The Gist

  • Plan ahead. Reserve hotels for CAB meetings as early as possible, considering potential scheduling constraints.
  • Location matters. Choose accessible, centrally-located cities with major airline presence, avoiding vacation destinations.
  • Prioritize quality. Select a high-quality hotel within budget constraints, ensuring natural light in the meeting room for an optimal experience.

We often get questions from our clients about recommended locations at which to hold their customer advisory board (CAB) meetings. Hotel selection can be a somewhat subjective category, as some companies (and executives) are very particular about them, while others are not at all. While this dynamic will inevitably make your CAB meeting location an individual choice — one that should reflect your company’s culture, image and values — there are some general tips we can offer about identifying the right hotel property for your next CAB meeting:

Plan Ahead

With the COVID pandemic over, the world is back to traveling and meeting in-person. As such, hotels are filling up quickly and longer in advance. CAB program managers will want to work ahead on their meeting planning and get their hotel reserved as soon as possible.

Also keep in mind that since CAB meetings are generally smaller than bigger group meetings, you may have to choose a time either early in the week (i.e., Monday/Wednesday) or end of the week (i.e., Wednesday/Friday), as the premium midweek rooms may need to go to larger groups.

Select an Easy-to-Reach City

Consider your CAB member locations, and shoot for something in the middle, or, if members are generally dispersed, rotate East Coast and West Coast meetings to minimize (or at least share) cross-country travel. Choose a centrally-located city with major airline presence — Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

Go as Nice as You Can Afford

Your customer advisory board should be an exclusive, members-only committee made up of high-level executives representing your very best customers or partners. You’ve likely invested a lot of time and resources to ensure a professional, polished experience. This will inevitably be diminished if you pick a marginal hotel property or location. If your budget doesn’t support The Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton, select top brands that your company sanctions, be it Hyatt, Westin or Marriott.

Check With Your CAB Executive Sponsor

The hotel you select may even be one that your own executives often use, or a company partner. A good barometer might be to simply ensure your CAB’s executive sponsor is satisfied with the location you select.

Pick a Convenient Location

Members appreciate arriving on a nonstop flight and convenient travel from the airport. While a remote location may be dramatic, CAB members are busy people and appreciate efficient arrival and departure schedules. In other words, don’t pick a hotel with a long drive that may require shuttles or complicated means to get to them.

Don’t Price Out Your Members

Most host companies pay for or reimburse hotel expenses for their CAB members. However, if this is not the case for your CAB program, you don’t want to overextend those who are paying for their own accommodations by selecting a super-expensive hotel chain. Some member companies may have a limits as to where employees are allowed to stay — no matter who pays the bill. Ensure your selection is appropriate.

Learning Opportunities

Avoid Vacation Destinations

You should not select your CAB meeting location at exotic locales in the Bahamas, Aruba or Hawaii. After all, your CAB is a professional, strategic committee, not a boondoggle. Member companies’ budgets may also be tight and travel can be highly scrutinized. Do not send the wrong message about your CAB program by choosing a venue that raises suspicions or questions.

Ensure Natural Light in the Meeting Room

A terrific setting for your meeting can be lost if the meeting occurs in a lower-floor cave or dungeon. Natural light access for the room counters fatigue and keeps the meeting more active and lively. Beautiful natural views of city skylines or nature can be even more stimulating.

Don’t Make It a Science Project

While selecting the right hotel for your CAB meeting requires some consideration, don’t make the decision an endless review process involving the opinions of all your executives, who, in my experience, will be happy to provide it to you. You also shouldn’t need extensive site visits if you go with a major chain. In the end, executives should trust the skills and experience of their events team to select a hotel that will meet their needs — and focus their scarce time (and attention) on meeting goals, content and preparation.

Related Article: Launching a Customer Advisory Board: Top 10 Questions to Ask

In the end, it is the valuable, stimulating meeting content that your CAB members will remember, not necessarily the meeting location itself. Yet a professional and convenient location does add to the overall member experience and paves the way for maximum success for your CAB meeting and overall program.

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