your colleague to listen to your presentation from across the room, and let you know.
The more you master what needs to be said, and the more you practice answering possible questions, the more confident and poised you’ll be when you’re in the room.
6. Visit the space
If possible, visit the room you’ll be presenting in ahead of the actual meeting. This will give you an opportunity to hear how your voice carries in the room; to know if you’ll need to speak from your seat or from a podium; and to practice using whatever audio/visual equipment that will used during the presentation.
Some Additional Reading: