Selecting the Date and Location for Your Next Customer Advisory Council Meeting... Do Your Homework!

Are you a calendar junkie like me? Some days I feel as though I live and breathe by my calendar. If I'm invited to lunch, I immediately ask when and where. If I'm asked to chair a committee, I immediately ask when and where they meet. If I hear that someone is planning a special event, be it a wedding or a graduation party, I immediately ask when and where! You get the picture. Before I commit to anything, meetings included, I want to make sure I'm available. In today's 24/7 culture, chances are very good that you are the same way. You're a calendar junkie just like me! Rest assured, we are not alone!

Advisory Council members are the same way. Before they commit to attend any meeting, they want to know when and where the meeting will be held. So it's imperative to know the answers before extending the invitation! The hard part is finding the answers! You must do your homework to determine the "best" time to hold a meeting and the "best" place in which to hold it. Homework is essential, but just like recruiting (see my last blog), selecting the date and location for an Advisory Council meeting is an art, not a science! It's an important step along the way to a successful event and should not be taken lightly. So here's your homework. Consider the following before you decide on the date and location of your next Advisory Council meeting.

Executive Team Availability
Always check the availability of your executive team first. Be sure to verify that personal calendars are clear as well, then reserve the dates on their calendars before contacting hotels and/or announcing the dates to members. Although it is sometimes necessary to change meeting dates after they are announced, it is not recommended, as you run the risk that members will not be available to attend over the new dates.

As soon as meeting dates are confirmed, send a "save-the-date" meeting announcement to both members and their administrative staff. With plenty of advance notice (3-4 months is ideal), they are more likely to be available and can often schedule other meetings, vacations and personal plans around your meeting dates. The more advance notice you can give, the better. This will ensure optimum attendance and maximum insight in the end. 

Days & Dates to Avoid
When selecting dates, be cognizant of national and secular holidays, as well as school calendars and industry events. Members who have school-age children often prefer not to travel when their children are on holiday (e.g. Spring Break.) This can be especially challenging if yours is a global Council or your meeting is being planned for overseas. Before confirming hotel dates, be sure to ask about local celebrations. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago can be great fun but can also be terribly inconvenient if you're trying to get to a meeting! Likewise, attendance is often impacted by industry events, so always verify that your preferred dates do not conflict with those of national association events that your customers are likely to attend.

Near or Far; Warm or Cold
Consider the geographical make-up of your Advisory Council when selecting a location. If members are regionally located, a centralized location with easy access and direct flights is often preferred as less travel time is involved. If members are equally distributed throughout the U.S., consider alternating locations. Southeastern states typically work well for winter and spring meetings, while western states work well for summer and fall meetings. Members appreciate alternating locations as it allows them to take turns traveling the further distance.  And always consider the weather, as an ideal agenda includes a nice mix of indoor and outdoor events and activities.

First Impressions; Exceptional Experience
The location of your Advisory Council meeting sets the tone for your initiative. The overall message should convey that the meeting is important for both you and your members, that it is worth their time and effort to attend and is truly something special, something better than they expected. From the time that the Council meeting is first announced, the location should pique the interest of members. It should offer a tranquil setting conducive to executive level business discussions. Remember, Advisory Council members are your top customers. Their Advisory Council experience should be exceptional from door-to-door!

So do your homework! Decide on the best date and location for your next Advisory Council meeting before you extend the invitation. Be prepared for the calendar junkie's first question.... "when and where is the meeting?" 

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