While taking notes during a customer advisory board (CAB) meeting isn’t rocket science, it’s a task not to be taken lightly either. After all, your company likely invested much work and resources to prepare for and hold the meeting, and have your best customers travel to be present in-person for a lively discussion. As such, it is crucial that a skilled person be dedicated to the task of capturing the big ideas discussed, customer insights, and potential actions to be taken as a result of the discussion.
While we at Ignite are very skilled and experienced at this task, we sometimes work with companies who attempt to do this themselves, or rely on previous meeting notes that are hard to decipher or gather meaning from. As such, here are the eleven tips for anyone taking notes at a customer advisory board meeting:
1. Be knowledgeable: first off, the meeting note taker should be someone at least familiar with – and ideally well-versed – in your products, technologies, customers and industry. That way, when concepts are discussed or jargon or acronyms are used, the notetaker will not be lost and miss the key ideas. While the note taker doesn’t have to be an experienced engineer, it should not be a junior person or new hire either.
2. Be prepared: the CAB note taker should take part in all meeting preparations, so you can see the meeting materials and understand what will be discussed, the goals of each session, the questions to be answered, and are familiar with how all group exercises will be conducted. This way, there will be no surprises and you won’t miss capturing it all.
3. Sit where you can hear everyone: There’s no need to make your note taker sit in the back of the room and anonymously tap into their computer. The note taker should have a seat at the CAB table along with the rest of the participants, so they can be a part of the discussion, hear and capture everyone’s ideas, count raised hands, and see expressions and other non-verbal communication.
4. Announce your role and intentions: During meeting introductions, introduce yourself, where you fit in your company, and tell everyone that you will be the official meeting notetaker. That way, everyone will direct their voices in your direction, speak up as needed and understand that their insights and suggestions are in fact being captured by a skilled professional. In addition, you can inform your CAB members that the result of your notes will be a detailed meeting report which everyone will receive a copy of.
5. Put away any recording device: There is no need to record the meeting on a tape recorder or iPhone. You likely won’t capture the quieter voices, nor the raised hands, exercises or other non-verbal communication. Plus, people inevitably act differently when being recorded – they may hold back feedback and may even protest that the meeting is being recorded at all. (Note that recording online virtual meetings is generally accepted)
6. Capture the big ideas: You don’t have to capture every word that is stated – you’re not a court reporter and don’t need to deliver a transcript of the discussion. Focus on capturing the main discussion points, big ideas, customer reactions, insights and desires.
7. Focus on CAB member insights: You don’t need to capture everything that company presenters or other speakers communicate – you’ve likely got their slides to refer to. It’s more important to focus on capturing CAB member insights, concerns, needs, ideas, etc. that can lead to material changes in your company. (You can and should, however, capture presenter answers to customer questions or concerns, dedication to actions, promises of follow-up, etc.)
8. Name names: Feel free to capture which customer said what, as this information may be critical to the actions and potential account follow-ups later. But just remember that by the Chatham House Rule, the meeting report won’t contain this information, as what’s important is what was said, not who said it, and that everyone should be free to contribute ideas freely and not be held to them later.
9. Highlight potential actions: Call out, highlight or use a different color font to distinguish potential action items your company might take as a result of the discussion or member insight. Such actions don’t have to be stated directly by customers; you might get a sense that customers may be confused on something, unaware of a resource, need more training, etc. Inserting and highlighting such actions now during the notetaking will make them easier to insert in the meeting report and action tracker document.
10. Take pictures: In addition to taking notes in your computer, remember to take pictures throughout the meeting of the attendees engaging with each other and, exercise whiteboards, voting results, new ideas posted – anything that is written down as part of the meeting. These pictures can be inserted directly into the meeting report, making exercise results much more evident.
11. Collect other notes: Although you may be the official meeting note taker, you may have other colleagues from your company that are taking their own notes, or writing their own thoughts, reactions, ideas or potential actions. At the conclusion of the meeting, collect all the notes from everyone, or have them sent to you immediately afterwards. These notes might contain more color on discussion points and other ideas you may have missed. Use these, along with your own notes, to create your meeting report and action tracker documents.
Being the CAB meeting note taker is an important job and a key role in any successful program. Doing a good, thorough job will ensure member thoughts are captured and later evaluated – and their insights and resulting actions are reported back to them in future engagements.