6 tips for communicating data-driven findings to your board

Mary Oyerly

You're fully aware of the array of threats, expectations and challenges facing your team. But how do you translate what you do every day into something that makes sense to board leadership?

Whether you're in risk, audit, compliance or ESG, it's likely that you have more on your plate than ever before. Tightening ESG and data regulations, rising cybersecurity threats and demands for accountability from stakeholders are just a few of the issues you need to navigate. With so many variables to consider, it might feel impossible to cut through all the noise and have a productive conversation with an equally information-inundated board.

Yet successful and forward-thinking organizations have to get oversight and reporting right — or risk data breaches, costly fines for noncompliance and more. Board directors look to you to understand how your area of the business is performing and what you need to succeed.

Fortunately, you can have effective conversations in the boardroom, but you'll need to be strategic in what you say and how you say it. Consider these best practices to help.

6 steps you can take to be more boardroom-ready

Strategic and productive conversations between you and the board start with careful preparation. Here's what you can do to be ready for your next presentation.

1. Choose your messaging priorities carefully

You deal with a high volume of tasks every day, but you have limited time to present to the board. Ask yourself which issues are most likely to be top-of-mind for board members: topics that are dominating headlines in your industry, impacting investors' decisions and consumer expectations, or tying into new policies and regulations. Once you've narrowed down your answers, choose no more than three need-to-know points to highlight during your presentation. 

2. Help boards visualize the data

The best way to help boards understand and remember key details of your presentation is to help them see it — literally. Build engaging data visualizations, from charts to graphs to tables, that illustrate the biggest trends and statistics you want them to understand. One way to make this process easier is to use customizable, scalable templates for your visualizations, and generate dashboards that highlight drivers, implications and KPIs.

3. Give context (strategically)

Put your data into context and make sure that any statistics you use fit into the bigger picture. Make sure you explain how your findings align with current industry benchmarks and internal goals. At the same time, though, do keep your priorities in focus. Be concise with contextual details and keep your discussion relevant to the issues at hand.

4. Focus on performance progress against company goals

You need accountability and support from the board to reach your business's goals — so make sure they have a clear roadmap to the finish line. Throughout the presentation, put yourself in the shoes of the board and consider what they need to understand the big picture. Zoom in on what's top-of-mind for leadership, discussing your organization's financial and reputational progress as well as its performance against peer benchmarks.

5. Explain the impact

Spell out why the data matters, in terms the board understands. Board members who aren't immersed in your day-to-day operations might find some of the data you're presenting obscure or hard to understand. Make your information relatable by connecting your non-financial data to your organization's bottom line and biggest risks.

6. Link your data to action

Don't just tell the board what's happening — tell them what to do with these insights. Explain their role in the topics you've discussed, provide actionable steps they can take and share how your team can help along the way. You can also offer examples of successful strategies among your peers that you can emulate.

Make sure your board walks away knowing next steps

Ultimately, you want the board to leave the meeting with a fundamental understanding of:

  • Where your organization currently is and how you're progressing toward performance goals
  • What actions need to be taken to improve progress
  • What specific support you need from the board in order to move the company forward

Keep this end goal in mind each time you share updates with the board, and accept that your ongoing dialogue with them is a work in progress.

During each presentation, work with the board to evaluate what metrics and supporting data are most helpful to them. Keep an open dialogue about what metrics peers are using, what's working and what may need to change as your industry evolves. Throughout the process, remember that trial and error can be an essential part of developing more valuable conversations for you and the board.

Are you ready for the boardroom?

Sharing your perspective as a functional leader can be challenging — but you can make sure you're equipped with a strong strategy and intuitive tools.

With Diligent Board Reporting Dashboards, you can:

  • Accelerate data collection and analysis
  • Seamlessly identify what the board needs to know
  • Present data in clear and engaging reports

Learn more about our Board Reporting Dashboards for Audit and ESG today.

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Mary Oyerly
Mary Oyerly, Senior Specialist at Diligent, has experience working across the B2B and B2C SaaS sector and supporting the needs of corporate and not-for-profit business leaders. She has worked extensively with governance technologies and how they can drive improved visibility, efficiency and compliance across the business.