December 8, 2023

Your goal: Clearly communicate progress and solicit constructive feedback

in all One of the most unexpected things early stage founders have to figure out is how to get the most out of their board. But making effective use of the board’s guidance and support is critical. The slides you use can help you run efficient and effective board meetings and make the most of the discussions they spark.

Much has been written about optimal board meeting cadence, flow, and hygiene, but for the sake of completeness, generally shorter (~1.5 hours), more frequent meetings (~6 weeks) make sense in the early stages.

Every board has its own preferences, and ultimately the pace needs to be right for everyone. You need to send your materials 24-48 hours in advance to allow time for participants to review the materials and ask their questions. It’s also important to have your “…head” functional leaders to discuss their areas of expertise.

Then dig into the material! As a CEO, your goal is to clearly communicate business progress and solicit constructive feedback. So when you put your deck together, the information in your deck is more important than the visual design, although both are important.

The slides in this article are not a complete presentation. They are examples of real early board slides from seed and series A stage companies that do a great job of informing boards and driving constructive discussions. (Disclosure: Costanoa Ventures invested in Highnote and Highline.)

Showing the Progress of Business: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Board Deck: Achievements and Key Priorities

Image credits: Costa Noah Ventures

It’s a powerful opening: it briefly reviews key accomplishments and sets the stage for the company’s main priorities until the next board update. It also effectively identifies the main discussion points for the CEO and the board. While ideally your board would read the slides ahead of time, they often don’t.

This slide helps prepare everyone up front and creates a framework for a helpful discussion. Remember, this is what board meetings are all about: discussion, not presentation or reading.

Developer Experience Metrics

Image credits: Costa Noah Ventures

Here’s another great slide: “Business Metrics Overview” is a snapshot of the key metrics the board uses to measure the company. Every company has its own key metrics, but it’s best to start with a summary to set the context for how progress will be measured.

Your board members often work with many companies and don’t always know the best way to measure the company’s progress. So this is where you build how to best understand your particular key metric.

For early-stage companies, revenue is usually a lagging indicator, so it’s not your most important metric. For example, by listing your key metrics and marking them with a red or green dot, your board can quickly see what’s on/off track they always need to know. Unlike you, they don’t live and die according to your plan, so you need to remind them here.

Pipeline overview

Image credits: Costa Noah Ventures