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Train Yourself to Give an Effective Board Presentation

It is one of your toughest responsibilities. You have ten minutes or less to tell the board of directors about a compliance problem or a compliance program need. You must be clear, concise, accurate, and persuasive while telling them something they probably don't want to hear.

Before giving a board presentation, you should prepare. Preparing effectively can do wonders for you and the compliance program. You are much more likely to get what you need - whether that is recognition or money for the budget - if you are well prepared and effective in your delivery. Pat Ryan, veteran of the Fleet Financial Corporation and currently compliance manager of the Fleet Credit Card Company, has some tips for board presentations which she shared with the students at ABA's National Graduate School of Compliance Management.

  • Rule 1: Know your audience. Always design your message for your audience. You need to understand who they are and what they want. Relate your message to the directors' needs, goals, and strategies.
  • Rule 2: Don't make any assumptions about the director's knowledge. This can be pretty basic. For example, They aren't familiar with the same jargon as you. They may not know what "RESPA" stands for. You can lose them by using acronyms or making assumptions.
  • Rule 3: Design a presentation to reach and relate to your audience. When preparing your presentation, think about how you can best reach them. Use the techniques that are popular in your bank - color charts, bar graphs, or slides. Any technique that is popular in your bank is probably one that the Directors are familiar with. If they are familiar with the presentation style, they will have a comfort level with the presentation. If the meetings are less formal, prepare a less formal presentation. You should look comfortable and on top of things in their context.
  • Rule 4: Explain why you are there. In addition to "who is this person" you need to answer the basic questions that directors may have. Answer questions such as "Why now?" Relate your presentation and request to the current situation. Give them some tangible information to work with and relate to.
  • Rule 5: Explain why you are giving the presentation. What makes you qualified to make the presentation? This lays the foundation for whether they see your ideas are and your information as significant and important. Show them (subtly) that you are in fact qualified to render the information and recommendations that you bring to the table.
  • Rule 6: Select and prepare an effective presentation style that you are comfortable with delivering and that the directors are used to hearing. Design your presentation around your primary purpose. This may be to provide information such as audit results, regulatory developments, or a general status report on the compliance program. You may also be briefing the board on a problem that calls for immediate action. In this situation, you want to inform, make a request, and ask for support.
  • Rule 7: Know what you want the board to do before you go into the meeting. Your goal may have an effect on the method of presentation you choose. Whatever your request - budget, new tools, or a special project, make your intention clear from the beginning. Lead off with what you want from them.
  • Rule 8: Support your request. Never ask for anything without a reason. When asking for something from the board, support your request with information and motivations that the directors need, such as a risk and cost and benefit analysis, and a business justification.
  • Rule 9: Always give decision makers an option. Identify options to your recommendation. In fact, you should go in to the meeting knowing what you can compromise on. Chances are good that you won't get everything you ask for. The Board meeting is like an auction where you set a limit on how high you will bid.
  • Rule 10: Justify your request. Explain why it makes sense to spend funds and/or acquire resources to do this. Explain the benefits to the organization. This is always an important step for compliance to take - and an opportunity. Compliance does not make money for the company. But compliance can save significant sums of money for the organization. Here is a chance to demonstrate that.
  • Rule 11: Easily readable form. Use a consistent format so that it is easy for them to find information and read it.
  • Rule 12: Link your report and request to the goals and strategies of the board and the bank. Tell the directors where you are in the process, what has been spent, and what needs to be done. Compare your request and report to where the bank would be if it hadn't already been committed to compliance.
  • Rule 13: Manage expectations. Don't make excessive promises. This is particularly important if the project is not coming through as originally planned. When you make a request, you make a commitment. If you are off target, don't be afraid to tell them.
  • Rule 14: Be comfortable with your presentation. A nervous person is generally not persuasive. Do what you need to do to be comfortable and confident. This may include being rested. It should certainly involve being well-prepared. Know your subject and know what questions board members may ask. Have answers ready. Practice if you need to. Also master your materials, including any handouts you use.
  • The last rule: Document the meeting. Make sure that key information is included in the meeting minutes. If your issue was important, it should be part of the board's permanent record and also part of your records.

Copyright © 2001 Compliance Action. Originally appeared in Compliance Action, Vol. 6, No. 3, 4/01

First published on 04/01/2001

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