Eyal Danon, President and Founder of Ignite Advisory Group.
With customer advisory boards (CABs) meeting in person again post-pandemic, many companies are revamping or restarting their CAB programs. A dedication to ensuring an engaging, member-driven discussion is crucial to getting their programs back on track. That means moving away from boring PowerPoint presentations and designing sessions that are not only insightful but interesting and stimulating for CAB members.
In managing and facilitating CAB meetings with C-level executives for over a decade, we’ve driven many innovative sessions that get participants’ creative juices flowing and deliver an insightful meeting experience for everyone involved.
Here are seven innovative session ideas that CAB managers can implement in their next meeting:
1. Get playful
Some of the most impactful product road map sessions we have led are those that uncover and prioritize desired product road map features by gamifying the exercise for all involved. This can be done in numerous ways, such as eliciting desires via sticky notes from CAB members and then having everyone vote on their desired features with sticky dots so everyone can see the results.
This can also be done more creatively by using monopoly money to determine where members would spend their money on such features or by using a bracket competition (like the March Madness basketball tournament) to narrow down the list until you reach the winner.
Such sessions are not only fun and stimulating for your CAB members but they also get to see the features their colleagues want—and host companies learn how badly they want them.
2. Take a walk
While breakout exercises get CAB members out of their chairs, companies can really get them moving by taking a walking facility tour as part of the meeting. For example, a food provider we work with gave CAB members a tour of their kitchens and product development lab and let attendees sample dishes that were coming in the near future.
Another banking client of ours held a meeting at a technology partner’s innovation lab where members could witness alternative ways credit card holders could use various new payment technologies to streamline and expand their spending. Both walking tours were wildly successful and rated very highly by attending CAB members.
3. Paint a picture
While leveraging whiteboards and flip charts is an excellent way to capture key ideas and desires, one company took this concept a step further by using a professional illustrator. The illustrator drew out the session concepts in a colorful, thought-provoking way that led to additional discussion and out-of-the-box ideas. This way, attendees are left with a visual representation of the meeting that they can share with others.
4. Let customers run the show
While host companies often feel compelled to take all session leader positions, innovative hosts are happy to get their best customers in front of their colleagues to communicate how they overcame bottlenecks or used a novel approach to solve a particular challenge.
One of our clients has a CAB member provide a deep dive of their financial operations at every meeting, which is always a highly rated session. Another client of ours had each CAB member provide a very short overview of their data storage product use throughout the meeting so attendees could see how everyone was tackling a particular shared challenge.
5. Start thinking
“Design thinking” is a set of innovative problem-solving tools for creative collaboration that works particularly well in situations that require highly innovative and fluid solutions. CAB sessions that deploy the core principles of design thinking—namely, a wide exploration of possible alternatives coupled with extensive iterations—enjoy the distinct advantage of enabling the members to leapfrog traditional problem-solving methodologies.
A word of caution: It’s a tall order to engage a group of executives in some of the extensive iterations needed to arrive at the best outcomes. As such, make sure to use an experienced facilitator who is trained in design-thinking methodologies and in how they work in the real world when running these unstructured sessions.
6. Get everyone involved
While the pandemic is (hopefully) nearing an end, some of our customers have hosted both in-person and virtual meeting attendees so far in 2022. While such a hybrid mix of attendees has its pros and cons, getting all your customers together can yield outstanding results and tee up in-person meetings later this year.
7. Ensure global understanding
As many of our clients operate around the globe, we have hosted meetings in various foreign locales. But don’t let language barriers limit attendees from myriad countries; we’ve brought in translators to convey live language translation for attendees who needed them. The assembly had the air of a United Nations meeting, and the participants were grateful the host company took the steps to ensure they were included and heard.
Well-run CAB meetings should get away from boring, one-way presentations and get their members moving and engaged in unique and stimulating ways. Doing so can deliver an exclusive experience for the executive participants and yield valuable results for the hosting company.