In talking to various customer advisory council (also known as a customer advisory board or client advisory panel) managers and session owners about their next meeting, they are often eager to tell their members the latest developments within their companies or present the latest features of their new product release. But such a host-company-centric approach is not how we would advise preparing for your client advisory council next meeting. Instead, we recommend each session owner (note: not “presenters”) answer the following questions as they prepare their content for the next meeting, in order to ensure a member-focused engagement:

  1. Why is this session part of the upcoming customer advisory council meeting? Think (honestly) about why this topic is a part of the meeting agenda, what discussion it will generate, and what potential outcomes it may produce. Each session on your upcoming customer advisory council meeting agenda should have a purpose for being there, and should be member driven (more on this below) and/or should follow logical progressions from previous member engagements. In other words, if a session owner is merely assigned a presentation by a superior and has no idea why this topic is on the meeting agenda, that person should find out.
  1. Is this session member driven? How does this session address previous client advisory council member input and desires? Did members request this topic, such as through direct interviews, previous meeting surveys or other input mediums? Do members understand why this topic is a part of the upcoming meeting agenda? If your session is not requested or desired by the members, then you are likely putting your company first instead of them – a surefire customer advisory council program killer.
  1. What is the goal of this session? What questions are you looking to answer and will this session convey and answer them? Will members and /or the host company acquire new insights? Each session at your next client advisory council meeting should be designed with the desired outcome in mind first; then a plan of how to best get there.
  1. What is the value of this topic for members? Will members acquire or uncover new ideas or best practices they can take back to their businesses? Will this session enable members to collaborate with each other, exchange ideas or benchmark their operations amongst themselves? Each session owner should know “what’s in it for members” – and convey this at the beginning of their session so this is clear. Otherwise, members may try to connect the relevance in their heads – and may not be able to do so – risking their interest and participation in your session.
  1. Should this session be a webinar instead? Many client advisory council managers or executive sponsors have a list of topics, updates or news they want to tell their customers at their next client advisory board meeting. They may even have ideas about potential outside speakers: analysts, industry association representatives or even executives from other business lines they think would be great to get in front of their members. However, in our experience, many of these speakers and their topics are one-way communications that involve little member input or dialogue. As such, these topics would be much better off as separate online webinar or conference call – not as a client advisory council session.
  1. Are you the right session owner? Are you the right subject matter expert on your topic? Do you understand the “bigger picture” and are able to answer questions without the need of other members from your team? Do you understand the goal and theme of your client advisory council program, and what was covered in previous engagements? If you’re coming in blind to your program, get caught up on what’s happened previously and make sure you can answer these and other questions. If not, perhaps you’re not the best person to lead this discussion.

Client advisory council engagements require a focus on member (not just host company) needs and desires, planning and preparation for communicating such topics in the best, most engaging manner. In part II of this blog, we’ll provide 6 more questions session owners must answer before their next customer advisory council meeting.

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