Four Steps to Help You Prepare for Your First Board Presentation

Nervous about your first board presentation? Here's some practical advice to get you going
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What’s your strategy for your next boardroom presentation? For most people, pitching to the board induces cold sweat, but not if you’re prepared and maintain the right perspective, says Amit Pande, CMO and Head of Strategy for Aviso AI.  

As someone who’s been on both sides of the table – as a former board member for the Stanford MBA Alumni Board and as a presenter – Amit brings vast knowledge and experience to our conversation on effective boardroom presentations.  In this interview, he outlines four manageable steps to a powerful, engaging, persuasive board presentation.

Audience first

When preparing presentations, people often start by focusing on their slides instead of on their audience. It’s a common practice and one of the biggest mistakes you can make, according to Amit. “It’s really helpful to apply a lot of the same principles from regular marketing and product life to your audience,” says Amit.  “I found it really helpful to humanize the audience.” 

The more direct contact with your audience, the better.  When unfamiliar with certain board members, talk to the people who work directly with them. “Try to figure out some of their other portfolio companies, so you have a good idea of the level of sophistication they might be used to.” 

Optimize your content

“With content, there are two approaches,” says Amit. “One, here’s everything we did. Two, here’s what’s really different from last time. Your business performance numbers will determine which approach you take. If the numbers are great across the board, then you want to spend as much time on them for the positive reinforcement that things are going well. If you need to ask the board for more support, and you have some numbers are not so good, you don’t ever want to dance around that issue either. You want to address it with a plan because the board will ask you for a plan.”

Know what to optimize in your presentation. “Do you want to inspire confidence or reinforce confidence, or is it more of a check-in and forward-gazing?”  If you don’t optimize your content, your presentation “becomes a series of status updates – which is what a board meeting should never be.”

Get the numbers out of the way first. Get to the richness or story detail later.“

“If you’re able to confidently represent revenue, pipeline, new opportunity creation, expansion revenue versus net, new revenue, or net dollar retention that you’re directly or indirectly influencing through marketing, then you’ve got the elephant out of the room.” According to Amit, the numbers lead directly to stories on case studies, marketing campaigns, and events and make them easier to relate to.  

Be sure to maintain a conversational approach with board members. Ask for their feedback along the way and don’t try to impress with an overly visual or glossy presentation. “Board presentations are not sales pitches. Board members aren’t impressed by that,” says Amit.

Remember not to overwhelm with content. “If they start tuning out, they’re going to miss a lot of cool data later on.” Amit says, “What I found is that typically it’s not the presentation that trips people, it’s the follow-up questions and the rabbit holes you can get into – like if you haven’t prepared your numbers well.”

Amit suggests breaking up content into two distinct buckets: Go-to-Market and Product.  “You ideally want to talk about go-to-market first. You want to talk about the health of the company – sales, marketing, customer success – then switch to the more fun aspect, which is product innovation.”

Finding an optimal structure that works is important so that you can repeat it in subsequent meetings. 

Delivery is like choreography

Visual aids are a big help. “Have something physical –  a demo or a report on a gigantic screen – on one side of the boardroom.  Right away everyone’s engaged,” says Amit. 

“Don’t present to a board member the same way you would present to a customer or an internal team member. Board members may be coming in once a quarter and have limited context, so you want to balance the level of detail,” says Amit. 

Be succinct and be sure to make time for questions.

Make sure you’ve answered the exact question you’re asked, and if you don’t know an answer, give an exact timeline of when you can get the answer.” 

Knowing your numbers is critical, especially when it comes to financial information. “I’ve found that you’re going to get a lot of questions around the financials and revenue. If you only prepare the happy version of what’s going on, you won’t be prepared for the questions you get on how many deals you lost to the competitor. It’s helpful to have that raw data available on Excel.” He suggests using appendix slides and spending two-three minutes per slide will alleviate any rabbit holes during the presentation. 

Finally, practice is a critical component of excellent delivery. Amit suggests a full test run the day before.

Focus on the follow-up

The follow-up can be just as important as the presentation itself. Amit recommends that you “send pre-reads and follow-up documents for board members to consume. The pre-read is an agenda with the exact timing of who’s going to come in at what time and which section is going to be covered.” Don’t forget to include the latest demo and the full presentation deck in your follow-up. 

Another opportunity to make a great impression is the lunch break. “If the board is open to it, introduce 15-20 minutes where you bring in some newly hired team members to interact and speak about what they’re excited about. Serendipitous interaction builds good social capital.” 

At the end of your presentation, don’t be hesitant about asking for a review. It could be from the directors or their general counsels. This will give you a greater understanding of what you can do better in the next meeting.

For more great information and the full interview with Amit Pande, check out this episode on "The First 100 Days" podcast


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