CAB Dynamics: Guest Speakers

CAB Dynamics: Guest Speakers

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.

CAB Dynamics: Venue Selection

CAB Dynamics: Venue selection

Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) can bring immense strategic value to your company.  But gaining that value takes considerable thought and careful detail-oriented planning.  Choosing the best location, hotel, and meeting space are critical to ensuring a positive end-to-end experience for your customers and executives.

We’ve hosted CABs from New York to Bali and even Monaco.  That breadth of experience gives unique insight on which locations are ideally suited for playing host to a CAB – and which aren’t.

How do you choose a destination for your CAB?

Choosing the right location for your CAB is all about lowering the barriers for your customers to participate.  Long plane rides, connecting flights, and exhausting drives to the venue can all make attending much less appealing for busy executives.

Host cities with large airports and within one or two time-zones of your prospective members make coming to a CAB meeting much more attractive for your CAB Members.  Traveling from coast to coast in the United States is a 6 hour flight, which generally involves losing a whole day to travel on both ends.  Dallas, Chicago, and Denver make good middle ground locations if you have members who will be flying from both coasts.  If your Members are concentrated in one region, try to avoid making them fly for more than 4 hours where possible.

By and large, CAB Members need to show a good return on their time investment to attend a CAB.  A good way of helping them along is by choosing a known business hub.  New York, Chicago, London, Frankfurt, Singapore, or Sydney all make great locations because so many companies have offices in those cities.  Members can visit their local office or a customer before or after attending your CAB meeting, making it clear to their teams that this is indeed a productive work trip.

A few exceptions are worth pointing out.  A big event or scenic destination can justify breaking the “4 hour flight rule” if it’s sufficiently tempting.  Restful, scenic places like Amelia Island or Sea Island (or Bali – but enough gloating) can help your customers disconnect from the day to day and give you their undivided attention.

Which venues maximize CAB collaboration?

Once you’ve selected the right destination, the next step is to choose the right hotel venue.  With a senior executive cohort, you’ll naturally want a five-star hotel.  But it’s important to remember that you’re looking for intimacy when you choose your hotel.  Meeting areas should create a comfortable generous workspace, but ought not be cavernous ballrooms.  Members need to feel that they’re collaborating as an intimate candid group in a privileged space.

Avoid the huge venues in Las Vegas and Orlando – we often recommend a well-appointed boutique four-star hotel over a large chain with five-stars, solely based on its intimacy.  A CAB is a collaborative conversation, not Comic-Con.

We tend to choose meeting rooms which are spacious, but feel reasonably full when 20 people are collaborating during the sessions.  We also like to book a second room nearby for private breakfasts and lunches, as well as breakout groups when required.  Members always know where they have to be, and very little time is lost to room changes.

Wrapping up

Every hour of a CAB meeting represents 15-25 hours of C-level time and considerable expense, so  streamlining travel and ensuring comfort and creativity are vital.  Seamless, well-orchestrated CAB experiences lead to camaraderie and memories that customers will recall with fondness for decades.

CAB Dynamics: Host Value

Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) are the single most effective long-term platform to guide, protect, and grow a B2B tech business. To understand why, it’s important to have a clear picture of what a successful CAB looks like and what kind of ROI you can expect.

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CAB Dynamics: Member Value

Customer Advisory Boards can be extremely valuable. But when you’re planning one, it’s easy to get caught up in the anticipation and only focus on how your organization is getting value.
Building a CAB program that offers strategic insight to your team over the long term, means incorporating serious respect for your CAB member’s time as well as their strategic priorities.

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