Overcoming Your Boardroom Presentation Fears
5 Classic Boardroom Mistakes
Think it’s “no big deal.” The CEO walks into your office and nonchalantly says, “You’ve got 20 minutes to pitch your business unit’s plan at tomorrow’s board meeting.” Your near-panic is visible, so he adds, “Don’t sweat it; it’s no big deal.” Just because he says or acts as if it’s no big deal doesn’t mean it’s no big deal. I’m sure his first time was a big deal. Prepare. Know your material cold and be ready for a healthy amount of Q&A.
Walk in with a half-baked plan. Boards are typically comprised of smart, opinionated people who are also former or current executives. If you pitch a half-baked plan, it may get twisted, debated, and mutated to the point where you end up getting a green light to do something that bears little or no resemblance to your original plan. And if it fails, it’s still your plan … and your fault.
Try to out-maneuver a founder. Don’t underestimate the loyalty, power, and sway even a dysfunctional founder may still have with a board that owes its existence - and perhaps riches - to him. Even if you’re the CEO, you can do irreparable damage to your standing or even get fired - which I’ve seen happen. Exercise extreme caution.
Expect the board to actually do something. Never forget that it’s the job of company executives to manage, plan, strategize, make decisions, and of course, execute. The board’s job is to provide oversight, advice, and sometimes, connections. If you need something from them, be clear and upfront about it, but don’t expect much more than feedback.
Pitch a controversial plan without support. I watched a president get shot down by the chairman (who incidentally was right) after pitching a controversial acquisition. It was embarrassing in front of all the officers and directors, but it didn’t have to happen. They had a good relationship; the president should have sought one-on-one feedback prior to the meeting. Rally some support before the meeting for hot or controversial ideas.
At one time I entered the Boardroom to present a Strategic Plan to the Board Members of one of my clients and I found out that Chairman's assitants had changed the room at the last minute to a room with dark walls that I could not present on. I quickly grapped a big flipchart sheet and had two people spread it to the wall and did my presentation to the members who were already seated. And gues who those two individuals were? The same incompetent assistants who failed to have a screen for the presentation.