A board presentation about technology can strike fear in the hearts of many a C-level executive. Fortunately there are steps that can be taken to not only meet the board’s needs and expectations but win their lasting support and respect. Given the importance of technology to overall business strategy, as both enabler and growth driver, technology discussions make regular appearances on board agendas.
A persuasive presentation describes business outcomes that result from technology changes.
Many boards encourage technology dialogs to help them better understand the critical role it plays in the business. But that doesn’t make the prospect of speaking to the board any less daunting. In fact, keeping the board informed and educated about the state of technology in the organization has become more difficult. Both the quickening pace of technical change and the increasing tech-related risk that companies must manage have made this information vital to the decision-making process.
Cybersecurity has quickly risen to a top agenda item for boards, given their responsibility to guide their management team’s risk mitigation strategies. The challenge is to inform the board without drowning them in too much data. The key is to pick the most important topics and craft a clear, concise, and compelling message.
Here are several guidelines for creating a persuasive explanation:
Know your audience
It’s important to understand the board’s stance on technology topics in general and specific ramifications in particular. Do they have “hot buttons” that may derail the presentation? Do they view this issue as an opportunity or a threat? Knowing how to frame the information helps to start off in a good position.
Play to the room
Know what most interests and motivates the board. Do they have a particular focus on growth, operational improvements, new opportunities, compliance or cybersecurity? Most boards appreciate presentations that give them a better handle on emerging and strategic opportunities and risks.
Stay on top of the news
Be aware of technology or business news and consider how trends and risks may impact the business. What’s happening in other companies has relevance for your business too.
It’s all about the outcomes
Clearly identify the real business benefits of any proposal. The best approach is linking technology investments to the company’s growth and profit strategy. Weaving technical items into a discussion of business outcomes will go a long way when asking the board to approve expenditures.
Be clear and concise
The first rule for dealing effectively with busy board members is to not waste their time. Keep the presentation short and focused and give them further details on paper so they can delve into the fine print on their own time. Come to each board meeting armed with a big idea and a well-curated set of data to help them see around the corner and feel confident about your leadership on the topic. Because board members are removed from the day-to-day operations of the company you can’t assume they will always be on the same page as the operational management. Prepare to move on if the board quickly gets a point and slow down for topics where there is a deeper interest than originally anticipated. Delivering information connected to business outcomes goes a long way in persuading a board.
NPI Technology Management works closely with clients to translate complex technical topics into everyday business terms. In our business review meetings with top management we tackle difficult technology projects, budgeting and business benefits to prepare them for discussions with their shareholders and board.