How to write a board report
Writing a board report? We feel for you. Not many of us can say that we look forward to the process, which can be time-consuming, labor intensive, and at times lack clarity.
So, how do you write a board report that makes a genuine impact on seasoned executives who’ve seen it all? Let’s walk through the basics of reporting, and then explore some tips to make your good report a great one.
What is a board report?
Fairly self-explanatory, really. Board reports are the reports presented to a company’s board of directors. The frequency of these reports can vary — written monthly, quarterly and/or annually. The board report is usually put together by the CEO, executive officer, or a committee, synthesizing input from managers of other departments like the heads of marketing, engineering, sales, and design.
The main purpose of the board report is to:
Bring board members up to speed on company performance since the last board meeting.
Present findings and inform about major progress or milestones.
Spark conversations on the status of various tasks & progress made during the timeframe in question.
Suggest strategies for achieving the company’s next objectives and goals.
How to structure a board report
Report structure varies depending on the type of company and the industry it’s a part of. As the length of these reports can vary drastically — from a 100 page annual report to a single page monthly report — structure really depends on the company’s specific needs.
As a general guide, board reports should include these basics:
Title and time period
Table of contents (especially if the board report is lengthy or complex)
Short summary of recent highlights and lowlights from each team or committee
Clearly defined section headings to improve readability
An outline of key performance indicators (KPIs)
However you choose to structure your board report, the main goal is to be as clear and direct as possible. Ensure that you prevent biased reporting by including both negative and positive metrics and all the relevant data necessary to support good decision making.
Fundamentally, you want your board of directors to feel that they deeply understand what you’ve presented, what your company’s goals are, and how you intend to achieve them. If a board report is difficult to understand, you’re missing an important opportunity to make an impact.
The elements of a good board report
Now that we’ve looked at the basics of purpose and structure, let’s consider the elements that can make a board report truly outstanding. The key is how you present your data.
Be ruthless. Keep text as descriptive and succinct as possible.
See it from their point of view. Board reports have the potential to be dry, so don’t fall into the trap of presenting vague, inaccessible data. Consider your reader!
Show them what the data means. You could talk all day…or, you could present your data in a quick, visually appealing way that actually invites engagement.
How to do these things, you ask? We’d be delighted to show you.
Let the right chart in
Whether or not you get your point across can depend on the way you choose to visualize the data in your board report. Focus on using the correct chart for the data type you’re presenting.
If you’re showing a trend over time, a line chart or column chart will be a good choice.
Comparing a long list of independent values or values with long labels? A bar chart is probably your best bet.
When exploring the relationship between two or more independent variables such as years, age, and income, a scatter plot could work well.
What to avoid:
Pie charts may be cute, but are they really what you need? Although one of the most popular charts around, pie charts just aren’t great for visualizing anything that’s relatively complex. More than two variables, and the human eye can barely discern a difference. A column or bar chart will do a much better job comparing things.
Take a look at these charts. Both represent the same data set, but only the bar chart communicates the data clearly.
Make your board report interactive
Go the extra mile and create an interactive report (this is where GRID comes in strong 🙂 ). Giving your board the opportunity to dive deeper into the data you’re presenting in a short amount of time is a blessing to all.
Add a slider to e.g. your organic growth metric to help readers understand the effect it has on the company’s overall growth. It’s so much more exciting than a static number.
Save space and keep a clean look by using radio buttons that allow the viewer to choose which chart they see.
Create a projection. Let your viewers manipulate certain assumptions to see how they affect, for example, the cash position for next month, quarter, or year.
Using interactive GRID tools like these in your report is a clever way to spark conversation at a board meeting. It’s also a practical use of everyone’s time to explore multiple options quickly.
Anticipate the questions board members may have and show the implications in beautifully dynamic charts. They want to know what it might look like to increase ad spend by $3000 a month? Simply add a slider to the ad spend input and see how it affects the rest of your numbers.
Take your board report from good to great
GRID makes it easy to combine data, narrative, and interactivity into a stunning board report. When you create your report with GRID, you can draw data from multiple spreadsheets to build insightful charts and tables, add interactive elements like sliders, dropdown menus and checkboxes, and present it all in a beautiful, seamless experience.
Give your board of directors the freedom to dig deeper into the data, and they’ll remember it.
Get started with this free Board report template. Quick and easy to customize, you’ll delight your board of directors and make your company — and by extension yourself — look really good 🚀