Image: Adobestock / Jacob Lund


Nathan Chadwick, CFO Airtasker
Tina Janamian, CEO CFEP Surveys Australia
James Fielding, CEO Audeara
Dr Sarah Kelly OAM, Deputy Chair Brisbane Lions AFL Football Club, Deputy Chair Tourism & Events Qld


For the best advice on how to do communicate with the board and get your idea across the line, we asked four successful board members from ASX, not-for-profit, technology, marketing, sporting, defence and tourism companies to share their best boardroom communication strategies gained from personal experience.

Behind the boardroom doors

The purpose of a company or not-for-profit board is to provide strategic direction, drive performance towards objectives, monitor the operational and financial position and ensure compliance with legal, regulatory and industry obligations.

Board members actively invite the organisation’s senior management to provide recommendations, feedback, ask challenging questions and come up with alternative solutions to problems.

“New ideas are good ideas and the key to innovation,” Sarah argues. “That’s why an effective board will be open to new perspectives and strategies.” But convincing a board to adopt new ideas can also be challenging.

James says working with a board of directors is one of the “necessary checks and balances” of a company. While all boards have different dynamics, they should all have set guidelines and expectations about how to best present to and communicate with the board. To ensure you make the most of this platform and your boardroom contribution, follow these tips.

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6 strategies to communicate effectively and get your ideas across the line in the boardroom

Image: Getty images/ Paul Bradbury



1. Preparation is priority

Two women planning business strategy
Image: Adobestock/ Jacob Lund

If you want your boardroom contribution to be valuable, preparation is important.

“You should bring your best self to those discussions, and that means doing the work”, Nathan says.

For Tina, preparation involves:

  • ensuring she’s read all the information provided in the Board pack so she’s across the background information and facts that will be considered
  • making time to learn about anything she doesn’t understand or needs to know more about
  • preparing questions to ask
  • making notes about any contributions, backed up with evidence where possible.

Sarah’s advice includes pre-empting any questions by circulating a brief proposal with supporting data prior to the board meeting and seeking individual feedback from each director leading up to the meeting. "At the meeting, the paper should be on the agenda, taken as read and then debated and discussed with a view to decision making at the meeting as an outcome", she says.

For James, getting into the right headspace is a key part of his boardroom preparation. On the day of a board meeting, he uses mindfulness training to remove fear and anxiety, and then puts on a suit and tie. Following these steps allows him to focus on having a conversation with board members when it comes time to pitch his ideas.

“Board members don’t like feeling sold to. When you know what you’re talking about so well, it makes it easier to communicate and the conversation tends to go in a much more positive way,” he says.


2. Don’t leave communication solely to board meetings

One key strategy to reduce the element of surprise, Nathan says, is to communicate regularly outside the boardroom as well as in it. “Only communicating once a month at board meetings is an example of an ineffective board-management relationship”, he says.

“The market in which a company operates is dynamic, and decision-making needs to reflect this. Open lines of communication need to be maintained to ensure companies can respond in an agile way to new information.”

“A lot can be achieved by reaching out to board members between meetings. This can be a great way to disambiguate, ensure alignment and ultimately lead to much more effective outcomes than going into a meeting without understanding the perspectives of your stakeholders.”

James agrees, saying “You never want to surprise board members at a meeting because then you’re on the back foot before you’ve even pitched your idea. No director is likely to hear a piece of information for the first time in a board meeting and make a recommendation or decision then and there, especially if it’s a big-ticket item.

“That’s why it helps to send correspondence well ahead of a board meeting to get the buy in of as many board members as possible and give opportunity for questions and feedback. Knowing where you stand ahead of the board meeting gives you the best chance of getting your objective across in the meeting.”


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3. Connect with board members on a human and personal level

Business communication with senior manager
Image: Adobestock/ fizkes

One of the most important tips James has for communicating with board members is to see beyond their role on the board and connect with them as human beings.

“Every board member comes with their own skill set, experience, contribution, and desired contribution to the board. You need to understand who you’re talking to as a human being as much as you need to understand who you’re talking to as a director or board member,” he says.

“Some will be incredibly analytical and will need to see the data. Others will just need to see you’ve done the research and are not necessarily going to read every page of your report, but they need to trust that you’ve put the work in to make their recommendation.”

It’s particularly important to have a good relationship with the CEO and the Chair of the Board, he says. “If you’re a board member and you don’t have a good relationship with those two people, it’s going to be fairly difficult to communicate in any meaningful way.”


4. Focus on your impact

Focusing on your impact applies equally to management, board members and anyone pitching to a board, according to Nathan.

“It’s far less important how much you say, and more important how much impact you have when you do contribute. You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.”

For Tina, serving on not-for-profit boards is an opportunity to meaningfully contribute and affect positive change. She says, “Your ideas are worth more when you have the experience to back them up. Practical examples are always useful to share as they show credibility in what you are contributing.”

"Understanding that your appointment is based upon your unique expertise and experience, and knowing when to contribute based upon the board skills matrix, is critical in ensuring that you add value and provide space for other expertise to be voiced", according to Sarah.



5. Embrace diversity of opinion and ‘difficult’ conversations

Woman in board meeting
Image: Adobestock/ SFIO CRACHO

As Nathan says, difficult conversations are important for effective board communication and strategic decision-making.

 “Don’t take challenges personally – assume that everyone around the room has an interest in achieving mutual success, and that their questions reflect that. You’re on a journey together.”

“If a management team isn’t having difficult conversations with the board and directors from time to time, then you’re probably not talking about the things that will move the needle for your company. Creating value isn’t easy – so it follows that there are likely to be different opinions around the table on the topics that really matter”, he says.

“What’s vital is to always ensure these conversations are had with respect, so that trust is built and maintained, and people feel they can express their opinions openly.”

But while it’s important for board members to share different points of view remember that conversations should still be productive. As James says, “Robust discussions should be about pushing towards an agreed objective. You can fight towards something or fight for something, but it’s not conducive to fight against something.”

Sarah agrees. "It is important to embrace diversity of opinion, and this may include outcomes that your proposal will be rejected, accepted or amended. But any of these are a win when determined through robust debate", she says.


6. Back yourself, even if your voice shakes

One of the most important ways to get your idea across the line, according to Sarah, is to “Present confidently, clearly and logically, and listen closely to the feedback".

Nathan says that "If you're trying to get your idea across the line, you may be starting from the wrong perspective. Boards want to be involved in that process, and your idea is often only the starting point to arrive at an outcome together.

“Boards are full of smart people, and their perspectives are valuable – often these conversations yield new information that leads to a new solution. By building a relationship with your stakeholders, you can collect information that will help you arrive at a proposal that will best benefit the business.”

If you feel overshadowed in a board meeting and that your voice isn’t cutting through, James suggests sharing your opinion before or after the meeting is equally a solid contribution and it also gives people time to digest what you’re saying. But if there are interpersonal dynamics in the board room that make you feel like you can’t make a valuable contribution, that needs to be addressed.


Following the above six insider tips will help you communicate with confidence during your next boardroom presentation or discussion.


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Find out more

Meet our contributing experts

Nathan Chadwick

Nathan ChadwickUQ Bachelor of Commerce ‘95

Since becoming the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Airtasker in November 2018, Nathan has worked regularly with the company's board of directors. After months of careful planning, hard work, and effective collaboration with the company board, Airtasker completed its IPO in March 2021.   



Tina Janamian

Tina JanamianPhD Public Health ’07, Graduate Diploma in Executive Leadership ’12, Master of Business Administration ’15

Tina is the CEO of Client Focused Evaluation Program (CFEP) Surveys Australia and serves as Director, Board of Directors of not-for-profit organisation CheckUP Australia. In this position, she contributed to the development of a robust 2020-2023 strategic plan and raises awareness of CheckUp's contributions to improving health services and outcomes for communities that need it most.

James Fielding

James FieldingUQ Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Business Management ’10, Graduate Certificate of Executive Leadership ‘14

As the CEO and founder of personalised sound technology company Audeara, James acted as Managing Director on the company’s board and led Audeara from foundation to public listing. He also has experience on boards as a non-executive director and board advisor, giving him a diversity of boardroom experience. 

Dr Sarah Kelly OAM

Dr Sarah Kelly OAMUQ Bachelor of Commerce ‘91, Bachelor of Laws ‘93, Master of Business Administration '03, PhD Marketing ‘09

Sarah is an experienced commercial lawyer and Law and Marketing academic at UQ’s Business School. Her current board positions include Deputy Chair Brisbane Lions AFL Football Club, Deputy Chair Tourism & Events Qld, and Non-executive director for Australian Family Lawyers, The Gregory Terrace Foundation and the Wandering Warriors.