Maybe you heard that horses sweat, men perspire and women glow. But in the boardroom everyone who presents sweats – some more than others. If you are in management or want to be, you will need to present in the boardroom. This is the worst place to present. First understand why it is that way. Then use these techniques to be more successful when you present in the boardroom.
Beware of Boardroom Landmines
The boardroom is a place of punishment. It is where management and executives go to thrash the last bad quarter results and beat up somebody. Whoever presents today in the boardroom is the target for today’s flogging. Hence just entering the boardroom stirs up a defensive and offensive attitude in most meeting attendees. They are ready to defend their own performance and at the same time attack someone else just to escape. A boardroom is not a place to birth new ideas – it is a place to crucify suspected sinners, torture under-performers and kill dreamers.
The physical step-up of the boardroom is adversarial. Meeting attendees face each other across the table. They are not facing the speaker. In fact to face the speaker they must turn their head and expose themselves to the physical discomfort of a kinked neck.
There is always a power position at the table. Even in King Arthur’s round table the strongest positions were those closest to Arthur. The presenter will usually speak opposite the power position – thus having the weakest physical position on the table.
If you are relatively new to this board meeting the ones with history will play their seniority card against you. They can bring up past issues, insider jokes or unwritten rules that put you down.
To succeed in the Boardroom
Before the meeting
Learn who will be there and learn their hot buttons. Meet with all or at the very least the key decision makers before the meeting and get them on your side. Never introduce new ideas in the boardroom. That is the surest way to kill your new ideas.
If the meeting chair is an abrasive type, meet with him before the meeting. Explain your ideas and demonstrate how your ideas support his visions and goals. And ask for his support to make it work. Tell him that you cannot make it happen without his critical support, which implies that if it fails he is responsible. Tell him what you want to accomplish and ask for his advice on how to get everyone else onside.
The more people you have taken into your confidence and who know about your presentation in advance – the more will support you when the vote comes down.
If you don’t surprise them they won’t surprise you. When you meet with them ask them for their support.
Speaking in the Boardroom
Get into the boardroom before the meeting to get comfortable with the room – to make it your room. Test your presentation equipment. Sit in a few of the chairs to see the perspective of the attendees. Beware that the others are evaluating you the whole time – before you present, while you present and after you present. So appear calm and confident.
When it is your turn to speak, calmly take the power position of the room. Stand. Pause while you attain everyone’s attention. Then begin your presentation.
Speak to everyone in the room. Make a point of talking and looking at every person in the room. Move your eyes across the table in imperfect x’s. Don’t be fooled into only talking to the one with the most power or the one who engages you. And don’t be lulled into staring at the broad expanse of the boardroom table.
State your position clearly and strongly. Never apologize. Look to your allies for their support. Make it clear what you want them to do because of your presentation. Repeat your purpose. State the purpose early and be prepared for interruptions as well as your presentation time getting cut short.
Seek to gain one key point that moves them in the direction that you want. Don’t try to sell and close all the details in one boardroom presentation. Boardroom meetings are either to confirm earlier discussions or to suggest new directions. But seldom are they for details.
Your Boardroom Success
Accept the directional win and next step. Be willing to work out the details later. People are more defensive in the boardroom. Don’t try to nail the whole project in one boardroom presentation.
© George Torok has delivered many boardroom presentations over a 20-year corporate management history. He now works with executives and managers to help them enjoy more success from their presentations. He is the “Speech Coach for Executives”. You can get your free presentation tips every month by registering at www.SpeechcoachforExecutives.com. You can arrange for George Torok to work with you and your executives by calling 800-304-1861