How to strengthen your next board presentation

Elliott Welton, Sageworks

Elliott Welton, Sageworks

Just as a bank teller speaks differently to a client than to a colleague, tone and content of communication will be different for a management report and those prepared specifically for the Board of Directors. There are certain characteristics that can either add to or detract from the “Board-friendliness” of a presentation, which should be considered when preparing for Board meeting presentations.

Members of the Board will often come from diverse backgrounds and therefore will have different levels of proficiency when it comes to banking knowledge. Typically, there’s enough brainpower in the boardroom to create a complex dynamic – one member may be familiar with acquisitions analysis while another practices law. Each will be an expert in his or her own domain, but may not be familiar with the intricacies of day-to-day banking operations.

As such, stepping into the boardroom requires taking a step back, dawning your strategy cap and remembering these three recommendations.

    1. Make it concise. Board meetings often have very full agendas. While you may be able to fluff up a presentation with extra content, recognize that a more focused presentation will resonate more deeply during the busy meeting and will help you use your time wisely.
    2. Include documentation. Given time constraints during the meeting, members may not have time to dive into the numbers of your presentation. By providing documentation, your key points can be substantiated now and whenever Board members refer back to the presentation materials. For example, if you are communicating the latest results of a stress test, show not only the potential impact on earnings and capital levels but also show the parameters.
    3. Big picture. Limit the scope of your presentation to only content that directly contributes to the overarching message. A good litmus test is to ask yourself, “Is the bigger picture understood without this?” If the answer is “yes,” then you are likely better off without it. Similarly, your presentation should be transparent and, where possible, simple. You are more likely to wow a Board member by taking a difficult subject and making it simple than by adding complexity or too much granularity to an issue. With our previous example of stress testing results, you show them the parameters of the stress test (e.g., what comprised the “severe” scenario) but do not go into detail about where the bank collects its GDP data. That comes with one caveat – some issues are complex and no less important for Board meetings. In this situation, the recommendation is to double up on documentation and transparency, and, if possible, share the details of the presentation or the numbers with the Board in advance. This proactivity doesn’t guarantee their familiarity with the material, but it does allow for due diligence on their part and more prepared or informed questions.

Where possible, focus on quantitative results. For example, if you are presenting the business case for adopting an automated credit analysis solution, you may want to focus on how long it takes your institution to book loans under current processes, and then weigh that against how much time your institution would save with an automated solution. For that conversation, data such as: “For the $12,000 yearly investment, we will save 200 hours per quarter and be able to redeploy talent to focus on our underwriting standards.” Rather than, “We will save a lot of time and simplify our processes.”

While Board presentations vary greatly depending on the content within, follow these general rules to make sure the presentation is effective. Keep content simple, concise, and transparent and focus on how your material impacts the bigger picture of your institution. When crafting content, only include those pieces of information that are necessary for the overarching message to be understood, and try to relate each point back to an example pertaining to your institution. If your presentation follows these fundamental guidelines, Board members should be well-equipped to act on your information and you should be positioned to make a positive impact in your next meeting.


Elliott Welton is a marketing manager at Sageworks, where he oversees marketing activity for Sageworks ALLL, the industry-leading solution for the Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses.

Written by Elliott Welton