Boardroom chemistry involves more than just the directors. If you're a nondirector member of staff making a presentation to the board, knowing your etiquette is even more vital. Business careers have been made and broken depending on how well a rising executive impresses the board. Particularly if it's your first time pitching to these worthies, the experience will be intimidating.

Marjorie Brody, of Brody Communications, offered some tips for board presentations.

  1. Do some research on the individuals who make up the board. "Know their individual motivators, learn who they are, and how to talk their language. Think of it this way -- you're there to help them make a decision." This also means that you're not there for your 15 minutes to shine, even if this is your ultimate corporate audience.
  2. Boards "are bottom-line driven, and don't have a lot of time." That means not subjecting them to a long windup before reaching your conclusion. "Give them your conclusion up front, and then back it up with one page of bullet points. Have more documentation, though, in case they want it."
  3. No, directors don't like to sleep through presentations, so don't make them. "Shorter is better on visuals ... I call it death by PowerPoint" says Brody. Also, "I suggest more time for questions, and less for the presentation. It gets the directors more involved ... They like to have this control."
  4. Learn good presentation basics. "Even though your bosses are here too, keep eye contact with everyone in the room -- don't neglect anybody. Be willing to share credit with staffers who aren't there -- be inclusive. Listen to presenters who go before you, and learn from directors' body language what's working and what isn't. Be able to cut time or points from your presentation on the fly, without panicking."
  5. Finally (though easier said than done), "don't be intimidated. Directors put their pants on one leg at a time, too."

Copyright © 2000 Ralph Ward's Boardroom INSIDER