Once you have decided on the topics to be covered at your client advisory board meeting, who will facilitate it?

Nominating yourself to lead your own CAB meetings could be a big mistake, says Stephen Wershing, president of the Client Driven Practice in Rochester, N.Y. An objective facilitator, on the other hand, can help generate positive and productive conversations at your CAB meetings.

If, for example, a disgruntled client were to make accusations about you or your service, Wershing says, you would naturally want to defend your business. A detached facilitator will not take negative comments personally. He or she would be more likely to turn a negative comment into a valuable source of information that can lead to improvements to your client service.

These tips can help you work with a facilitator and ensure your CAB meetings are constructive:

> Look for experience
Find someone with the right skills to lead your CAB meetings, Wershing says.

The ideal candidate could be a professional facilitator or a coach, he says. You could appoint a team member, so long as that person does not know the board members well. Or you might consider anyone you know who has experience in running meetings.

Wershing knows of an advisor who asked a client to run a CAB meeting because of his experience in corporate communications — with positive results.

> Outline the objectives
Speak with the facilitator about your goals for the CAB meeting.

The facilitator must know what your objectives for the meeting are, says Wershing, so that he or she can properly direct the conversation.

> Review the guest list
Talk to the facilitator about the CAB members, says Wershing. Personal information about the members lets the facilitator know a little bit about who is in the room and how that mix may affect the group dynamics and the conversation.

Tell the facilitator the names and occupations — or former occupations — of CAB members, he says. Describe their personalities and any relationships they may have to one another.

> Devise a strategic seating plan
Work with the facilitator to create a seating plan that will keep the conversation moving.

For example, avoid seating all the members with outgoing personalities at one end of the table, Wershing says, because they will dominate and re-direct the conversation.

Also, try not to place friends or people who know each other well next to each other. Otherwise, Wershing warns, you could end up with distracting side-conversations.

This is the second installment in a two-part series on client advisory boards.

Part 1: How to choose effective CAB topics