While Ignite does not provide event or meeting planning logistics services, we have years of experience interfacing with this important aspect of planning a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) or Partner Advisory Board. Successful execution of meeting logistics is critical to the advisory board meetings. Our clients often ask us questions like: How many days should the face-to-face meeting be? Where should the face-to-face meeting take place, at what venue? Do we need microphones at the meeting? Should we do a networking event? Keep reading for answers to these logistics questions.

Who manages the Customer Advisory Board meeting logistics at your company?

Customer Advisory BoardWith our clients, we work with a variety of internal stakeholders within the company: primarily with the CAB program manager, internal subject matter experts, the CAB executive sponsor, and an internal CAB steering committee.

Many CAB program managers act as the primary point of contact in terms of CAB communication, agenda and content development, AND use their internal events team to manage all logistics. Other CAB program managers manage all aspects of meeting logistics and rely on the internal SMEs as the primary source of content and strategy development.  In some companies with minimal resources or budget, the CAB program manager does all of the above – lots of work for one person, especially when managing multiple advisory boards.

Seven common Customer Advisory Board meeting logistics questions answered:

1. How many days should the face-to-face CAB meeting be? 

While CAB face-to-face meetings may take place over 1 day or 2 or 3 days, we have found the ideal time to be a 1.5-day meeting which begins with a welcome reception the night before (totaling 2 days).  Day 1 is the evening reception, day 2 is a full day of meetings until about 4:00-4:30 pm, followed by a networking activity and meal. Day 3 is a half day of meetings with departures after lunch.

2. Do we need to do a networking activity beyond just dinner?

While it is not required, we recommend an engaging networking activity, such as a closed group museum tour, mixology or cooking challenge, or yacht outing.  The relaxed social setting of the networking activity provides a fun atmosphere and further strengthens the business relationships among all participants. Read more at our blog post about Customer Advisory Board networking activities.

3. Where should we hold the face-to-face Customer Advisory Council meeting?

You’ve brought together some of your top customers or partners into a Customer Advisory Council, so pick a venue that is the nicest that you can afford (read this blog post on hotel tips). The venue should be convenient and easily accessible from a major airline hub. You want to give your top customers the best experience and treatment, so brands like Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons usually provide exceptional service. Also consider where a majority of your customer members are physically located — are they mostly based on the east coast or west coast of the U.S. or are they international? If your budget is limited, select a superior 4-star hotel brand versus a 5-star hotel, or use your executive briefing center.

4. When do you send the face-to-face meeting invite?

Advisory board members tend to be busy people with a packed calendar so you want them to book your meeting as soon as possible. Upon member recruitment, we suggest including the venue and dates of the face-to-face meeting in the invitation letter to join the board. Following acceptance into the board or if it is an existing member, send out a save-the-date and calendar invitation as soon as you’ve booked the venue and dates. Follow up with a more formal invitation via email and snail mail.

5. What’s the best seating arrangement at the face-to-face meeting?

Use U-shaped seating to encourage participation and dialogue among attendees. This supposes that you have a small enough number of people to fit into a U-shape. With 12 advisory board members and 6-7 host company employees, the U-shape will work.  We have seen an overflow of host company employees sitting in rows behind the U-shape, which is not ideal. We stick to the 2:1 ratio of 2 advisory board members for every 1 host company employee in attendance at face-to-face meetings.

If you have 30+ members, use crescent rounds in a main room and plan on using U-shape in breakout rooms and build in breakout sessions into the agenda. Think about a 1 hour session with 30+ people – with a 5 minute intro and 5 minute closing, 50 minutes left breaks down to less than 2 minutes per person to speak.  It’s not possible for each person to speak and interact in a meaningful discussion.

Also remember to plan seating arrangements in advance for any dinners or other networking activities.

6. Do we need microphones for the meeting room?

If you have 12 advisory board members and 6-7 company hosts in a room with good acoustics, you may not need mics. However, with 20 or more people, mics are necessary. While it is a high priced item, there is nothing worse than not being able to hear your top customers in a meeting. Check out a related blog post “Is Everyone Being Heard in Your Customer Advisory Board Meeting?”

Other logistics checklist items include: board room chairs, projector/screen/wireless clicker, 2-3 flip charts, large foam boards 40×60” for visualization and gamification exercises, camera for photos and a recording device for internal note summary reference only.

7. What documents do I need to print for the customer advisory board face-to-face meeting?

We always create a meeting kit booklet, containing a welcome letter from the executive sponsor, agenda, facilitation guidelines and bios, and measures standard letter size in your location. Email a PDF file of the meeting kit in advance to all advisory board members and all key internal stakeholders and provide a printed copy onsite. We have had several clients who are paperless and provide access to all customer advisory board documents at face-to-face meetings to be viewed on a device — and that works too in lieu of printing out the meeting kit.

Don’t forget to print any custom signage, meeting and dinner tent cards (multiple quantities depending on the number of breakout rooms), and branded name badges. Print out advisory board member feedback forms filled out onsite at the end of the meeting and key takeaway forms filled out in real-time by employees per session – to capture feedback and insights.

With global CABs, plan on translation of documents if necessary.

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