By Diane Craig
Most senior executives know that an invitation to speak to the board of directors is a rite of passage. It signals the board’s desire to hear details and question people directly and acknowledges the presenter’s authority. For first-timers, it can indicate a change in status. In many organizations, however, both people new to the experience and seasoned executives are often ill-equipped to meet board directors’ expectations. Board presence is the ability to fulfill those expectations.
When Leaders Lack Board Presence
Sometimes, the red flag warning comes too late, as one presenter I’ve worked with realized: “As soon as I started, I knew I was operating in the dark. I had come to the board unprepared. I was clueless about the rules of conduct and protocols. There I stood before the most powerful people in the industry and I started to tremble. I realized I was wasting their time and they knew it. I had lost my golden opportunity.”
The reality is, presenters shoulder full responsibility for their personal state of readiness. Although they are usually C-level executives and senior managers, with hours of presentations behind them, this is uncharted territory. It is unlike any other presentation in their experience.
An invitation to present to the board typically generates one of two reactions:
- Stress and anxiety, based on fear
- Smug self-assurance, the classic know-it-all outlook
Apprehension and nervousness can be overcome with extensive preparation. Complacency and confidence, on the other hand, are destined for missed opportunities. When people underestimate the significance of an invitation, they face a slippery slope.
Board presence, like executive presence, demands a combination of finely-tuned communications skills and engagement expertise along very specific standards and guidelines.
Achieving Board Presence: Six Essential Steps
Meticulous preparation is the prime factor that makes or breaks a presentation. The specifications are as exacting as media interviews or facing a full auditorium, but very different, indeed. For starters, there is a code of conduct. Although conscious of strict courtroom behaviors, like rising for the judge, many executives are not familiar with the conventions of meeting with the board. This is the starting point for preparation.
1. Understand the protocols as a guest at an exclusive club.
Every senior executive is a visiting guest of the board — not a member of its elite, private club. The atmosphere is formal but friendly, where directors exchange comments among themselves. For presenters, any suggestion of familiarity is out of line.
2. Be aware of how the board’s responsibilities may impact your future.
Managing succession planning is one of the key functions of boards of directors. They actively monitor high-potential people for future leadership roles. Directors are on high alert for promising candidates. Prospects for advancement are seriously impacted by board recommendations.
3. Study every director’s bio.
This is an eye-opening opportunity, yet many people overlook its benefits. Bios provide information about individual directors’ areas of expertise, which is crucial to developing content. Boards rich in IT acumen, for example, expect to be addressed at a level reflective of their knowledge. Equally as important, these insights enable presenters to anticipate and prepare Go to the full article.
Source:: Business 2 Community