As a revenue leader at large and small technology companies, I’ve spent the last 15 years attending a lot of quarterly board meetings.
These meetings take countless hours to prepare for and can create a lot of stress. The prep and the practice can be draining, and, more importantly, distracting from your daily grind.
This is all necessary because the board meeting is such a high-stakes event. As a wise mentor once told me, no one ever gets a promotion from a board meeting, but people sure do get fired afterward.
So if you’re responsible for driving revenue growth at your company, how do you make your portion of these meetings as engaging and impactful as possible? I’ve got some hard-earned advice on that front, as well as suggestions for five must-have board slides — customized for leaders at B2B, software-as-a-service companies — that will help you give a great presentation and preserve your sanity.
Size matters — and so does consistency
I’ve been part of company board meetings where the deck was 30 slides, and I’ve also been in meetings where decks would be more than 150 slides. You’ll need to gauge what level of detail is right for your organization, but my general rule is to cut your slides until it hurts the narrative of the deck.
You should also strive for consistency. You’ll want to deliver the same sets of metrics and details in each quarterly meeting so that directors and executives can make apples-to-apples comparisons of key data.
One caveat: The world is evolving and the idea of “cohort data” is thriving. As businesses evolve and new models like consumption- or payment-based pricing become more common, you may need to adjust certain metrics over time, particularly if you are a B2B SaaS company.
Deliver the goods
From the delivery point of view, I’ll share a couple of ideas.
The first is fairly well known: Don’t present slides; present the story. Board members are skilled at thin slicing through data and composing their questions ahead of time. Don’t feel the need to present every nuance around your data — get to the point.
The other piece of advice here is to look ahead. First-time attendees at board meetings often lean toward giving a look at the past, which is probably not where you should be focusing most of your energy. Read through your presentation and see how much focuses on the future versus the past.
The majority of your deck should paint a picture of what you’re going to do, not what’s happened. The board has received a board flash from the CEO right after the quarter closed and has now read the deck. What you’re here to do is share the adjustments you’re making to lead the business forward.
Finally: Create an appendix. This allows your content — new initiatives, changes to go-to-market strategies and product topics — to stay front-and-center and not get bogged down by too much data. But having an appendix still allows the board to view more detailed, quarter-over-quarter changes.
Focus on these five, must-have slides
I traditionally build my “talk time” around five revenue-focused slides during a board presentation. Some versions of these slides have been in my board decks for the past decade. These are data-rich slides, so again, prepare to discuss the story they’re telling and not the data.
For example, your board members will notice if your sales velocity is speeding up and your average selling price is trending down. They can see that in your numbers, so you need to explain why that is happening.
Slide #1: Headline reel
After the cover page and agenda, I think every deck should start with the headline reel: the key results of what you achieved last quarter. Regardless of whether your quarter was good or bad, don’t make the board search through the deck to find the details.