I recently attended an advisory board meeting in an observational capacity. What I saw was not only unfortunate, it was downright dangerous.
To provide context to this story, allow me to provide a bit of historical information. This board has been together for five years. New members have been added throughout the years, and they have become solid contributors. Meeting after meeting, the feedback has always been that these meetings are productive, fun, insightful and valuable to both the host team as well as the members who have agreed to take three days out of the schedules to attend. However, due to a change in the process of planning and managing these meetings, the positive feedback came to a screeching halt.
Although there were a lot of issues brought to the forefront as a result of member feedback, the most notable, and by far the most dangerous, was the fact that the members felt that their time had been wasted.
But even more important was that members felt the relevance of the discussions was not up to par, with one member even commenting that perhaps this meeting was his "swan song," and that he was only invited as a matter of politely sending him on his way (which by the way, could not have been further from the intent). Another member commented that he felt the meeting didn't really start until the end of the first full day, as the opening sessions were more "rah rah" and resulted in a feeling of "being sold to." This, combined with the fact that no agenda was provided in advance, had members commenting that the conversations had evolved to more of a User Group or Focus Group level rather than that of strategic advisory level.
These are advisers, giving up precious time and coming to the meeting to make a valuable contribution, not to get good meals and a luxury hotel. Counting on them to provide strategic market insight is key to moving an organization forward, and missing the mark on this opportunity not only stings for the moment, it can cause long-term ill will and a reluctance to engage further. Add to that, some members may have left with less confidence in an organization that lacked the ability to successfully engage them at a strategic level, especially when the bar had previously been set extremely high.
Bottom line: Never underestimate the importance of putting in the time and resources up front to assure that your executive engagement is meaningful and relevant to ALL those in attendance.