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How presenting to boardrooms is unique from other presentation settings

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Posted April 30, 2019

A presentation is a presentation, right?

Not quite. There are many different types of presentations. In fact, presentations in different settings can vary dramatically, and the boardroom presentation exemplifies this fact – almost no other presentation format or scenario will match the requirements of an appearance before an organization’s executives or Board of Directors.

Presentations can have all kinds of audiences, of course. One presentation might mean sharing information with industry peers at a conference; another might involve speaking to colleagues at a private in-house event. Or presenters might be making sales calls to prospective customers or educating existing customers on the use of a product or service.

In most cases, Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellencerecommends that presenters remember, “You are there for the median person, not the bigwig in the first row.” He suggests tailoring the presentation to help the average audience member, not the outliers in the group. However, it’s the exact opposite situation in the boardroom.

  • Here, the presentation is targeting the most powerful decision-makers in an organization.
  • Time is at a premium for these titans, and they expect presenters to be concise and on the ball.
  • They will pepper presenters with questions that may be both difficult and disruptive.
  • They may or may not have the technical background to understand the topic in-depth.
  • The only thing they care about is the business of the organization.

That last point is perhaps the most important. Lucy Marcus, Founder and CEO of BBC News, notes that many boardroom presentations are about convincing the titans of the organization to do or approve something. She writes, “One of the questions I most frequently get asked when people hear I sit on company boards isn’t about executive pay packages. Instead, they want to know how to present to a board so its members will say yes.”

When someone stands at the front of the boardroom – no matter their role or topic – their job is to facilitate the ability of the organization to conduct its underlying business successfully. That is the only path to “yes” in the boardroom.

That means not getting lost in the minutiae of the subject matter. Instead, presenters must connect their subject with the primary business drivers of concern to the organization and its leaders. Data is invaluable here and having good data at hand can empower the presenter to navigate otherwise difficult questions, but it’s crucial that any data be used as part of a larger narrative. “Companies must understand that data will be remembered only if presented in the right way,” says Think with Google, the market research branch of Google itself. “And often a slide, spreadsheet or graph is not the right way; a story is.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done, and creating effective and engaging presentations aimed at the boardroom is a matter of know-how, practice, and skill. One option to strengthen these presentations is to seek input and assistance from marketing and communications team members. Another is to get presentation training specific to boardrooms. Whatever you do, give these presentations the care and attention they require.

About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.

How presenting to boardrooms is unique from other presentation settings

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