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How To Make A Board Presentation With Major Impact!

April 22, 2015

For many executives, making presentations to the Board can be a nerve-wracking experience. Even if you are familiar with the individuals who sit on your company’s Board, there can still be something intimidating about going into a room of very intelligent, powerful people and trying to explain a technical concept or bigger yet, ask for their buy in on your project.

I would like to share Potential Unlimited’s Top Tips for Making a Board Presentation with Major Impact:

1. Start with a Story. Often when you enter the Board meeting, there is no time for niceties. You head to the front of the room, all eyes on you, and make your pitch. But something is missing. The personal connection. Even for a numbers-focused board, they need to understand the personal element of your presentation.

Get the Board’s attention right in the beginning and make a personal connection to your presentation at the same time by using story telling. This story should be no longer than 2 minutes MAX in length and must have a point that is relevant and that you need to directly tie back to the topic of your presentation. Don’t assume Board members will make the leap there, you need to verbally tie it together for them to make it relevant. This story can be about a customer experience that proves your point or it could even be your own personal experience to demonstrate a parallel between what you are discussing and the human world.  Even highly technical speeches can weave in a personal story in the beginning.

2.Never Ramble. The best way to ensure you don’t go on too long is to practice, practice and practice. Make it tight. Ask your team before the Board meeting to supply you with a list of questions the Board may ask on your presentation. Now, practice answering these questions out loud. Steve Jobs was known for giving high impact speeches. He NEVER winged it. He would practice it so thoroughly that it seemed natural.

3.Cut back on your Power Point. Power Point is way overused. I find PowerPoint often serves as a crutch for the speaker or as a distraction from the speaker for the audience. Even highly technical presentations need to rely more on the individual telling the story and using clear language to explain concepts versus trying to provide clarity by throwing bullet points on a screen.

Rule of thumb for Board presentations with Power Point: My first challenge is to not use Power Point at all. If you really feel you must, limit it to 6 slides maximum with no more than 10 words (max) on each slide.

4. Take a breath. Never dash into the Board meeting from a previous meeting without taking a few minutes to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for success. I know you are all busy people, but there is always time to take 10 minutes before an important Board meeting.

Find a space where you can be by yourself (I have found myself even in bathroom stalls to find these few moments). Remind yourself of the true reason you are making this presentation, not just because it is your job. It is because you care about something so much you are willing to put yourself out there. Assume a confident body position, shoulders back, standing tall. Feel like you are in complete control. Visualizing and actually feeling your success is one of the most important steps leading to producing successful results.

In your moments of preparation, focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your nose. This calms your nervous system. If you have a lighter complexion and tend to get red-faced or a pink blotchy neck when you speak in front of people, this breathing through your nose in advance is a great way to reduce your body’s nervous physical reaction.

5. Prepare with Your Head. Speak with Your Heart. Once you have done your due diligence in your preparation, it is time to exude your passion for the topic into the equation. Passion is a language that every Board member will understand at some level. There is no way they would have got to where they are if they didn’t feel passionate about something enough to fixate their energy on achieving it.  Use this common language to go from making an average presentation to one that really grabs their attention.

How do you do this?  Go back to channelling the real meaning behind your topic. What makes you care so much beyond the technical details of it?  Now that you are thinking of that, notice the sensations in your body. Are you feeling butterflies or a tingle-type of feeling in your stomach? Vibrations in your chest or head? Accelerated heart rate? What is going on? Give yourself the quiet space to figure this out and just listen and feel.

Once you understand the physical sensations, speak from that area. Actually feel the words and your breath draw from here. Use physical gestures to demonstrate this. Be careful not to go overboard with swinging your body all over the place, but passion usually brings on bigger gestures and using your entire body to speak, not just your mouth.

6. Listen. When we go in to make important Board presentations, we can get caught up in being so focused on what we had planned to say that we are not in the frame of mind to really listen to others. I believe that listening is one of the most important elements of giving a stellar presentation.

From the time you enter the room, listen and gauge the energy. Energy can be impacted by the person who presented before you or by the demands each individual around the table is dealing with outside of your time with them. Your job is to listen to what is there, be compassionate and help the group focus on your message by explaining it clearly, personally, technically and with passion. Then if and when the Board has questions for you, focus on their words and their energy. Don’t get in your head to try to line up the most intelligent answer. Really be with them in their question and remember, you are an expert, the answers are all accessible to you.

Find out more about Potential Unlimited’s Leadership Presentation Skills Course and One-on-One Executive Presentations Coaching.

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