Q. I have been asked to make a presentation to my company’s Board of Directors. Any words of advice?
A. First and foremost this should be viewed as an opportunity, not a risk. If you come prepared good things can happen. Preparation is key. You have been given an opportunity to educate and potentially influence the decision makers of your company. Don’t take it lightly; you never know when the opportunity may come again. Consider the following:
• Know your material, understand what is expected and focus your presentation. Know the committee’s degree of subject matter knowledge and appropriately level your presentation. Be aware of the history and the committee’s current position on the topic; then practice, practice and practice your presentation.
• Talk to others who have been there and done that in the past. Ask the committee secretary what to expect, ask your boss for words of advice; all in an effort to get a lay of the land (hierarchy, roles, etiquette) and help manage your expectations.
• Introductions. Understand to whom and how introductions will be made. Take a little pre-meeting time to know who the attendees are and what they look like. Most companies have “face shots” and bios of their Board members and senior management.
• Be punctual. Not too early and certainly not late. Hanging around waiting on your turn will just increase your anxiety, and being late will not only increase your anxiety but will certainly annoy the committee members.
• Stay within your allotted time. Respect others time and don’t go over unless asked to do so. Often, the time allotted is not sufficient to address the topic, so know what’s really at the heart of the topic and, like it or not, your allotted time may be reduced at the last minute due to items beyond your control. Be prepared to present your 20-minute presentation in 10.
• Dress appropriately. Just because it’s casual Friday doesn’t mean khakis and a golf shirt are appropriate. Have a clear understanding of what the expected dress is. It’s better to be a little over dressed than under.
• Presentation format. Know the desired and acceptable presentation format. Is it power point and if so what about backgrounds, animation and slide quantity? Should there be handouts and if so what about distribution - before, during or after? Don’t risk becoming a victim of technology; have hard copy back-up presentation materials available.
• Know the room setting. Are all participants in the same room? Will you be expected to stand at the head of the room while giving your presentation? Is there assigned seating and if so where will your seat be? Are there other room protocols that you should be aware of such as do you wait outside the room until summoned or are you welcome to enter the room upon arrival and if so through what door?
• Get a good night’s sleep. This is not the time to stay out late and indulge.
• Eat light and mild. You don’t need a growling stomach or a stuffed one and you certainly don’t need to facilitate the production of stomach acid.
• Manage the caffeine. There is no need to be more on edge or chemically induce hyper behavior.
• Personal hygiene. Comb your hair, brush your teeth, use the rest room. Keep your audience focused on the topic not on the out of place hair on your head or the poppy seed stuck between your front teeth; and who knows when you’ll need or get a restroom break.
• Current affairs. Be aware of current affairs, especially those that could affect business and management perspectives. As an added bonus, be aware of social happenings that might be of interest to your audience; you never know when the meeting may go slightly off target to address a new item or just idle chit chat.
• Messenger. Whether you are delivering good news or bad news, approach your topic appropriately. Delivering good news is a lot easier than delivering bad news, but someone has to do it and if you’re the chosen one, do it well.
Board presentations can be challenging and certainly a little nerve racking. Each will be a little different, but generally speaking if you know the rules of engagement, are aware of the group dynamics, pay attention to housekeeping and properly prepare your presentation, you should be the better for the experience.
Answer provided by Kenneth Kasten, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty.