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How to build a great report for your Board

I was asked recently whether Broadcat has any items to help onboard a new Board member. (Spoiler: We do!

Solid onboarding is a key component to building a strong relationship with your Board. But it got me thinking about a bigger and ultimately more important question: “How do I create a great report for my Board?”

And that, Team Broadcat, requires a more nuanced answer. Kinda like when you ask a lawyer, “Hey, can I do XYZ?” and their answer is “It depends.” 🤦 

So, sorry to be a buzzkill, but the same answer applies to that “report” question: It depends! There are a lot of factors that go into creating a great report, but the good news is, we can at least cover the top five basics to help get you on the right track.

1. Know your audience 

Generally speaking, Boards are a sophisticated group of individuals, but that doesn’t mean they have any knowledge or understanding of what you’re talking about. That lack of understanding might not just apply to your program, but to your entire organization. Have you (or anyone) ever talked with them about E&C? Are they new to your org? Your industry? Your community?

All these things are important to know so you can tailor your message to ensure it resonates. The last thing you want to do is leave your Board confused or with questions about who you are and what role you play in leading your company. 

This is where your LinkedIn stalking skills come in. 🕵️ Put in the work to find out what experiences they bring to the table. Do they have a background in risk management? Have they worked with other companies that experienced compliance issues? Or, do you need to start with the basics and work up from there? All this to say: Figure out how to meet them where they are, professionally speaking.

2. Consider the best way to get them the info

Having a chance to meet in-person is probably the best, but even then, think strategically about how to get information into their hands in a way that allows them to effectively engage with it.

Maybe that means providing a pre-read (or two, or ten). Maybe it’s prepping a short slide deck. Maybe it’s writing up an outline. Take the time to find out their preferred communication platform, then build your materials accordingly.

Remember, it’s highly likely that your communications are not the only things the Board will be hearing about or dealing with during their meetings. You need to use every tool in your toolbox to break through the noise, get and hold attention, and ensure your message is clear. 

Quick pause—have you noticed anything about this list? (Go ahead, I’ll give you a sec … ) We’ve not yet discussed the actual content! This is deliberate. Don’t jump straight into building any message—training, comms, etc.—without first thinking about your audience. This might feel awkward initially, but trust me, you’ll end up with messaging that’s far more relevant and impactful by starting with the “who” before the “what.” (Of course, the “why” should always come before anything else, but I’m assuming you’ve already got some reason to be talking with the Board, which is why I didn’t start with that… 😏)

3. Be clear and succinct 

Boards are a unique audience and their timelike a toddler in a tiarais precious and short. Know in advance what specifically they need to hear about from you.

Then get to the point and get out.

giphy-May-15-2024-12-04-20-3130-PMSource: NBC’s Mr. Mayor via

If you’ve got the opportunity and luxury of having a more theoretical conversation about E&C with them, that’s great. But even then, it’s important to keep it tight. Tell them who you are, what your team does to support the org, why that’s important, and how to get in touch with you. 

If you have to present on a tough topic (compliance mistake, potential enforcement, legal issue, etc.), hopefully it’s not the first time they’ve ever seen you. 👋 But, if it is, you should do some quick level-setting about your program, then move on to the issue. The key here will be clearly explaining what happened, what the liability or exposure to the company and/or Board is, steps you’re taking to address and mitigate it, when to expect a follow-up from you, and how to contact you if they have questions. 

4. Provide opportunities for engagement

On the surface, the Board might seem like an unconnected group of outsiders who have little-to-no true influence on or real understanding of your day-to-day business activities, or are just in it for some level of personal or political gain. If that’s the reality, I’m truly sorry because a good Board can, and IMHO should, be so much more. 

That “outsider” position, however, gives them a unique perspective. They may be better able to see the forest for the trees than you can. Encourage them to help you by asking you questionsnot only about the things you present to them, but also industry trends or newsworthy events and how those may impact your org and/or program. 

The best ideas are usually “stolen” or some derivative of an external inspiration, so give your Board opportunities to provide you feedback based on their own experiences.

giphy-May-15-2024-12-06-03-0448-PMSource: Peacock’s New Girl via

Oh, and in case you need ANOTHER reason to provide opportunities for engagement, there’s actual law that applies, too (examples here and here). Basically, your Board must act as a fiduciary, which requires duties of care (handling the org’s business with the same care used by an ordinary and prudent person), loyalty (acting in the best interests of the org, as opposed to personal interests), and obedience (ensuring compliance with all applicable laws, including the org’s own). 

The carrot is an ethical and compliant company culture that holds everyone accountable, including fellow board members. 🌟 The stick is serious and costly consequences for compliance failures, including potential personal and/or financial liability for a breach of duty.

5. Always leave them wanting more

Don’t misunderstandI’m not saying leave out crucial information. They are your Board, after all, and can only support and reflect on what’s presented to them. So make sure your messages are complete as well as concise. 

What I am saying is that you need to ensure your communication lands in a way that makes them want to hear from you again in the future. Find that balance between leaving on a high note and not wearing out your welcome. To do that, try practicing in front of your team or trusted colleagues who will give you honest feedback. Think throughor ask your team to help you brainstormquestions the Board may ask based on the info you’re presenting. Try to step into their shoes and think about how someone unfamiliar with your content might receive it.

Also, ask your team to throw you some curveballs. ⚾💫 Practicing unexpected questions can help you get ready to read the audience and adjust throughout your presentation. 

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make sure they know how to get in touch with you! That’s the best way to encourage and build a relationship. 

Meeting with or presenting to your Board can be a stress-inducing experience. But with a little preparation and planning, you can absolutely nail your next Board meeting! And, if after all this prep your Board still asks you a question where you’re totally stumped, just remember these magic words: “It depends.” 😉 Good luck!

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