Build a solid deck for your quarterly board meetings

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on TechCrunch about how to run a successful board meeting. Since then, I’ve been asked one question over and over: What does a good board update actually look like?

It’s a perfectly reasonable question. In the early days of a startup, most founders have very little data to work with. It can be quite difficult to structure a productive and actionable board deck if you don’t have any customer or product information to anchor the update.

It’s important to balance two key areas: providing an assessment of the business and establishing trust with your board members.

Establish the foundations

Though it may seem daunting, the simplest way to ensure you’re providing board members with the information they want to see is to just ask them.

Reaching out to your board not only helps provide a sense of direction, it also gives you the opportunity to build your relationship. People appreciate the opportunity to weigh in.

Remember that investors are always scrutinizing you as a leader, learning how to work with you and looking for strengths and weaknesses.

Many board members are also investors, so be blunt and ask if they had any concerns about making the investment, what these concerns were and how they can be addressed now that the relationship is official.

Do your own research, too. Learn who your board members are and find out which other boards they’ve served on. What kinds of companies are they working with? What is their reputation? Their experience with other companies will influence their expectations with your firm. If an investor is new to your board but has been on another for two years, find a way to get insight into how they operate.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to other founders about what works for them. Talk to people within your network to see what they’re doing, what’s resonating with their board, what their investors respond to and what their board’s makeup looks like.

Deck production

Building an investor deck is (or at least, should be) a heavy lift. Remember that you’re going to do this on a continuous basis, so you need to structure it carefully to produce something of quality.

Be sure to establish a regular schedule for meeting key stakeholders. Start with a board deck creation meeting that includes you, your head of sales and any other key contributors. First create a template, block deadlines on your own calendar and be sure you have internal deadlines for other contributors, too.

Review the deck as a group, and block off ample time to rehearse. Practice is perhaps the most critical and underappreciated part of putting together an effective board presentation.

Some sections of your deck may vary based on feedback received from your board members, but a basic bare-bones construction should at minimum include:

Highs and lows

Talk about what has happened since your last update. Be clear about why you were successful and why you weren’t. Remember that investors are always scrutinizing you as a leader, learning how to work with you and looking for strengths and weaknesses.

This is an opportunity to show awareness of your business, to demonstrate that you can repeat successes and learn from failures.


If you have a roadmap, don’t change it very often. This section should be about providing progress reports and plans for your next steps.

Discuss the next few quarters from the product perspective and explain how you’re going to execute. Provide nuance around the difficulties and complexities without going into too much technical detail. Explain clearly which parts are challenging and why they are worth the effort.


Most early-stage startups rely on founder-led sales, but many founders are not salespeople. The reality is you will need to present the forecast from the perspective of stories and anecdotal evidence.

Early-stage founders should avoid the trap of trying to be their own VPs of sales. You haven’t built an established pipeline or demand generation program. Talk about what you’re hearing and seeing on the ground, the objections customers have, how they’re handled and what you’re doing to consistently bring in more sales.

For startups further along in the journey that have a head of sales on the leadership team, the approach should be more programmatic.


Talk about your hiring plans, how you’re going to execute them and take the opportunity to signal high-profile hires that will require equity deals.

Equity grants have to be approved by the board, so if you have a senior hire in the pipeline, ensure you start that process early or you may run into delays.


Remember that there is investor money in play. As you prepare your deck, think about how you can use this opportunity to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

Be strategic about how you discuss burn and position your spend. Make it a two-way conversation and be receptive to feedback. Talk about areas where you want to double down and prepare to defend those recommendations.

Giving your board members a better understanding of when you’ll need more funding, and why, will help prepare them for the day you ask them to reinvest.

Making asks

Your board is not just there to keep you on track; they’re there to help.

Dedicate a slide to the assistance you need from your board members. Create a slide for customer introductions, talk about high-profile prospects in the pipeline and ask if the board has any executive connections to any of them. Perhaps another of their portfolio companies has successfully sold to those accounts — have them reach out to those founders for advice.

With more general asks, be very specific about what you want. That might include enlisting the help of a board member to sell the company and role to a high-profile candidate or advice on a specific problem that falls within their realm of expertise. Remember that these are busy people, so respect their time. Clarity and efficiency are key to getting the result you need.

Action items

Ensure there is a clear action list. The last meeting’s action items should be included in the next meeting’s deck. Use this as a way to hold both yourself and your board accountable.

Finishing touches

Once your deck is nearly complete, spend some time before each board meeting reaching out to one or two members. Ask about specific areas of concern from past updates and add them in as items of discussion. All this comes back to relationship-building and demonstrates that you listen, respond and follow up.

When the deck is ready to be distributed, share it with your board early. Investors need time to take in the information so that they can ask the right questions and provide the right guidance. Give them plenty.

As a founder, there’s no shortage of items on your to-do list, but reporting to the board is one area every startup leader needs to prioritize.