bored woman watching something on her laptop
PHOTO: Polina Zimmerman | pexels

With the pandemic waning by the day, companies are now considering or even planning for in-person customer advisory board (CAB) meetings in the fall. However, getting back together face-to-face likely does not mean the end of virtual CAB meetings. You may still be holding these for the time being, pending clarified travel policies of your or and your customers’ companies. In addition, even after in-person meetings resume, you’ll still want to hold interim virtual CAB meetings to ensure the conversation continues between in-person meetings and to ensure outcomes continue as planned.

While everyone has become much more skilled at attending or managing virtual meetings, boredom and fatigue have set in for many. Engagement therefore is critical to ensure your members participate and gain maximum value from these meetings going forward. I’ve written before about virtual CAB meeting essentials, and with these five tips, you'll keep your virtual meetings fresh.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

In addition to preparing a member-driven agenda, you’ll want to review all presentation materials with session owners, ensure all participation instructions are clear and desired outcomes are communicated. You’ll want to be sure all host-company participants are clear on their roles, test all virtual meeting technologies and have your internal communication channels established.

Related Article: How to Keep Customer Advisory Board Momentum Going in the Months Ahead

Engage Members

If your virtual CAB meeting is little more than a series of canned PowerPoint presentations, your members will almost certainly get bored, drift or drop off, and most definitely will not attend your future online meetings. Plan to ask members specific questions you need answered, have sessions to capture member input, brainstorming, prioritizing and even games to keep everyone active and participating. If you don’t, your meeting is akin to a one-way webinar, which any of your customers could watch.

Use Online Meeting Features

At this point, it should be a given that all participants should have their video cameras on throughout the meeting. But virtual meeting technologies, such as polling, voting, raising hand, chat features, Q&A, annotating, emojis and more, can keep your members active and engaged. Provide instructions for how to use these features at the start of your meeting, and plan to ask questions that encourage their use throughout.

Related Article: Why Most Companies Stink at Customer Feedback

Hold Virtual Breakouts

Similar to in-person meetings, your virtual meeting should break up the group into smaller groups to tackle deeper assignments, brainstorming or prioritizing. Doing so will get members really talking to each other and uncover items or issues a larger discussion may have missed. In addition, most online meeting platforms offer the ability to easily enable such breakout sessions — the ones I have participated in this year have worked perfectly and yielded some great discussions.

Communicate Your Outcomes

Assuming your meeting has met its objectives, summarize the major inputs in a detailed meeting report, and review, prioritize and establish an action plan to achieve them with your internal stakeholders. Lastly, and most importantly, share these outcomes with your members, a timeline for when you plan to accomplish them, and commit to providing status/progress updates in subsequent meetings. If your CAB members do not see progress on their input, they will likely lose interest in your program.

As we near the end of the pandemic (hooray!), we’ve learned many lessons in providing engaging virtual CAB meetings that we’ll continue to use, even after in-person meetings resume.