Jeff Thermond of XSeed Capital has some good advice to first time CEOs in a new post over at Forbes.com entitled, How To Run Your First Board of Directors Meeting. While some of Thermond’s advice may seem overly-simplistic and obvious, I personally have witnessed many good chiefs fumble the ball in board meetings early in their careers. Basics like “time management” (start on time, finish on time, and get your board deck out early in advance), “know your financials cold and don’t delegate their presentation” at the meeting, and “tell your narrative as CEO” are all great points. Surprisingly, many young CEOs drop the ball on these basics.
Thermond’s most important advice however is to know where you stand on the critical issues and opportunities that face the company. On many occasions, young CEOs have complained to me that their board is not adding value. My experience is that to extract value out of the board as a CEO, you must be clear and concise on the key issues. Unstructured and random trial balloons in board meetings result in suboptimal discussion and feedback. Amazingly this happens more that you would think. Even Thermond admits to having made this mistake in his first board meeting. If you are the CEO, have a clear position and be prepared to articulate it in a concise manner. It is completely okay to be wrong. It is not okay, in my view, to be unorganized or imprecise.
Another great point made by Thermond deserves extra emphasis: practice your presentation. If you want to give a good presentation (whether at a board meeting or elsewhere), practice it. Practice it alone and in front of others. Ask your direct reports to ask you questions after you do a dry run in front of them. Rehearsal is really important. You are the CEO. You are presenting an update of your business to the people who, for the most, invested in the business and are legally responsible for managing you on behalf of all of the company's shareholders. Be a great story teller. Show your passion for the business and the opportunity. Perhaps the best presenter of all time, Steve Jobs, made every presentation as polished as possible, even theatrical. How did he do that? Practice.