In light of the Coronavirus, companies are rethinking their travel plans and events schedule. Yet, business must still go on. Here are three suggestions for keeping your CAB in motion during this uncertain time.

1) Break your CAB members into two or three smaller teams who can meet locally

Travel and being in large groups represent potential risks in the era of the Coronavirus. To mitigate these risks, consider hosting local sub-CAB meetings (for example, a US-East and a US-West CAB subgroup). If you can get 3-4 customers in a region together for even a half day, it will be time well spent. You will need to rethink and limit your agenda, but you would still benefit from the face-to-face interaction.

2) Exchange your face-to-face meeting for a videoconference series

The magic of your CAB comes alive in a face-to-face environment where customers can interact together. Enabling true spontaneous back-and-forth collaboration works best in a shared physical space. However, if this is not possible, all is not lost. Transition your meeting to a videoconference series. This is a far better option than cancelling the meeting. However, your agenda and your expectations will need to change. Here are a few examples:

* Limit the risk of multitasking. Don’t expect their full attention in a videoconference; it’s too tempting to multitask. So, to ensure you get the best ROI, make it shorter than your original CAB agenda. A CAB meeting is a full-day engagement, and asking your CAB members to commit to a full-day video conference will be unreasonable. Instead, set up one or two videoconferences, each one being 90 minutes long. You might space this over two or three days.

*  Break your CAB agenda into multiple parts. You won’t be able to cover you entire agenda in a videoconference, so cherry pick the most important topics for interactive discussion. For example:

  • Instead of using the “trends & drivers” ice breaker, explore this topic via a pre-CAB online survey and create a few graphics to share in the videoconference.
  • Instead of sharing your business update as part of the agenda, write it up as part of your pre-reading kit for CAB members. Include a cover letter from your CEO that shares where his/her business is going and what excites him/her about the future. Also, include a short list of priorities you are exploring. This will become important background information for the topics you choose to explore in a videoconference.
  • Pick a topic for a video conversation that requires minimal slides to set up. While you will not be able to explore the topic as deeply as you could in person, focus the discussion around answering a single question.  
  • Have your videoconference moderated to ensure you don’t take too long sharing slides and you don’t have a single customer dominating the feedback. 

3) Postpone your CAB until the spring or summer months

Experts believe that the virus will dissipate with warmer weather. With that in mind, don’t cancel your upcoming face-to-face meeting. Instead, push it out a quarter.

It may seem prudent to wait out the Coronavirus. However, keep in mind your customers are nervous, too. During the recessions of 2001 and 2008, it was not uncommon for companies to curtail marketing, sales, and investment spending to “wait it out.” For many companies, they ended up missing a window. Customers still have needs and require reassurance that their vendors are going to stay in business. Once a customer senses a lack of confidence in their vendors, they are at risk of jumping. You can help avoid this by keeping your CAB dialog open thru other channels even during these uncertain times.

Remember that your CAB represents an ongoing strategic conversation. It’s not a single meeting. So, don’t be frustrated that you can’t get all the answers you want. You are playing the long game in your CAB. Consider these methods to maintaining momentum of your CAB program.

For more information . . .

With a specialty in CABs, Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator with more than 18 years of CAB experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 100 world-class CAB meetings. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s CAB practice.  And check out more of his best practices articles and videos on his CAB Resource Center. Contact Mike