What to Avoid When Pitching Cybersecurity to The Board

Pitching Cybersecurity to The Board

Effectively pitching cybersecurity to The Board is an essential role for all senior-level security team members. You may be presenting to Corporate Boards for many reasons —suggesting a new direction for the company security policy, explaining a complex legal issue that needs to be decided quickly or simply giving an update on an ongoing cybersecurity project. 

But how do you present cybersecurity and its importance in a way that its members will say yes?  

Whether it is your first time presenting to your Board or the hundredth time, here are 8 things you must avoid when pitching cybersecurity to The Board.  

1. Falling for Board Stereotypes

With any luck, your Board of Directors is diverse and comes with many different opinions, political leanings and personalities. Try to avoid any off-color jokes and political comments that could offend the very people you are trying to persuade.  

Additionally, your Board Members are not necessarily uninterested in cybersecurity. Most members are genuinely interested in how you can better the business. So, use clear language that everyone around the table will understand but don’t “dumb things down” to a point that you offend the audience. Using jargon, you think The Board will understand or that you think will make you sound smarter often just sounds like a string of nonsensical letters and words. Instead, the first time out, explain what you mean by MDR, Endpoint Detection and anomalous behavior. 

Falling for Board-level stereotypes will be the downfall of your presentation. Instead, when you want to relate to your Board and create a connection – research them individually so you can make a better impression than offending half the crowd. 

2. Misalignment to Business

When trying to convince the board to invest in security it must align with what the business is currently doing. One of the first things you should do when preparing to present to the board is inquire about the current business priorities and goals for the upcoming quarter or year. Remember to position your pitch in a way that clearly supports these priorities as these are issues The Board is already committed to solving.

3. Neglecting to Share Goals and Metrics

When asking management or The Board of Directors to fund security people, processes or technology there needs to be a very clear way to measure the success of the investment.

Often, The Boards main concern is whether or not the organization is protected. We hear the question “Are we protected?” time and time again. The truth is there is no one answer to that question and you are often left with some gaps within the answers you can provide. But being able to supply metrics regarding different processes within your environment is one of the best ways to align security and business goals.

How can you get these metrics? Difenda works with CISOs to provide customized live metrics for your security program through the Difenda Shield.

4. Relying Only on Data  

When presenting a piece of data, remember that as the presenter you must present the story that makes each piece of data relevant to The Board.  

Data visualization helps explain what numbers mean and why they matter. This can help you transform presentations and bring numbers to life.

Let’s say endpoint data alerts at your company have skyrocketed in the past year. Your IT team has a backlog of remediations, and company data is at an increased risk of breach. That’s all the data says. But during your research, you realize it’s due to a shift in how your company is presenting security awareness training. Therefore, alerts are up because your training sessions have become less effective, and your employees are struggling to recognize and avoid phishing attacks. Your role is to present the data, explain the “why” and then propose a solution— in this case, a new security awareness training program or a managed endpoint detection and response service. 

5. Forgetting To Read the Room

During your presentation, you need to keep an eye out for verbal and nonverbal cues from your audience in order to gauge their reaction to what you’re saying. This allows you to adjust your approach based on how your audience is reacting. 

For example, by enthusiastically offering support for someone else expressing a viewpoint that you agree with, or asking less engaged individuals for their thoughts, you are subtly guiding the tone of the room in a direction that works for you. 

Taking the time to acknowledge The Board’s implicit responses and adjust your approach also demonstrates your investment in their comfort and awareness of their needs and the business goals. 

6. Failing to Define Your Key Message and Outcome  

Before preparing your presentation, summarize your content and decide what information is crucial to your argument. If the Board Members only remember one or two points about your whole presentation, what would you want them to be? 

Once you have decided on your key messages, ensure that your presentation conveys those messages loud and clear. If there is a decision that needs to be made, make sure the options are very clear. It never hurts to state the options up front and explain them and their outcomes clearly so your audience can make an informed decision. 

Then, consider making a summary slide and ending the presentation with those key points and outcomes to reinforce your message one last time.

7. Providing too much information 

The number one way to keep your board presentation on track and engaging is to keep it concise. Think of a board presentation as a briefing instead of a novel. Board Members thrive on facts and data presented in a clear and concise manner.  

So how brief is too brief? We recommend aiming for a 15–20-minute presentation and leaving 10 minutes for additional Q&A time.  

8. Not Preparing for Questions 

An important part of pitching cybersecurity to The Board is understanding where they are coming from and thus anticipating the questions they will ask.  

While you practice your presentation, imagine you are a Board Member and think of questions you would ask about your project. Now either go back and answer those questions within your presentation or prepare an answer for the Q&A session at the end.  

You may even want to create additional slides with supporting information for specific questions. So when they ask you that question, you have hidden slides ready demonstrating your strategic thinking ability. 

Answer as many questions as you can, even ones you think are oversimplified or “basic” to you. But if you don’t know the answer, tell them you will get back to them with the requested information and do so promptly after your presentation. This will at least leave the audience with a good impression of you.  

From planning to presenting get everything you need for a successful Board pitch in The 2023 Cybersecurity Playbook.

More helpful resources to prepare for your pitch:

A CISO’s Guide To Communicating Cybersecurity To The Board Of Directors

Communicating Cybersecurity in Uncertain Times eBook

How this Large Manufacturer Built A Proactive Security Program From Start To Finish

A CISO’s Guide to Cybersecurity Management

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Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Microsoft Partner Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is responsible for driving growth within our Microsoft Partnership. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on our customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Ian Miersch

Ian Miersch has energy to spare, and uses his eclectic background to make a positive mark on the cybersecurity industry. As Vice President of Finance & Human Resources, Ian Miersch is responsible for overseeing scalable business growth as Difenda expands throughout North America. But it is the way he does it that sets him apart. By leveraging his engineering background and critical thinking skills, he has been able to develop unique strategies that balance the company’s current business needs with its long-term growth plans. And the results of his unique background and drive mean that the company is growing in a fiscally responsible manner, all with the customer’s needs at the forefront.

With a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering, coupled with an MBA in Finance, both from McMaster University, Ian’s ability to analyze data and make informed decisions is augmented by his ability to understand all facets of the business. He has a holistic understanding of the craft, from operations to project delivery and management, to his niche in financial planning. Ian’s ten years of experience in the industry mean that he has seen it all, and knows how to create a dynamic team and manage the resources needed for success.

Outside of work, he uses his energy to help others through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, earning the Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

Ian also enjoys exploring and hiking with his three young children, exercising (so he can keep up with them), and reading professional development books. He is an avid but generally heartbroken fan of the Toronto sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptors.

Derek Nugent

Derek Nugent, Vice President, Revenue lives by the motto “Be early, be better.” Derek leads our Sales and Marketing team and is responsible for customer success, as well as pre-sales and sales enablement. His high energy level and creativity have built high performing teams, whether at the Herjavec Group, CDW, or in his current leadership role at Difenda.

After earning a Bachelor Administration and Management degree from the Academy of Learning, Derek started in the information technology industry in 2004 and transitioned to the cybersecurity industry in 2014. With so much experience in a wide-variety of roles, he is poised to take the team at Difenda to the next level.

He excels at leading revenue strategies, new market entry, partnership engagement, and customer acquisition and retention. His work ethic and interest in rising to the top motivate his sales teams, who respond well to his passion and zeal. Under his tutelage, they are able to achieve attractive lead generation, YOY growth, and sizable deals. Derek works tirelessly to build a better team, and his constituents follow his road to success, which ultimately leads to a rewarding experience for the customer.

Even when volunteering, Derek is all in. He was a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2005-2015, earning Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

And when he isn’t busy leading the team to the acme of sales, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, running, working out, watching thrillers, action and dramatic television shows

Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora, Difenda’s Founder and CEO has always been ahead of the curve in Technology and Cyber Security. After securing his engineering degree in Computer Science, he wrote his first mobile banking application when he was just 23 years old. This accomplishment certainly set him apart from the crowd and prepared him for a lifetime of innovation and success in his field. At just 25 years old, he was selected as the youngest Cyber Security Officer for one of the largest banks in Asia.

As a globetrotting young cyber security professional, Manoj was instrumental in designing cyber security infrastructure and controls for some of the largest institutions around the world. Depth of his expertise and passion to serve customers at the highest level of competence and integrity lead to Difenda. Founded in 2008, Difenda is a rapidly growing cybersecurity firm operating in North America and Asia.

As the CEO at Difenda, Manoj drives the strategic vision to protect our customers and enable our team members to deliver our services in line with core values- competence, integrity, and innovation. Currently one of Microsoft’s leading North American partners, Difenda reflects Manoj’ single-minded focus on our customers. Difenda is fully vested in success of its customers and takes pride in considering our success as a byproduct of our customers. Manoj has always been committed to building a great team and forging strong partnerships to serve our customers with standards that top our industry.

When he is not busy bringing cybersecurity to the world, Manoj enjoys playing golf and squash, and continues to travel the world.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

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