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Designing a great CAB Breakout Agenda Session

In this blog post we are reviewing some of the best practices in creating a Breakout Session during a Customer Advisory Board meeting.


A breakout session is a great opportunity to increase the number of quality and quantity of insights you receive from your board members, while simultaneously creating a more engaging experience for the clients. That’s why breakout sessions are such are great tool for Client Advisory Council meetings.


Let’s start with a definition. A Breakout session is essentially dividing the Customer Advisory Board attendees into smaller working groups for a period of time during an agenda session at a board meeting.


Let’s talk numbers. The ideal size of a breakout group is 4-6 members, any less than that then the group could struggle to be effective and any more than that number, then the group will fail to hear the voices of all the participants and some folks will disengage. So getting this number right is critical. In a Customer Advisory Board meeting of 12-15 attendees there should be around 3 breakout groups ideally.


Let’s set an objective. The Customer Advisory Board breakout group should have a clear goal, it could be solving a challenge, creating a new concept, determining a set of best practices, literally ANYTHING that you can realistically expect your customers to work together to achieve. However, as a rule of thumb the objective must be MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL, it can’t just benefit one party (i.e. the host company) and not the other party (the members). Both the host company and the members must receive benefit from the outcome of the breakout groups. This provide the incentive to work together to achieve that goal.


Let’s get some instructions together. Its best to set the instructions of how the breakout groups should perform the task way in advance of the meeting. This is so you can plan socialize the breakout plan with to improve it and ensure everyone attending the Customer Advisory Board meeting form your internal CAB team is in sync so they can help ensure its success. Its also a good idea to perform a complete dry run of the breakout session before the Client Advisory Council meeting to make sure it has a good flow, the instructions are easy to follow and the members will be clear on what the outcome is. The instructions should be CONCISE and COMPLETE – the actual council meeting time is precious so you don’t want to waste time going over a lengthy set of instructions, or creating an environment where there is ambiguity and confusion over what is expected by the participants.


Let’s talk timing. 5 minutes to state the objective and explain instructions for the breakout groups. 5 minutes for the CAB members to assemble in their separate areas. 30 minutes for the exercise. 5 mins to reassemble. 10 minutes for readouts. 5 mins to summarize and agree on next steps.


Let’s explain who does what. Each Customer Advisory Board breakout group should have the following roles defined in ADVANCE to avoid wasting precious team figuring this stuff out during the actual board meeting:


Team Lead – A customer who will facilitate a designated breakout group and conduct a readout (presentation of findings to the full board) at the end of the session.


Team Members – Customer assigned to each breakout group based on a common factor, i.e. they all use the same product, are from a similar region, have a similar role/title, have the same level of maturity or are from similar industries. Remember, ‘birds of a feather flock together’.


Observers – the internal company host team, their role is to capture insights and only jump into the conversation if they customers get stuck or need help in completing the exercise. Unless the breakout group is a co-creation opportunity where both the members and the host team are developing something together during the breakout.


There are a lot more best practices for breakout groups, but these are probably the most important for CAB agenda sessions.


Hope this helps in your planning for your next Customer Advisory Board breakout session! If you have any other observations or tips on CAB breakout groups, please let us know.

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