Start Every Board Meeting With A Demo

I find three hour “reporting board meetings” where everyone sits around and goes through a 50 page PowerPoint deck to be tedious. When I first started investing in 1994, this was the norm. I put up with it even though it wasn’t my style because (a) I didn’t know better and (b) I didn’t have any better ideas.

A Robotic Ball in my Office

27,351 board meetings later, I know there is a better way. I’ve encouraged everyone I work with to try different approaches. I’ve written about some of my favorites in the past, such as doing an entire board meeting off of one slide with a list of “top of mind” items that the CEO has (this assumes that all the board material – appropriate data about the business, financials, and any department updates, have been previously circulated and consumed by all board members.)

Another one of my favorites is to start a board meeting off with a demo. Today, we had the Orbotix board meeting at our office. We spend the first 15 minutes playing with Sphero, the robotic ball that is Orbotix first product (and available for pre-order now.) We then spent the rest of the board meeting talking about the key issues. Paul Berberian, the CEO, had an agenda which we generally covered, but we were able to have real discussions about real things, rather than just a bunch of “arm crossed people starting at a PowerPoint presentation on the wall.”

This stood out in contrast to another board meeting I had later in the day. I attended this one by phone. It was for a company that is doing superbly, but was a very old school style meeting. 54 slides later the meeting ended. There was plenty of information covered and the management team presented everything really well (as usual – it’s a gang that has their act together), but there were only a few parts of the meeting where we had space jams (think of the Grateful Dead on a 25 minute riff that is the best part of the concert.)

Yup – there are plenty of different ways to skin a cat. Or play with a robotic smart ball. If you are a CEO, don’t be afraid to try different things. And, if you want to see who the real fan of a robotic smart ball is, take a look at the video below (and if you like it, vote it up on LOLDogs.)

  • Nice! If the technology sucks, it’s no use. Most people can make Powerpoint stand up and bark.

  • are you talking grateful dead ’77 or grateful dead ’95?

    makes an epic difference in a 25 minute jam…

  • heyrich

    That’s awesome. I love how great the Orbotix team is doing and I love how much fun they’re having doing it.

    Hmm… maybe I need to start the “Jealous Entrepreneur” blog.

  • OK, I totally want a Sphero now! This has now moved to the top spot on my geek wish-list 🙂

    • Awesome. Reserve one – they will confirm again when they are ready to
      go and won’t charge you until then.

  • I imagine a product demo is super important in early stage companies.

    Are there companies that actually *don’t* get to a demo?

    If your product isn’t evolving… what *are* you doing?

  • Stevehuey

    Reserved one – fun toy. Great ad placing in your blog. – Good Board Member! Let them know they are asking for too much info on the reservation list.

    • Which info do you feel is too much? Thanks in advance for the feedback.

    • We did this as opposed to taking money to make sure requests were real. We hope to use these numbers to help guide initial demand and manage inventory. Some startups take credit cards – others just an email, we felt this was better. Email only is just too easy to get in line and not be serious – plus we will need the info sooner or later. You can sign up at with just your name and email for our mailIng list and we will let you know when they are for sale – but then you’ll be at the end of the line. Thanks – Paul

  • Guest

    I have been on the other side as a member of the professional services team asked to demo for a board meeting. I found the exercise quite valuable as the questions asked by the board clearly indicated they had not done their homework, did not grasp either the technology or its place in the market and ecosystem, nor were going to ever be able to help lead the company in the direction it needed to go. It was a clear indicator that I should leave, and I did, and history has proven me correct. Board members don’t have to grock the fine technical details, but they must at least grock the potential.

  • Harry

    Can’t wait to hear the pitch of Chloe’s owner’s voice once Chloe has a good chew on that $100 robotic ball 🙂