Center On Executive Compensation

Impress the Board: 5 Tips to Improve Board Effectiveness

Presenting to the board is uniquely different than presentations to fellow senior leaders. A new PwC piece provides guidance for executives to help executives stand out as trusted and credible business leaders by using presentation time to engage board members in a rich discussion and “connect the dots” with targeted messaging with these five tips. 

  1. Invest in your relationships: Pre-meetings are essential for garnering insights into how the Compensation Committee Chair considers your functional area in the context of the business. Use this meeting as an opportunity to understand what has worked well – and not so well – in the past to ensure that messages are tailored to the specific areas where the committee wants to spend their time. The pre-meeting will help shape the level of detail that will be included in pre-read materials versus the meeting discussion. Executives that already have a strong rapport with the Chair should ask for feedback and coaching on their effectiveness.

    Strong partnerships with senior leadership peers are also critical for the board to see. Executives should preview their board materials with business unit leaders, collaborating on tough issues so each leader can talk about overlapping workstreams across functions and demonstrate a united front to the board.

  2. Tailor your pre-read materials: The organization, format and level of detail included in pre-read materials will frame the overall presentation. Pre-reads should include a concise executive summary to quickly illustrate what actions are needed from the board. Highlight boxes with the “wow statement/takeaway” can help board members hone in on key points. Detailed reporting and dashboards with data analytics should be visually appealing to aid in meaningful discussion. Review format options with the Chair in advance and adjust the content as necessary.

  3. Know your audience: Executive presentations must include the right level of information and context without being too granular (which can derail the dialogue). Understanding the directors’ backgrounds, areas of expertise and involvement in other boards can go a long way toward anticipating their interests, questions, and areas of pushback. Discuss board dynamics and preferences with the CEO and be prepared to address differing viewpoints.

  4. Be strategic with your time: The presentation is the time to “connect the dots” by engaging board members in a rich discussion. Remarks should help to elevate this higher-level dialogue and focus on forward-looking insights that connect the data and tactics to strategy and risk. A few do’s and do nots in delivering the message:
    1. Do not repeat the information provided in the pre-reads. Do communicate main objectives and highlight noteworthy items verbally.

    2. Do not walk through the deck slide by slide.  Do have a separate meeting deck (1-2 executive summary slides) to guide the conversation. Be prepared to pivot and communicate succinctly if the agenda is running behind or the conversation moves in a different direction.

  5. Focus on your message: Understand your goal for the presentation and be clear on the intent of this goal. This will help keep the dialogue focused. Review the full agenda to get a sense of how the message fits within related topics. Ask a peer to review pre-read materials and listen to the verbal presentation to get feedback on points that may be unclear.

The Appendix provides a unique list of “deep dives” for specific C-Suite executives presenting to the board. For example, the CHRO could periodically present metrics on human capital, DE&I, succession planning, and culture.

Published on: February 3, 2023

Authors: Megan Wolf

Topics: Compensation Committee and Board, Corporate Governance

Megan Wolf

Director, Practice, HR Policy Association and Center On Executive Compensation

Detailed Bio


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