The degree to which the HR function is taken seriously at director level
will often be down to how well the HR director can present their case to the board.
In an era when it is hammered home that the function has to be strategic to
survive, there is even more emphasis on the HR professional to be seen as a
confident business partner.
A slick 10 minutes in front of the board could mean the difference between
your next HR initiative being given the green light or mothballed, so you need
to ensure you have given yourself every chance of winning it over.
Before you enter the boardroom
You should have already started to build your credibility with the board way
before any meeting via internal networking and regular internal communication
about what HR is doing. The boardroom is like an exclusive club and can feel
like a hostile environment – even though you are all on the same side – so the
more contacts you can make with board members before your key meeting, the
The more insight you have to what is going on at shopfloor level the better
– if you can provide supporting evidence that backs up what you are saying, it
is much better than saying "I’ve heard that".
How to get the board’s ear
The way to a board’s heart is through the bottom line, so it is vital that
any HR initiatives you present are linked directly to business needs of the
organisation. Talk the language of business – if your presentation details
cost-savings and hard financial data in a language they understand, you will be
sure of keeping their attention.
Point out that 70 per cent of their cost base is people and use HR
benchmarking and metrics to demonstrate HR’s contribution.
The art of presenting
Remember that even the most senior executive can find it daunting to present
to their board. The key is to relax and be yourself but this is, of course,
easier said than done. If you have not yet been on a presentation skills
course, it is probably time to book yourself on one. In the meantime, here is
our list of pointers:
– Practice, practice and practice what you are going to say – the majority
of presentations are under-prepared for. Write your speech in full, using 140
words per minute as a rule of thumb
– Rehearse – ideally with a colleague
– Confident body language and good eye contact will make you look more
– Short and concise is better
– Your opening few lines are vital – if you have an earth-shattering
statistic that shows HR in a good light, get it in early
– Don’t get bogged down by minutiae – it bores the audience
– Don’t hide behind technical aids such as sophisticated PowerPoint
– Don’t be afraid of including the odd joke, especially as an icebreaker –
just make sure they will understand the punchline
– Keep on track – it is easy to be sidetracked on people issues
– Summarise at the end – bear in mind the old adage of "tell them what
you’re going to say, say it, and tell them what you’ve said."
Don’t forget the follow-up
The sooner you are seen to have delivered on what you have said, the more
credibility you will have the next time you enter the boardroom. And, if you
said you would get back to board members about specific things, make sure you
do. This also provides an opportunity to keep open a valuable channel of
communication between meetings.
Where can I get more information?
Branding Yourself: How to Look, Sound and Behave Your Way to Success by Mary
How to look and act the part by the image consultant and performance coach
Successful Presentation Skills (2nd Edition) by Andrew Bradbury
Those who have been to the author’s presentations say the book lives up them
– good waffle-free advice
Effective Presentation: Powerful Ways to Make Your Presentations More
Effective by Ros Jay
Practical, step-by-step guide to more confident presentations
The Presentation Business
Some useful free-to-access articles and factsheets to download.
Read our In the Spotlight article in which professional presenters give advice
Learn how to talk the language of business here