Attack of the CABs!
By Rob Jensen Most executive engagement programs go extremely well, deliver outstanding results, and leave host companies—and more importantly, customer advisory board (CAB) members themselves—pleased with the value of their participation. But although proactive preparation, communication and internal reviews mitigate most potential issues, unplanned problems may still arise. Here are a few scenarios we’ve encountered at Ignite Advisory Group and the guidance we provided to fix them. Rogue Executives Executive speakers may sometimes go off point, and lead the meeting off track. One CEO kicked off a meeting with his company’s standard investor relations presentation, until the executive attendees urged him to engage them on the guidance that he originally sought. Another C-level executive used his introductory comments to talk ad-nauseam about his yoga class, with his attending direct reports powerless to stop him (until we did). What to do:
- Choose a high-ranking executive sponsor who has real influence to oversee the CAB program. This will ensure they add value to (and don’t detract from) the program.
- Share the CAB mission and objectives with executives and program participants so that they understand that meeting is to gather member input into corporate strategies and roadmaps.
- Proactively review the meeting content and presentations to eliminate surprises. Don’t allow your execs to skip these prep meetings.
- Secure an experienced meeting facilitator (ideally a third party who does not report to company executives) who knows when and how to tactfully steer the discussion in the right direction and keep the meeting on track.
- Engaging a strong CAB executive sponsor and proactively communicating your expectations will also help eliminate on-site surprises.
- Ensure that the ratio of host company attendees to customer attendees doesn’t exceed 2:1. If 14 customers attend your next meeting, no more than seven company attendees should attend.
- Engage executive management to review and approve host company attendees, then have the executive sponsor ask unexpected guests to leave if necessary.
- Set meeting expectations ahead of time. Remind CAB members that their invitation is non-transferable.
- Engage an objective third-party facilitator to take the heat off the host company when sticky situations arise and create a win-win compromise that works for everyone. In this instance, we negotiated that the company have two (not all five) employees attend, and provided the best seats available that still served the meeting.
- Target interesting activities that encourage interaction, ideally at a location unique to the meeting city.
- Obtain approval from the CAB executive sponsor for any social activity.
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