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Your First Advisory Board Meeting

Build Discussion Into Your Advisory Board Meeting Agenda

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As soon as you've selected the members of your Advisory Board, it's time to start planning the first meeting. The key to getting your Advisory Board off to the right start is to start as you mean to go on.

You've already given a great deal of thought to what you hope to gain from having an Advisory Board and looking forward to the contributions that your Advisory Board members will make. So you want to be sure that right at this first meeting you let your Advisory Board members contribute.

Your first meeting, therefore, like all your Advisory Board meetings, needs to be planned around a question or problem. You might find it easiest to state the problem as a goal. For instance, "We want to increase our sales by 25% this next quarter. How might we do this?" Or you might state the topic for discussion more generally: "Should we try to break into the export market?" or "Theft has been increasing. What can we do to cut down on theft at our store?"

Once you've decided on the discussion topic, it's time to gather the materials that your Advisory Board members will need. Because this is the first Advisory Board meeting, you should include a business plan and any other documents pertinent to the discussion topic, such as charts, graphs and fact sheets illustrating the background of the discussion topic. If possible, you should send a copy of these documents to all Advisory Board members two weeks in advance, along with a copy of the agenda.

On the next page of this article is an example of a Agenda (with comments for running the meeeting efficiently)that you might want to use for your first Advisory Board meeting. Notice that each agenda item is timed; building a time schedule into your meeting and sticking to it ensures that your meeting doesn't get bogged down and stimulates on-topic discussion.

You will also want to make some arrangements for recording the minutes of the meeting. Don't try to do this yourself; you need to be able to participate fully, and listening and contributing well is a full-time job. If you don't have someone who can attend and serve as a secretary, ask permission of your Advisory Board members to tape the meeting.

Above all, don't fret about your presentation. You are there to share your vision and hopes for your company and seek advice, not to impress anyone with multimedia presentation effects. Your long-range goal is to establish a working relationship of trust with your Advisory Board members, so focus instead on ensuring that your Advisory Board members walk away feeling that they've been heard and that they've contributed to the management of your company - and looking forward to the next meeting of the Board.

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