In my 30 years of being on and working with corporate and association boards, I find traditional board presentations to be increasingly tedious. Gone are the times when the CEO would brief the Board and then take questions. We don’t have time for that. To use your Board effectively, provide an overview of the contents in the Board presentation, and use the time to discuss strategic issues where the Board can add value to the business.
How to Use a Board Presentation Packet Effectively
The Board presentation packet consists of the relevant information the Board needs to know – typically in PowerPoints and/or PDF files. Ideally, it should be sent out at least three days prior to the Board meeting. (That being said, I am on a Board where the packet arrives in my email inbox exactly 24 hours prior, Since I know this, I block off time the day before the Board meeting to thoroughly review the packet).
Hopefully, the Board presentation packet is clear enough that it doesn’t need a human to explain the key points on each slide/page. Good titles, headlines, and/or thought bubbles are great along with using colors, arrows, and circles to emphasize key points.
When the Board member is reviewing the Board presentation, the story and the key areas to contribute to the conversation should be clear. In this way, the Board members can individually prepare their questions and conversational talking points. (BTW, I have had to coach several CEOs on how to provide just enough information in a clear and concise way – without being repetitive – as it is difficult to share the strategic story when they work in the business on a daily basis).
During the Board meeting, tee up the information with a brief overview. Don’t spoon-feed the Board all the information – give them just enough to remind them of the salient points. When in doubt, provide backup material in an “Appendix” at the back of the board book. Those Board members who like to dig into the details can be happy too…and you are subtly teaching the Board to be more strategic.
After the overview, ask if there are any questions. If appropriate, answer them in the moment – or defer them to the strategic discussion part of the agenda – or park it to be answered at a later time (typically when the answer is not readily known and you need more information).
Note: One of the reasons I like the Board presentation packet three days prior to the Board meeting is that I can ask my “little” questions (typically questions for clarification) before the Board meeting – so we don’t get bogged down in minutia and my own curiosity.
Save the bulk of your time for strategic discussions – either generated by the CEO or from Board members themselves.
And isn’t thinking strategically the point of effective Board meetings and Board presentations?