Interim conference calls are an important part of a robust customer advisory board program, and crucial in keeping the discussion going in-between meetings. They can also be referred to as “virtual meetings,” as they will likely include online content, such as PowerPoint slides and/or perhaps viewing a presenter’s screen to view a software product and its feature roadmap.
In PART 1, I provided six tips for creating successful client advisory board conference calls. Here are six more tips to consider towards making your customer advisory board call as engaging as possible:
1. Convey desired call outcomes
Let your client advisory board members know what you are trying to learn or get out of the conference call, and review this at the conclusion of the call to ensure this was achieved. Also let members know that you will be creating a formal report of the virtual meeting, which will be distributed to them afterward.
2. Keep a pipeline of topics
In preparing for your virtual meeting, you no doubt are prioritizing topics of utmost interest to the members. But, if your program is managed well, you may actually have too many subjects to fit in a single call. Be sure to track topics not able to be addressed, and add new ones to the list brought up on the call that can be covered in future engagements.
3. Not too long; not too short
The length of the virtual meeting should be determined by the call agenda and driven by the content. The meeting should not take all day, but it also should not be 30 minutes either. Your content should contain enough “meat” to warrant a deep discussion, and gather input from all participants. We have found that a good call length is about 2 hours, perhaps plus or minus 30 minutes (again, depending on content and also overall program maturity or progress).
4. Include customer speakers
As in face-to-face meetings, your call should ideally not consist exclusively of your company and their PowerPoints. Ask and encourage your members to participate in the virtual meeting by providing updates or outcomes to their recent challenges described during the last meeting, especially those which support the current topic of discussion.
5. Send materials in advance
If virtual meeting participants are seeing the meeting materials for the first time, they may not be able to review, digest, ponder and provide the immediate feedback you are looking for. In addition, they may want to review certain aspects (e.g. product feature roadmaps) with other team members within their companies to collect a wider array of feedback, and communicate this during the virtual meeting. Also, sending any pre-reading materials, such as articles, whitepapers or reports, can help members better understand industry topics, dynamics or challenges, and prepare their perspectives on subjects. Sending meeting materials well in advance – at least a week – will give your members opportunity to review and prepare feedback.
6. Ensure maximum participation
Collecting full member RSVPs for a virtual meeting is not impossible, but may take some follow-up. Client advisory board managers may have to send multiple email invitations to those who don’t respond to the initial meeting invitation, or even follow-up with a phone call. (Or even better, ask their account manager who owns the relationship to do so.) Send calendar invitations to all with the participation info (e.g. conference call number) and place the full meeting invitation and other materials in the invitation. (Don’t make members go back and hunt for this in their cluttered inboxes). Finally, having the CAB executive sponsor (or even better, the company CEO) send a reminder a couple days before the virtual meeting — expressing the importance of the engagement, the relevance of the subject matter, highlighting key topics and why member participation is important — should help ensure participation, and minimize last minute member “conflicts.”
Interim virtual meetings are a crucial part of a robust client advisory board program. Therefore, investing in the required steps to create an engaging call will not only make the discussion lively and insightful, but will ensure your program’s momentum throughout the rest of the year. Along with ongoing engagement and holding virtual calls, have you mastered other key elements to manage a successful customer advisory board?