The Power of Story

5 Ways to Dazzle Your Board with a Story

Compliance officers, like other executives, present to their Boards in ways that emphasize facts, challenges, solutions, and opportunities. This meets the minimum requirements for board reporting, but there is a potential to inspire your Board rather than just report to them.

Undermining a Story: Presentation Mistakes  

These are the common places where compliance departments have historically stumbled when providing overviews of compliance to a Board and senior executives.

Not thinking of a Board presentation as a presentation. You’re there to do more than just cite statistics and numbers. Great presentations are like great TED talks – they are engaging, informative, tell a great story, and leave the audience inspired.

Covering too much ground. You stand on top of a mountain of data. It’s your job, in part, to mine the data for what’s truly important to the Board and the future growth of the company.

Missing the larger point. Your data is telling a story. It might be a good story, of a company that is deeply compliant and ready for anything that could come its way. Or it might be a scary story, about a company that has checked off the necessary boxes of compliance oversight, but lacks the data to defend itself against lawsuits or regulatory attack.

Not creating curiosity and interest. Every company can be doing more to become compliant, reduce risk, and increase employee loyalty and retention. These are the challenges that always face compliance departments, but that can be under-emphasized by leaders who don’t want to look less than fully competent. Yet these can be framed as opportunities for growth and stability, not areas of weakness or failure.  

Not educating. Good presentations leave people with a feeling of having learned something, an “ahh” moment that makes the talk rewarding to receive. Your story should do more than show how results are meeting expectations, but instead leave the Board with a piece of knowledge they did not have before the meeting started.


As a compliance professional, you can, and should, report new laws and regulations since your last board meeting and how you plan to address them, talk about incidents and their resolution, and cover all the ways your team is mitigating risk.

Additionally, the following 5 elements will create a story of how compliance can support the very best outcome for your company, not only in the next quarter but in its long-term growth strategy.

1. What’s Really at Stake?  

What’s at stake can take two forms, expressed through both the carrot and the stick:

The “stick” will vary depending on your industry, but let’s be honest: the regulatory game is getting much more serious. If you are in finance, you might cite some recent settlements: Bank of America ($16.7 billion) and Citi ($7 billion) in 2014, and JPMorgan Chase ($13 billion) in 2013. In healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline shelled out $3 billion in 2012. In retail, Walmart spent $612 million in pre-enforcement professional fees and expenses in the 2013-2015 fiscal years, before it had even been charged. In construction, Siemens racked up $1 billion in investigation and global remediation costs—in addition to $1.6 billion in fines and disgorgements—to clean up the fallout from its global bribery scandal.

What’s at stake is nothing less than the financial and reputational defensibility of your company.

The “carrot” is your ability to make the case that robust compliance is a driver of business success, supported by years of hard data.

What’s at stake is nothing less than the financial and reputational foundation of your company. As detailed in previous Compliance Insider blogs, good compliance translates directly into stronger bottom lines, better investment, greater stability, and a far bigger capacity to grow amid a turbulent regulatory environment.

2. Who’s the Real Enemy?

All good stories have a good guy and a bad guy. Your company and its employees, shareholders, and customers are, of course, the good guys. The bad guys aren’t employees who report problems. They’re not the occasional customer who files a lawsuit. It’s not demanding shareholders. The bad guys are the regulatory agencies, the bureaucrats who have the time, leisure, and resources to come after a company with a relentless focus. (We’re not saying, we hope it is obvious, that regulators are bad people or doing bad things; this is simply a device to help create a more powerful narrative.)

Like any bad guy, they can be defeated by focusing on the challenge, and the opportunity that gets created as part of the struggle. And like any bad guy, you can rally the good guys to get behind a coordinated, well-conceived strategy for both offense and defense.

3. What’s the Challenge?

Your data illustrates where the challenges lie. Too much regulatory risk, an active investigation, the threat of lawsuits, an imminent merger, an underperforming hotline, or a dozen other places where compliance risk poses specific company challenges.

As an example, a challenge could be under corporate acquisition. There are legal challenges in the conduct of acquired companies. There are financial challenges if too much was paid for a company where the risks of a significant fine were unknown or underestimated. There is the challenge of a loss of business if the acquirer must terminate a transaction tainted by bribery.

Challenges vary by industry and by company, but there should be a few big ones that are active in any given quarter and year. The challenge is complicated by the Bad Guys, and how they might make the challenge even more complex.

4. What’s the Opportunity?

Challenges always present opportunities. Therefore, challenges aren’t just about avoiding fines, lawsuits, and investigations. They’re also places where a company can, if it looks at it correctly, create the kind of corporate compliance that drives profits and investments by creating a deeply stable and responsive culture.

Here’s a hint: the goal isn’t to be compliant. That’s a given. The goal is much bigger than that. It might be for your company to become an industry leader. To crush its next round of funding. To get a cure to the market. To move into double-digit growth. Great compliance, in other words, is the fuel of great companies.

The opportunity of becoming more compliant is nothing less than to support the company in it’s loftiest goals. If you can frame compliance around this opportunity, you’ll inspire and educate your Board like never before.

5. What’s the Happily-Ever-After?

Compliance, like so many other parts of a living and breathing company, isn’t a finish line that just gets crossed one day. Compliance, as it evolves and brings the latest technologies to bear on its data, is about being adaptive, proactive, forward-looking, and nimble in the face of mergers, new laws and regulations, and changing legal landscapes.

The happily-ever-after is a corporate culture that has been sold on the demonstrable value that compliance brings to a company’s bottom line, which helps create happier employees, stronger growth, greater resilience, and a clear path through the tangled path of doing business in a global and interconnected world.

At your next Board meeting, tell them a story that inspires and motivates, so that compliance can live up to its potential as a driver of profitability, stability, and overall corporate success.

Convercent offers comprehensive and integrated compliance management, reporting, and defense for compliance departments who want to become best-in-breed. Our bi-weekly blog offers cutting edge information for compliance professionals.

Want more information on how to Present to the Board? Our just-released eBook is available now: Reporting to the Board, a Comprehensive Guide to Persuasion, Presentation, and Making an Impact.