How To Build The Perfect Board Deck

As a product leader, the executive team requires you to understand the business strategy. Furthermore, you need to have a pulse on the state of the product. Plus, you need to be on top of market conditions and customer satisfaction trends at all times. This makes you a perfect resource for a CEO/CFO to request a few slides for the “board deck.”

In other words, this is the presentation used by the board of directors to discuss the state of the business. This may feel intimidating at first, but don’t worry! In actuality, contributing to the board deck is a great opportunity to get in sync with other team members, and often not much work.

Before you begin, it’s important to take a step back and understand the purpose of board meetings. The Board of Directors is a group of people (including the CEO) who represent the shareholders. Their charter is to supervise the strategy and governance of the company. They meet every couple of months to get updates, discuss strategic issues, and vote on important decisions and governance matters. The Chairman/Chairperson of the Board and the CEO work together to set the agenda and lead the discussion.

By reviewing the purpose of the board of directors, you can take away a few tips on creating board deck slides:

The CEO leads the discussion.

Whatever slides you are providing, it’s important that they fit into the theme and objectives the CEO has for the meeting. It’s a good idea to connect with the CEO a week in advance of when the board slides are due. For example, you’ll want to see if there is a specific theme or any special requests for slides. If not, be prepared to present some options so that the CEO can pick and choose. In either case, get your slides to the CEO as soon as possible so that he/she can craft the agenda.

Board discussions focus on high-level strategy.

For every board deck, it’s important that all slides are as concise as possible. Focus only on the points that can help the strategic discussion. Avoid using your existing operational presentations and charts that are full of minutia only important to those in the trenches. But if there is one chart that drives a point home, or a screenshot that explains a new feature well, absolutely include those.

Have a good synopsis of progress since the last board meeting.

Board members are not in the day-to-day operations, so it’s good to have a slide that picks up where the conversation last left off, and what you plan to do between now and the next board meeting. I’m a fan of simple Gantt charts, no more than six rows per page, to show progress.

Have a product demonstration ready.

Even if an official demonstration is not on the agenda, you should always be ready to show your product. Board members always appreciate some “hands-on” experience. Typically, this will often happen once the meeting wraps up. A board meeting can often be a good catalyst for getting a demo updated with the latest features as well.

Once you have a draft of the slides, you’ll want to touch base with key contacts at your organization. For example – reach out to your head of sales, marketing, operations and CFO to ensure your “numbers line up.” If your slides claim a new feature has good traction with customers, make sure the sales team is saying the same thing.

Similarly, if a past feature was launched to improve customer satisfaction, make sure you and the operations team are consistent in how you present the progress. If things aren’t going right, get on the same page about how to communicate that relative to the business strategy. Don’t worry if other teams get to cite the success of your product decisions – what is important here is that you are all on the same page. In fact, if you have some good screenshots, charts, or customer quotes that help other team members make their case, providing them proactively will certainly be well received.  

What you want to avoid is looking like the company is out of sync on strategy or execution. Nothing can derail a board discussion faster.

Next, arrange your slides so that your recommended slides are up front. Next, you should include a section of “back up slides” and provide them as early as possible. This gives the CEO the ability to fit the slides into the board narrative and ask for modifications as needed.

Lastly, I would suggest always making yourself available when board meetings are in progress. If you have done your job correctly with the product update slides, you won’t be needed in the board meeting. But if the discussion gets into the details, the CEO will be happy to know you are one text away.

 

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About the speaker
Scott Dunlap JUUL Labs, fmr CPO Member

Scott Dunlap is a data-driven technology executive and investor that loves to build great teams and delightful products by nurturing brands through product-market fit and hypergrowth. Scott has worked with many innovative teams in both large and small companies to launch 60+ products, including many #1 mobile apps (NearbyNow, GQ, Seventeen, Vogue, Mtailor, etc.), smart home systems (Brilliant), consumer products (JUUL, PAX, Paypal, etc.), cloud computing (Opsware, Avolent), analytics (E.piphany, Kahuna, Apptimize, etc.), and more.