Con-Com-T, Inc. Conceptual Communications & Training -- Jay Gentry

Listen to Your Best Customers


Advisory Council
An advisory council is not an event… it is a process. To get the most value from your investment in an advisory council we recommend that you:

  • Survey all of the customers, sales offices, channel partners or others who are to be represented by the council members. Find out what their issues and priorities would be for the council. The survey can be written, electronic, implemented face-to-face or over the telephone by your field team, etc.
  • Provide a summary of feedback on the survey results to all who responded.
  • Build your agenda based on corporate objectives and also include high priority items from the survey.
  • Assign your council members to represent a group rather than just to come with their own views. They can represent a region, a type or size of entity, or even a specific issue… but they should be given the larger role of representation. This representation gets more of your ultimate audience involved and it reduces personal agendas.
  • Prepare your council members to represent the larger group by providing them instructions and interview questions that they use to gather the issues and opinions of the group they will represent.
  • Prepare internal people who will be presenting at the advisory council. Make sure that all content is aligned, professional, and appropriate. Don’t just assign subjects and expect to get an even level of quality or effectiveness.
Idea Exchange
Like an advisory council, an Idea Exchange is much more than the event itself. A structured process of several weeks (often months) will ensure that your investment… and the investment of attendees is worthwhile and yields the greatest return. To maximize effectiveness:

  • Survey all of the customers, sales offices, channel partners or others who are to be invited and will potentially attend. Find out what their issues and priorities are, what would they like to learn…what would they be willing to share. This process can be written, electronic, or preferably, handled by your field team.
  • Provide a summary of feedback and a preview of the Idea Exchange to all who will be invited.
  • Build you agenda and process based on priorities from the field survey… include corporate objectives and issues as well.
  • Determine formats and flow of the agenda. Our experience is that a mix of Presentations, Panel Discussions, and activities such as plant tours or demonstrations is most effective.
  • Assign roles to different attendees and assist in their preparation. Attendees, company personnel, and suppliers all need to be aligned and follow the Idea Exchange themes.
  • Prepare information packets from the Idea Exchange in advance. Include presentation materials and any relevant examples or handouts.
  • Bring in a professional facilitator to assure that the interactions are kept on track, discussion objectives are met, and the pace is controlled.


Follow up immediately with a report that can be used illustrate the value of the event and improve attendance for the next time.
Strategic Partner Forum
Similar to an Idea Exchange but directed at selected customers or channel partners rather than everyone. The primary objective is to provide your key strategic partners with the opportunity to learn from each other. You orchestrate the process and learn by listening and observing the interactions.
  • Interview invitees or attendees. This process can begin by sending out a list of questions to the partners but we recommend that the information be gathered by interview. CCT can conduct these interviews or prepare internal people for the process. You are listening for areas of interest for discussion and their relative priorities. You are also looking for potential presenters or panelists who have valuable information to share with the group and/or your company.
  • Build your agenda and process based on what you learn from the interviews. Include corporate priorities such as a preview of new product plans, where appropriate.
  • Provide a preview agenda based on your information gathering to all who will be invited.
  • Assign roles to different attendees and assist in their preparation. Attendees, company personnel, and any other presenters all need to be prepared to address the priority issues rather than their own agendas.
Every solution created from the ground up...
...designed to performance based objectives...
...and the realities of time and budget