I just returned from a strategy advisory board session focused on the potential market opportunity for Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR , AR) in consumer and business applications. This year VR and AR have experienced significant visibility at CES, Davos, Mobile World Congress and many other major industry events. Yet this is still a very new market without a lot of business cases that are delivering revenue.
In facilitating the session, it struck me how powerful the integration of clients, startups and experts can be in a board setting when analyzing a future market opportunity. Discussions were uninhibited by normal business challenges, because bets had not yet been made and all were in the room to learn, explore and think about the opportunity. We were not managing the constant tension often present in these meetings between sharing strategy and pitching, since no one had a horse in the race (startups not withstanding).
This is a very different form of advisory board for a large company and requires a bit of a leap of faith that clients, prospects, startups and experts will each gain value. Done poorly, clients feel exposed to unrelated leaders that are not their peer. Done well, clients feel excited about the learning and new thinking they gain access to in a short period of time. Here are some tips on how to maximize the value of this type of session:
- Segmentation of participants.Be very clear on each participant’s value interests. Map these values out in advance and don’t allow any one group to dominate. If you invite startups, they will be vying for the interest and potential investment of the larger players. A strong agenda and facilitation is required to keep all interests in check.
- There are experts and then there are experts.When you are dealing with large enterprise executives, it is rare that they haven’t already explored the experts in any one field. Industry analysts often don’t cut it. If you bring in an analyst make sure you work with them ahead of time to ensure they deliver unique value and perspectives. For the most part, practitioner experts have more to offer and can delve deeper into practical experience, which resonates more strongly with an executive audience.
- Shape an agenda that gets you to advice.Take time in the last 1-2 hours of the meeting to really explore where to go next. Do not let the meeting close without everyone sharing his or her views and advice. The first part of the meeting can be educational, but everyone should leave the meeting having shared their learning, perspectives and guidance. Force your management team to share their views as well. This will create a starting point from which to explore the next phase of opportunity.
Every advisory board meeting can’t be a green-field open strategy session, but done well they certainly bring some new energy to the group. These meetings can be powerful engagements for your clients and your company and will deliver deeper relationships with the industry that you may pursue in the future.