After six months to a year of planning to create your customer-driven agenda, your Customer Advisory Board convenes. At the first break, the sponsoring company Customer Advisory Board team is concerned – okay, they are panicked – because the discussion is not staying on point. No one can figure out why. If we could be a fly on the proverbial wall, we might see what’s going on.
When members are shying away from jumping in on the discussion, there are two predominant causes.
- A too-dominant speaker – be it a member or executive – is likely taking too much air time.
- The remedy is expert Customer Advisory Board facilitation to draw out the members that are sitting on the sidelines.
- And, those advance interviews will have surfaced topical interests among the members that the facilitator can leverage to redirect or expand the conversation.
- The account review on-site before the meeting is a good opportunity to sort out the members most likely to want air time so that you have a solid “game day” plan to flank and divert as needed.
- One-way meeting content is the other culprit.
- Usually this is because the company is telling, or worse yet selling, and the content overlooks framing questions for members to create the basis of a discussion.
- Simply ask and build in thoughts about: What does the company want to know? What do members want to know? The advance interviews produced material clues, so integrate them as jumping-off points for discussion.
- The walk-through two weeks before the meeting and on-site create good opportunities to uncover the “talking heads” orientation.
Hearing and speaking abilities of members and executives are too inconsistent to ensure that all can literally be heard. Customer Advisory Board meetings are often held in large ballrooms or other spacious facilities. Acoustics are not always terrific. Two best practices resolve the vagaries of sound quality.
- Table top microphones are available for each two participants.
- All participants leading a discussion wear a microphone.
These resources are critical, not nice-to-have, especially if you have over 20 participants gathering. And, regardless of how well someone thinks their voice can carry, everyone hears better when voices are projected.
Your Customer Advisory Board members are spending time and effort to provide guidance for your business. Your company is expending considerable resources – money and Leadership Team commitment. Attending to the detail steps to ensure everyone is heard during the meeting enables a return on the investment for all.