More and more organizations are conducting Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) remotely. The unexpected and unprecedented spread of COVID-19 has mandated that many business meetings happen remotely. But more than that, online QBRs are more efficient, less costly and can be conducted from the comfort of your own home.
Even so, some organizations are choosing to postpone or forego QBRs entirely—which means they are missing an invaluable opportunity. Taking the time to review past projects and outcomes, address concerns and offer support while learning more about your partner’s existing needs and the value that you can provide going forward can go a long way towards strengthening key relationships.
In this article, we discuss some of the challenges of remote QBRs, how to prepare for them and tips for conducting the meeting.
What is a QBR?
A QBR is a quarterly meeting with a client in which you discuss their business and needs. While all meetings are different, QBRs typically involve a review of past and ongoing value created, as well as plans for adding value going forward. QBRs are more than simple check-ins. They require extensive thought and preparation.
This is especially true for remote QBRs. While there can certainly be less logistical tasks, like booking a conference room or ordering some food, those conducting QBRs remotely for the first time may need to step outside of their comfort zones to address some unique challenges.
Preparing for a remote QBR
Changing the way you normally do things can lead to some anxiety, and remote QBRs are no exception. Concerns over things like technical glitches and keeping participants engaged might have you worried. The key is to anticipate these issues ahead of time and to approach your presentation from a different perspective.
Prepare an agenda
To make the most of limited meeting time, prepare and send the agenda to all stakeholders ahead of time to give them plenty of time to prepare and review important materials. Circulating an agenda prior to the meeting conserves time, eliminating the “why are we here?” discussion at the beginning of the QBR.
Your agenda should touch on all the key issues that will be covered. Some common topics include:
- A review of performance results since the last QBR and a discussion of whether goals were met
- Obstacles going forward
- Problems your client experienced, how they were solved and how they will be prevented in the future
- A discussion of additional products and/or services that could add value to the client
- Setting goals for the following quarter
- Any business disruptions due to COVID-19 and proposed mitigation plans
Because the dynamics of meeting participation are very different on the phone, be sure to set important ground rules ahead of time. No multi-tasking. Cameras on. Mute when not talking. How to use the chat feature. Let each participant know what is expected of them and that you will encourage each attendee’s contribution.
Address and plan for technical issues
Plan for technological issues ahead of time. For instance, what video platform will you use to conduct the meeting? Will the solution work for all attendees, or does it depend on a specific browser, for example? Does your client have any input or preference?
Test the solution with your team in advance of the meeting. Develop a contingency plan in the event you experience problems. Be sure to send invites several weeks in advance with clear instructions for joining the meeting.
Create an impactful presentation
A major challenge of any remote presentation is maintaining audience engagement. Giving them something very polished and well-prepared to look at will help.
Keep your attendees in mind when creating your presentation. Consider their interests and why they are attending the QBR. If possible, spend more time on topics that will foster participation. Avoid topics that are likely to lead one or more participants down a rabbit hole, dragging the meeting out longer than intended.
Lastly, incorporate visual elements into your presentation like charts, graphs and animations. Without the additional visual stimulation of an in-person presenter, standard PowerPoint presentations full of text and bullet points will likely put your audience to sleep. Throw in some fun facts about your client’s business or your working relationship to keep things light.
Conducting the QBR remotely
We mentioned above the importance of developing contingency plans in the event of technical issues. This point cannot be overstated. You likely spent the better part of a month preparing for the meeting. There could be many participants attending, all of which set aside time in their busy schedules. Nothing is more discouraging than a meeting freezing or crashing. If you experience this, quickly transition to your Plan B or even C.
No matter how much you have prepared for the QBR, there is no way to anticipate the level of engagement and participation you will get from your audience. Attendees that may have been quite lively at past in-person QBRs may sit there utterly silent. Leave breaks throughout the presentation to encourage questions and interaction. If nobody is asking questions, you may be in trouble with engagement. In this case, it’s not inappropriate to name names. “Sally, do you have any questions?” “Bob, does anything jump out at you so far?”
Consider scheduling the next QBR before concluding the meeting. Doing so reinforces that you are committed to the QBR process and value the relationship and everyone’s time.
It is important to follow up with your clients after QBRs, especially your first remote one. Quickly address any concerns or questions that were raised during the meeting. Give them copies of your presentation, notes or even screenshots from the session. Ask for feedback. For instance, what did they like and/or not like about conducting the QBR remotely? How can you make the experience better? Would they prefer that future QBRs be conducted remotely?
We are facing unprecedented challenges that have fundamentally changed the ways we work. Many organizations are considering holding QBRs remotely for the first time. Others have already made the transition, realizing that conducting meetings remotely is not only safer, but can be more efficient and cost-effective. Whether you are new to the process or are interested in improving the remote QBR experience, the key is to prepare by anticipating challenges and developing presentations that engage your audience.
After all, quarterly business reviews are an indispensable part of building and maintaining effective relationships with our clients. Fortunately, modern technology affords us the opportunity to continue to hold them even in the strangest of times.