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How to win over your board of directors

Stephanie Overby | Aug. 24, 2017
A 15-minute board presentation can make or break a valuable project — not to mention a promising career. But there are steps CIOs can take to not only meet their board of director’s needs and expectations but win their lasting support and respect.


6. Be clear and concise

Rule No. 1 for dealing effectively with busy board members: Do not waste their time. Keep the actual presentation short and focused and place the details in the board book so that directors can delve into them on their own time. “You need to come to each board meeting armed with a big idea and a well curated set of data that helps the board see around the corner and feel confident that management is making prudent decisions,” says Bates. Half of board members complained that the information they receive from management doesn’t provide sufficient transparency about problems and is hard to interpret, according to the 2016–2017NACD Public Company Governance Survey.

Also “it’s critical to remember the board members are a further distance from the day-to-day operations of the company,” says Hu. That may mean that you actually have to speak more slowly and deliberately on a topic you’d breeze through with your direct report. “In addition, during the discussion, remain flexible in allocation of time,” Hu adds. “Be prepared to move quickly if the board seems to get a point quickly, or slow down for critical points if there seems to be deeper interest than originally anticipated. It’s important to keep in mind not only your goals for the presentation, but also the board’s, to achieve a healthy balance.”  


7. Act like you belong

CIOs and their teams are of strategic importance to the company and the board. “If you’ve been invited and have done your prep work, then you deserve to be there. You’re a C-level exec — act like it,” says Ferro. “I’ve seen too many CIOs (including me at my first meeting years ago) come off all ‘aw shucks, just happy to be here,’ and that doesn’t inspire confidence in you as a senior leader.”

Think of yourself not as an IT leader, but a business leader, says Bates. “Make it obvious in your presentation all the ways you are actively striving to collaborate with the business to drive the business strategy forward.” 


8. Prepare — and prepare some more

The goal of a CIO’s board presentation should be to deliver simplicity around what is inherently a very complex topic. The presentation desk should reflect that. “Less is more. Be thoughtful about what you present,” says Bates. And allot plenty of time for preparation and rehearsal. It actually takes longer to prepare a shorter and informative presentation, but the returns are huge. “The result of an excellent presentation and a well-conducted Q & A session, is that your board gains confidence in your ability to lead such an important part of the business,” Bates says. 


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