CAB Dynamics: Guest Speakers

02 Oct, 2021 By Jeremy
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CAB meetings should be memorable, valuable experiences.  Hearing from business luminaries, industry analysts, celebrities, politicians or your CEO can be fascinating contributors, but – if they’re not managed correctly – those same speakers can also detract from your ROI as a host.

CAB time is expensive time, each hour you spend in a CAB is 20-30 hours of C-level time.  That means that each hour of your CAB needs to meet a very high bar of value creation.  Picking the wrong speaker can end up wasting time and distracting members.  You want to choose a speaker who will act as a catalyst for CAB member conversations without distracting from the main agenda of your meeting.  Certain kinds of speakers carry more risk than others.

In this post we’re going to explore:

  • What’s the risk of having a guest speaker?
  • Which guest speakers are easy wins for a CAB meeting?
  • Which guest speakers are more demanding for a CAB meeting?
  • How do you harness the dark magic of your own CEO?

What’s the risk of having a guest speaker?

When it comes right down to it, you expect a return from your investment as a CAB host.  It’s a sound strategy to make members the star of the show, as their insights and trust drive the receipt of that return.  Guest speakers can compete with your members for precious speaking time.

Every guest speaker has to contribute a lot of value to justify a spot in the agenda.  Your job is to maximize value by making sure the right person is speaking and they understand the role you have for them in the meeting.

Which guest speakers are easy wins for a CAB meeting?

The best CAB speakers stimulate conversation without derailing the flow of the meeting.  You can use short sessions with a speaker to create mental breaks for your members.  Ideally, your guest speaker amplifies and enhances your other CAB sessions.

CAB Members are ideal speakers.  They know exactly what the CAB is set up to do and their role in it.  Their credibility as peers to the other members is irreproachable, and case studies about their experiences and perspectives are interesting to everyone.  They also don’t bend light like celebrities or CEOs can – more on this shortly.

Politicians make great speakers because they’re masterful communicators who frame the world in interesting ways.  They tend to stick closely to your meeting objectives, since they are used to speaking with clear goals in mind.  Their top-down perspective also provides your members a nice mental break from a close business agenda.

Specialist thought leaders can often surprise and delight your members.  Genuine luminaries abound in the world, and a good one is absolutely fascinating to CAB members, and their relative anonymity frees them from unreasonable expectations.  Plus, of course, they tend to be much cheaper than recognized thought leaders, which is nice.

Which guest speakers are more demanding for a CAB meeting?

Industry Analysts are extremely high value and very expensive.  As a consequence, they typically try to maximize their value by sharing as much knowledge and insight as possible while they are part of the meeting.  This makes them demanding, as the delicate balance of CAB interactivity can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their inputs.  Try to ensure analyst sessions are succinct (1 hour max) so that you can get back to engaging with CAB members and hearing what they think about the analysts’ content and perspective.

Recognized thought leaders like Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, or Brene Brown can be phenomenally interesting.  Personalities of this scale stimulate your executives and members to “think big”, and it’s often hard to return to the more prosaic elements of a CAB agenda after hearing from them.  We recommend setting up a separate “CAB Member Only” event or dinner to ensure they get the spotlight they need while preserving the integrity of your CAB agenda.

Celebrities such as actors, athletes or astronauts contribute more to the experience than to the personal and professional development of your attendees.  The best way to use these folks is to add interest to the pre-meeting dinner or reception, rather than in the main agenda.

How do you harness the dark magic of your own CEO?

Your CEO can be a phenomenal addition that makes your members feel privileged and prioritized.  However, since they are public figures with large personalities, comments tend to be addressed directly to them, eclipsing your other executives and breaking the discussion flow.  This means that their participation must be managed carefully.

Try to bring your CEO in for a handful of short, structured sessions and then get them out of the room right afterwards.  You should also set up a private room at the venue for the CEO to have 1-on-1s with your CAB members to underscore the value of their presence.

This separation efficiently manages your CEO’s time while helping them build deeper personal relationships with customer executives – and protecting your CAB agenda.

Wrapping up

The right guest speaker, fitting seamlessly into your agenda, can easily become the highlight of your CAB.  Choosing a speaker with care and defining their session appropriately sets a host on track for a memorably successful CAB.