In Part 1 of this blog, we discussed the actions you should take prior to a meeting with the board of directors. These included:
- Defining your objective, so you understand why this technology is critical to your business and what the potential ROI might be.
- Introducing the idea to individual board members, with personal face-to-face meetings before the board meeting. This gives you a chance to head off naysayers and gather responses to critical questions.
- Create a formal presentation tailored to the board.
- Develop and practice a presentation that puts business goals center stage.
So what's next? I will now discuss best practices for the board meeting. Use these strategies to get board members on your side, and ready to sign off on your request for technology funding.
5. Clearly state your objectives for the technology investment. Know what you are asking for, and whether that goal is aligned with the overall desires of the board. Consider whether your goal will match up with both investor and non-investor board members.
6. Smile before you walk into the room. I am not joking about this. You will be surprised what a difference it can make. Before you appear before the board members, think about putting on your game face--which starts with a smile. This process will relax you. You know the topic better than anyone else in the room. Be friendly. Greet each board member with personal chit-chat that shows your interest in them as a human being. You must display steady, enthusiastic confidence in yourself and your plan. Welcome the board with a smile, and show them what you've got.
7. Have a conversation. A board meeting should not be a speech. Instead, have a two-way dialog with your board members. With technical topics, you may need to be patient as they ask questions and learn about the technology. Before the meeting, put together a list of questions you think they might ask, and have good answers prepared for each. Invite questions many times throughout your presentation. Does someone interrupt with a question? That's great! It shows they are engaged, which means they are more likely to help you.
8. Be honest. Lies and nuance destroy trust and credibility. If you are asked a question but don't know the answer, admit it. Say you will find out and report back the information within the week. Board members want the truth, delivered in a way that ensures they will remain confident in you and your plan.
9. Talk strategy more than technology. Technical executives tend to provide way too much technical information that doesn't relate to the business decision. Never deliver technical information to the board in terms of lines of Java or numbers of test cases. Rather, provide information on a strategic business level. Will this provide a competitive advantage for your company? Will it attract more paying customers? Will it reduce expenses? Make sure you can speak to the compelling business reasons for this project. Drive your case home by talking about real-life customer situations and end-user benefits. If needed, use analogies to explain complicated topics. Relating the technical idea to something the board members can easily understand will help move the meeting in the right direction. Boards want to know how the technology will solve a compelling problem in the marketplace or in your business.
Don't be intimidated by the board. Just be prepared. They joined you on this journey, and they want success for your company--just like you do. Show them why this technology takes you down the path to a big win, and they will back you for life.
Co-founder of Austin-based Growth Acceleration Partners (GAP), Joyce Durst is driven to help software companies achieve rapid growth through business-focused applications. Joyce has launched startups and led teams at enterprise companies by applying her passion and business knowledge to efficiently create software that solves business problems. Active in the community with Special Olympics and Springboard alumni, she enjoys helping other women in technology to achieve their dreams.