For experienced customer advisory board (CAB) managers, there are some meeting elements that seem to garner divided opinions. Indeed, there are pros and cons to incorporating these elements into your next CAB meeting.
Holding Customer Advisory Board Meetings Timed with Other Events
With today’s busy schedules and action-packed calendars, it will be tempting to hold your next CAB meeting adjacent to or even overlapping with other industry conferences, or one of your own user group meetings.
- Pros: If members are already planning to attend your user group, for example, holding your CAB at the same time could ensure higher member participation. It could also ensure your own executives will be at the same location at the time as well, and save on travel costs for everyone involved.
- Cons: The promise of efficiency can be lost if the adjacent program is a competing focus that distracts both members and company leadership. Members are very busy people and frequently don’t want to extend their travel so they choose one or the other – your CAB or the adjacent program. The worst outcome is when your own executives bop in and out of the CAB meeting to attend the competing program – those optics send the signal that the CAB isn’t really that important to the host company.
Bottom Line: Holding your next CAB meeting timed with another of your company’s events is an individual decision in which you will have to weigh these pros and cons. Most companies decide that since the CAB offers the richest level of customer engagement, it is too important to potentially dilute the impact for their business.
Sometimes, in even the smallest rooms, it may be hard to hear everyone. Some people just talk louder than others, and the dreaded “quiet talker” can bring a meeting to a halt. Solution? Using a microphone so that all voices are heard loud and clear.
- Pros: everyone is heard, and the discussion and input from all is captured. When you consider the overall cost of running a CAB, bringing everyone in and the opportunity cost of the all the internal executive time, it’s a no brainer to pay a few thousand dollars for microphones.
- Cons: passing a microphone around can be awkward and slow, and really drag down a meeting flow. Some people are even afraid of microphones and will not talk naturally into them. Assigning vocal amplification to the facilitator or presenter only reinforces the undesired notion of presenting to (or at) a listening audience.
Bottom Line: CAB meetings should be an intimate, inclusive free flow discussion. You can keep this intimacy by keeping the room small and making sure there’s not too many people present. However, above 20 people, microphones might make sense. Either way, remind participants to speak up and project to everyone present.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
If existing non-disclosure agreements with customers don’t cover host company disclosure to CAB members of forward-looking, proprietary company or product information, members are often required to sign an NDA to participate in the CAB meeting.
- Pros: In requiring NDAs, CAB members might feel special that they are getting exclusive insight into secret company plans, and appreciate the opportunity to shape forthcoming product direction or corporate strategy. As such, they will understand the need and take the responsibility seriously, keeping the information to themselves outside the meeting walls.
- Cons: NDAs can be tedious and difficult to administer. Some members may require their own legal team review provided NDAs, request changes, or have your company sign their own set of legal documents. What if these legal exchanges don’t get completed before the customer advisory board meeting takes place? What if key members show up to the meeting without their completed NDAs? What if they promise to send this afterward but don’t get around to it?
Bottom Line: Use NDAs if your company will be sharing information that it would not want to get out anywhere. If so, be clear on member expectations, clearly communicate the requirement, and be prepared (and ensure executive air cover) to enforce the decided rules – even with your best customers. Even partial adherence is better than not having NDAs at all. (Better yet: let your legal team manage the entire process!)
Agree? Disagree? Have experience otherwise?
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