I can't stress enough the importance of #6 on my list of key success factors - meeting preparation. Comprehensive planning is essential to ensure your customer advisory board meeting experience reaches its full potential. For the purpose of this blog, I'll segment Meeting Preparation into three buckets:
- Meeting Logistics
- Meeting Schedule
- Host/Member Preparation
Not sure where to hold your meeting? There are many avenues of thought on this subject ... some feel headquarters is a good location, especially if there are data centers, labs, etc. that would be beneficial for customers to experience. I've read where others hold their meetings locally in a private room of a restaurant (not the best choice in my opinion). Based on my experience managing and organizing customer programs, here are a few best practices for planning meetings with your top customers:
- Hold the meeting at an appealing location. Sean Geehan, our CEO, suggests, "A great location will get members to the first meeting, rich and relevant dialogue will keep them coming back."
- Choose "hub cities" where possible to limit flight connections.
- Carefully consider "headquarters" locations - while they may provide valuable facility tours, keep in mind it can be distracting for the host team (easily pulled away from the meeting).
When planning the meeting (typically 1½-2 days), be sure to allocate adequate time for:
- General session meeting time
- Break-out group discussions
- Time for networking/socializing
- Free time
For the Host: Your board members will appreciate well-organized and well-prepared presenters. Spend time rehearsing as a team and share ideas. This will ensure cohesiveness in your agenda and allow all presenters to be familiar with what other team members are presenting.
For the Members: Share an agenda with your board members in advance of the meeting. They will appreciate the opportunity to gather their thoughts or even discuss with a colleague prior to the meeting.
If you've had a unique customer meeting experience, or would like to share some of the challenges you've face, I'd enjoy hearing from you.