You know what you hope to gain from having an Advisory Board and now the first meeting looms. What contributions will your Advisory Board members make? How will they inspire you to take your business in new directions, earning more revenue? That depends on how you set the tone at your first meeting. You want to encourage your Advisory Board members to relax and contribute.
One Hot Topic: 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 stores?"
Professional Package: Once you've got the topic, put together a package with information that your Advisory Board members will need. You could include a business plan and any other documents 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.
Time Limit: Notice that each agenda item should be 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.
Take Minutes: 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.
It's All About the Food: Here's the most important part - the food! Do organize tasty snacks as people bond over food - an odd comment but one you know to be true. Don't do order in pizza or soggy sandwiches. Head over to Pusitarri's or even Loblaw's where you can purchase pre-made snack food which is delicious and fresh. Plenty of web sites like the passionate gourmet can give you ideas of unique and interesting platters of finger foods.
Keep it Simple: 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.
My upcoming book, Money Magnet, has a chapter on how to get going once you get capital from Venture Capital or private equity but you will be having many more board meetings and now is the time to get started.