How to Present to a Board of Directors

Gail was the Association Executive when I was president of the National Speakers Association. We planned the board meetings ahead of time at a health spa in Palm Springs. We would exercise in the morning, plan in the afternoon. The tough job for an Association Exec is that they have a new president every year, and it is really their job to coach the president on how to make this a productive and fun experience for the year. Some, of course, don’t want to be coached, so you have to do it very subtly. Because we don’t want to cause competition, it is better to not say, “I worked very well last year with such and such because__.” Just say, “Each person who has been president has brought something to the table.”

Gail’s first board meeting: She was just going to stand up and give a presentation. At three days notice Nido Qubein said, “Put your information on a flip chart so we can see it better.”

In my speaking I say “People don’t remember what you say, they remember what they see.” Which is why we tell stories.

By using good graphics, the board gets a bigger view of what is going on. After her first board meeting, she got a standing ovation. Understanding that presenting to the National Speakers Association Board is tougher than most because we are all full time speakers. Afterwards, she went to her room and cried, she was so exhausted and it was so stressful. The point is: if Nido had not suggested that, she would have just stood up.

Presenting to a board of directors is very important. You work hard all year, but they only see you a couple of times a year as a package of everything you do, a picture of the association and what is really going on. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are; if you do not present your ideas well, you will be perceived as less efficient.

As Association Exec you usually get to present first. You should bring all the things that you are concerned about, what you have been criticized for, as an association staff and as a whole association, and handle any problems that you think are going to erupt. The importance of making an ally of the president, if possible, cannot be overestimated.

One thing we did at the National Speakers Association in my year has been very productive. We instituted an idea that if you had a new program idea, it had to be presented to the staff one month before the board meeting so they could assess the implication, the cost and staff time. It did not look like we were being obstinate and trying not to cooperate when the board got infused with the new program. You have to plan and anticipate. What was good about Gail and myself working together was we knew the board from different points of view, and we could share our experiences to consider and plan.

Idea: Ann Mahoney, Association Manager, ASAE, they have a leadership issue in December on working with elected officials, especially presidents working with the Association Exec. Trish should pitch the idea of me writing something for that.

Mr. Lewis Schneider is the Association Executive of the American Society for Industrial Securities. (703) 522-5800. He has been in his job for eighteen years and he advises to get in front of your boards and address them as much as possible. It is a problem if they are not used to your presentation style, especially if you have bad news about you not making budget for example. Present as much good news as possible. Secondly, get to know them, and adapt your style as much as possible to them; if it is casual group and they wear khaki, don’t go in with a blue suit. He has five executive committees and three board meetings a year, but he also presents at ADHOC Committees.

NOTE FROM FRIPP: I encourage everybody to go to the board meeting room ahead of time. Whether you are a speaker, or in this case a board person or an association exec, go to the room and get comfortable.