In consulting with companies large and small for many years, we’ve been in a lot of meetings in which executives are briefed on their customer advisory boards (CABs). Such meetings may involve the CAB management team communicating the proposed CAB charter, program progress, or preparations for an upcoming in-person meeting.
In such cases, we’ve seen meetings go well, in which key decisions are quickly made, agreements are reached and everyone is clearly made aware of their roles and what’s coming next. Unfortunately, just as often it seems, we’ve seen such meetings quickly go south, off on tangents, or into chaos.
As such, here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to briefing your executive team on your CAB program:
Do: Send Materials in Advance
Start things on the right foot by sending materials to be reviewed during the meeting in advance to your executive team. This might include charter drafts, agendas, customer profiles, the master presentation deck, etc. Doing so will encourage them to review content before the meeting and bring their comments and feedback to the discussion.
Otherwise, they may react differently to seeing things for the first time, and your meeting will morph into editing by committee — a huge time waster. Even if they don’t read the materials in advance — they are understandably busy after all — the CAB program manager can at least refer to the sent materials during the meeting.
Related Article: 5 Things to Accomplish After Your Customer Advisory Board Meeting
Do: Have a Plan for What You Need
When going into a meeting with your executive team, have a plan for what you want to communicate with them and, more importantly, any direction or decisions you are looking to get from them. In fact, be honest about this and state it clearly at the beginning of the meeting, and try to get it answered as early as possible. (Don’t wait until the end or you might not get to it).
Stating your meeting objectives from the get-go will keep your executives focused where you need help, and (hopefully) keep the discussion on track.
Don’t: Go Backwards on Previous Decisions
While we realize executives’ (usually our bosses) prerogative to do whatever they want, understand that they will react to and provide their opinions (whether wanted or not) on whatever you put in front of them. That means you should try to avoid reviewing things that have already been completed or decided weeks ago.
For example, I was in a CAB content review meeting recently in which the executives saw the agenda again, and decided to switch everything around — despite this being finalized and approved weeks ago, and throwing our plans (and printed materials) into chaos. Review items with executives at the right time, gather necessary approvals, and don’t go back and re-review things with them that will move your progress backward.
Do: Stick to Strategic, High Level Discussions
When engaging with executives about your CAB, focus on topics where you may need guidance that they can provide. This means corporate messaging, product feature release timelines, pricing strategies, technology partners and alliances, etc. Such discussions are best when reviewing, say, your company’s presentation for the upcoming CAB, or those decks of some of your other leadership.
Hopefully, none of this messaging is new to anyone but if changes need to be made, now is the time to nail it down.
Don’t: Focus on Tactical, Logistical items
This is the biggest time waster I have witnessed throughout my career: don’t spend precious executive face time reviewing tactical event items, such as food and beverage, music, transportation, signage graphics, social activity logistics, etc. Discussing these at the beginning of your executive meeting is a sure-fire ticket down the rabbit hole and a blown opportunity to get needed strategic information.
While such details don’t have to be a secret, they should be saved for the end of your meeting (time permitting) or, better yet, sent as a meeting summary via email. Smart executives understand their opinions on such logistical items are not really needed, and they should trust the expertise of their events staff to pull these details together.
Do: Your Homework
Have a reason for meeting with your executive team, communicate clear meeting objectives and decisions needed, and have everything else on your end completed as much as possible before getting in front of them. Gray areas or uncompleted items may only invite uninvited input or, worse, take your executive meeting in an entirely different direction.
Do an excellent job of what you can control, and stay on track timewise (or better yet, get ahead!) on items for which you are responsible. Doing so will not only show your skills and expertise, but keep executives focused on what they are supposed to be contributing to your meeting.
While executives are skilled and experienced professionals, they are often over worked, pulled in many directions and easily distracted. Help them do their jobs by focusing your time with them where you need their input and keeping diversions at bay. Doing so will keep your CAB program on track, and on the road to success.