Preparing for a Customer Advisory Board meeting often raises several questions for meeting facilitators:
- Will the meeting run too fast and what will I do with the extra time?
- Will the meeting run too slow and what will I do to get everything done?
- How will I control that person who likes to dominate the entire discussion? and…
- How will people react if I put the elephant on the table that creates discomfort?
Here are some tips to help you through these tough questions.
It’s not about you.
Strong facilitators are able to ask short, open ended questions that redirect the discussion into productive areas and spark debate. Facilitators who mistake their role as being the smartest person in the room often fail. Your job is not to perform or share your significant knowledge — it is to ask questions and let your Customer Advisory Board members be the center of the show.
It is important to be clear on what the desired outcomes are for each session. With the purpose of the session in mind, and a view to where you want to land the discussion, you can make the outcomes clear from the start.
We like to start with 3-4 questions that we want to have discussion around during the session. What matters most is that you are clear about the purpose of the session.
It is important that during the meeting, all of your Customer Advisory Board members are engaged and contribute to the discussion. As the facilitator, draw the customers in and ask them to share their experiences, views and advice in each session.
At the end of each session, summarize the input shared and check in to ensure you captured every major idea. While you may feel like this takes up too much time, it is critical to ensuring that Board members feel their contributions matter and to test your key takeaways before they leave the room.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Talk to your Customer Advisory Board members in advance and understand where they are on each issue you are covering. Remember their perspectives and actively engage them during the session according to that preparation. The more you prepare for the unknown questions, the better the session will flow.
Most of all, it is important to have fun in the meetings and use them to learn. Customer Advisory Board meetings that are well facilitated should leave the facilitator feeling overwhelmed with all of the potential avenues to explore and areas to address. Done well, Board members will leave feeling fulfilled by their contributions.