Customer advisory council (CAC; also known as a customer advisory board or client advisory panel) session owners need to examine their role in their upcoming in-person meeting and be able to clearly answer important questions about their topic and content in order to best serve their client advisory council program members.
In part 1 of this blog, we covered the first 6 questions they should answer. Here are the next 6 questions we recommend each session owner answer as they prepare their content for the next in-person client advisory council meeting, in order to ensure a member-focused engagement:
- Are members well informed on this topic? Will members understand your subject enough without a lot of necessary background? Do they have the right knowledge or experience to provide insights on this topic? If not, what materials might they need to read before entering the discussion? Be sure your audience will be able to participate and (more importantly) contribute to your session. Offer pre-meeting reading materials if you believe some advance background would help get everyone on the same page before (not during) the meeting.
- How might this session be optimally facilitated? If your next in-person customer advisory council meeting will be 2 days of one-way PowerPoint presentations with no additional interaction activities, your meeting may likely be a boring affair. Instead, think about how to add some interaction and energy to your session, such as through member break outs, brainstorming or capturing ideas on a whiteboard. Voting or prioritizing can often best be accomplished through engaging (and fun!) games. But this involves careful planning with the meeting facilitator, and ensuring all materials, rules and desired outcomes are thought through. (Professional meeting facilitation is often necessary to pull off such engaging session games.)
- How are you preparing your session for the upcoming meeting? Plan on not only creating your content, but practicing and reviewing your session in front of the executive sponsor and advisory council management team well ahead of your next meeting. Simply showing up with your content without reviewing it ahead of time can lead to numerous potential negative outcomes – all in front of your superiors and best customers.
- Will you provide your content to members? Key discussion questions should be made available to customer advisory council members; ideally before the meeting so they can prepare and collect their thoughts and ideas, or review with their relevant team members (especially for product discussions). You should be able to trust your advisory council members with forward-looking information (e.g. product roadmaps) but, on the other hand, be careful about including highly sensitive information you wouldn’t want to fall in the wrong hands (e.g. pricing).
- What are potential session outcomes and company deliverables? If managed correctly, your session will likely yield an abundance of actionable input, suggestions and ideas to your company. Not capturing them or (worse) failing to act on them will provide the proverbial kiss of death to your customer advisory council program. Be prepared to prioritize and act on gathered member input ASAP after the meeting ends, and tee up the potential team members and resources necessary to complete these.
- What’s your action follow-up plan? In addition to committing to prioritized action items, you’ll want to communicate your planned activities back to the members so they know their input has been heard and it is leading to action. There may be items that are quick and easy to accomplish, which you can communicate may be completed before the next advisory council meeting. Other, more complex actions may take longer to complete, and you can communicate a plan and timeline for managing them to your members. Finally, don’t be afraid to tell members what you won’t be able to do and why – they will almost certainly understand and appreciate your honesty over not hearing back on their ideas.
Session owners need to take their responsibilities seriously and invest the necessary cycles to adequately prepare for their next in-person customer advisory council meeting. Not knowing answers to these questions can lead to negative – and potentially disastrous – outcomes that may significantly weaken your advisory council program.