Where Meetings Management Strategy and Interior Design Overlap

Room

A well-known phenomenon in Meetings Management is mistaking the implementation of a meetings technology system, or the contracting of sourcing and planning services to a third-party planning company, for a strategic approach to meetings management. And why is a strategic approach to managing meetings so important? What’s wrong with a tactical approach, with a little sourcing here – a little technology there? Well really there is nothing wrong with a tactical approach, as long as your goals are tactical, e.g. “Reduce the hotel-related costs of this particular meeting by 10%.” But if your goals are larger and apply to the organization as a whole, e.g. “Rationalize the organization’s meetings-related spend by as much as possible, while ensuring that meeting owners and attendees are compliant with all regulatory requirements, and the quality of events does not decline from our current high standards,” then you need a strategic approach.

Put another way, a strategic approach is the overarching plan to accomplish a specific set of goals, while tactics are the tools used to accomplish the strategy. In our example above, meetings technology and outsourcing contracting and planning services are enablers, but they are not contributing to the overall execution of a strategy because they are only two components of a meetings management program, and they are not necessarily working together to achieve a cohesive set of goals.

The best analogy I can think of is trying to decorate your family room. You’ve always loved the ultra-modern Barcelona chair, and you are going to have one now that you can afford it. And your significant other has had their eye on a beautiful but frilly Rococo coffee table at the local antique shop for years. Put these two quality pieces together and you have an unsuccessful mashup. Imagine a whole room like this; Tiffany lamps, a Colonial style sideboard, and a Chippendale loveseat. Each a beautiful piece in its own right, but not all in the same room.

Missing is a cohesive vision for the room, and that vision is derived from how you intend to use the room and your aesthetic preferences. Pulling it all together into an eye-pleasing and useful whole requires a strategy, and so does creating a strong Meetings program. In the case of your family room you need an interior designer, and in the case of your Meetings program you need a Meetings strategist.

The follow sections will discuss the thirteen areas of a meetings program, and how these components work together to create a strategic whole.

 

Program Goals

The program goals answer the question of why a Meetings program is being implemented, such as savings, compliance, or attendee engagement. Each program should have clear goals set by executive leadership. Most often these goals focus on two or three clear and concise items that the meetings program is meant to accomplish.

In 2008, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) came together to agree upon an industry definition of strategic meetings management, which they defined as:

A disciplined approach to managing enterprise wide meeting and event activities, processes, suppliers and data in order to achieve measurable business objectives that align with the organization’s strategic goals/vision, and which delivers value in the form of quantitative savings, risk mitigation, and service quality.

From this definition we see that the three primary reasons to implement a strategic meetings management program are:

  1. Spend Control – to put controls in place to either reduce costs, manage demand, or more efficiently apply available budgetary resources
  2. Risk Mitigation – to comply with regulatory requirements and mitigate the risks associated with the safety and security of meeting attendees, and the protection of an organization’s intellectual property
  3. Delivery of High Quality Events to Drive Attendee Engagement – to deliver high quality events to internal and external customers in order to enhance brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and increase profitability

 

Scope

The scope of a program determines the locales and prioritization of locales where the Meetings program will be implemented. Scope is divided into the regions and specific countries to be included in the program, the order in which they should be implemented, and the event types to be managed as part of the program.

 

Geographical Approach

Meetings programs can be designed and built as global, regional, or local solutions, and the design is highly dependent on the goals of the program and the profile of the organization implementing the Meetings program.

  • Global programs are the most difficult and time-consuming to design and implement, as they require (1) considerable forethought across a number of dimensions to avoid rework/re-launches as new countries are on-boarded, and (2) considerable change management and the creation of buy-in across all countries to avoid their opting out of the program in the future.
  • Regional programs engender many of the same difficulties, plus a few of their own, including (1) difficulties in consolidating collected data resulting from variations in the way the meetings technology system is configured, and (2) the fact that different sourcing and planning suppliers are typically used, leading to inconsistencies in process.
  • Local programs vary from country-to-country across the many dimensions of a Meetings program, and are not recommended for global organizations.

 

Ultimately the decision of which countries to include depends on the organization’s locales. Global companies should consider a global approach to the Meetings program, and regional companies, a regional approach, and so on. For global companies a regional approach would cause data gathering difficulties and therefore missed negotiation opportunities, as well as inconsistent sourcing and planning processes and procedures, which could lead to regulatory compliance and duty-of-care concerns. Global companies should have global policies, processes and procedures, and technology platform, which will facilitate the collection of comprehensive and insightful data, and ensure standardized and consistent service delivery.

 

Countries for Inclusion

Most global organizations follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to meeting spend, meaning that 20% of the countries where they conduct business account for 80% of their meeting spend. Fortunately, the countries that are easiest to implement are often the ones with the highest meeting spend (the one exception might be China). This leaves organizations with a decision to make regarding whether all countries should actually be implemented, but it also informs the implementation roll out plan.

One other factor that should be considered when deciding which countries to include in the Meetings program is the potential risk a particular country poses from a regulatory compliance perspective. Countries that have been previously identified as high risk by an organization’s internal audit division, or countries with a history of corruption[1], should be included in the Meetings program, and prioritized for implementation.

To determine which countries to implement and in which order, organizations should identify the countries responsible for 80% of their meeting spend. These countries should then be sorted by their corruption perceptions index, to determine the order in which to implement them. One or two “easy win” countries could be implemented first, such as the US, Canada, or the UK, to provide successful “proofs of concept” for the subsequent countries.

 

Meeting and Event Types

Each industrial sector has its unique list of meeting types, and for purposes of illustration, we will use the example of the Medical Device and Pharmaceutical sectors, which commonly have seven broad categories of meetings and events, including:

  • Internal Meetings
  • External Meetings
  • Rep. Facilitated Meetings
  • International Congresses
  • National Congresses
  • Ancillary Meetings Associated with a Congress
  • Incentives

 

In order to drive the most savings and ensure the greatest regulatory compliance, these organizations should include all meeting types listed above in the Meetings program, while recognizing that certain meeting types might need to be outsourced to a different supplier that specializes in those event types.

 

Service Configuration

The service configuration of a meetings program speaks to whether the program will be sourcing only, or will include planning, and whether it will be insourced or outsourced, or a combination of the two.

One key decision organizations face is whether to implement a sourcing and planning program, or a sourcing only program. The goals of the Meetings program inform this choice, as typically 90%-95% of all savings are generated during the sourcing process, and the majority of decisions that could have risk management implications are also addressed during the sourcing process. Following are a few service configuration options:

Sourcing Only – As indicated, a sourcing-only program addresses most of the goals of a Meetings program, generating the majority of savings and addressing risk management issues such as venue appropriateness, and daily spend limits.

Sourcing + Planning – Another option is to implement a sourcing and planning program, selecting one or two suppliers that are able to provide both services. One cautionary note for this option is to confirm with candidate meetings management companies whether they will provide sourcing resources that have received specialized training in venue sourcing, as it has been demonstrated that the skill sets and training required to be a true sourcing professional are different than those of a meeting planner. Trained sourcing professionals are frequently able to achieve higher savings rates than meeting planners, with one supplier indicating that the difference was as much as 10% off the first-pass rate.

Sourcing + Planning by a Few Select Agencies – The third option is probably the most common in the industry, and consists of a dedicated sourcing solution from one global provider, plus a few vetted planning companies in each region or country. These planning companies should be required to comply with the requirements of the Meetings program, including use of the organization’s meetings technology system, and following all standardized processes and procedures as provided in the organization’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). This service configuration requires agency due diligence (and possibly an RFP) in each country, but has the advantage of reducing resistance to change, as it allows stakeholders to continue working with some of their current suppliers. On the other hand, it can also generate its own resistance to change from the agencies that are required to change their processes and use the organization’s centralized meetings technology platform.

 

Number of Suppliers

Similar to determining whether a global or regional approach is preferred, the choice in number of suppliers comes down to the difficulties associated with the use of the meetings technology system when multiple suppliers are involved, and the potential inconsistencies resulting from having multiple suppliers engaged in the sourcing and planning processes.

A single supplier provides the following benefits:

  1. Globally consolidated data
  2. Standardized operating procedures, resulting in consistent service and improved adherence to policy, processes and procedures
  3. Increased negotiation leverage with preferred suppliers
  4. Ensuring compliance with country-specific regulations, interactions, and transparency reporting

Each of the global meetings management companies face challenges when it comes to delivering on a global basis. Since their offices emerged independently, and in response to customer demand, they all have issues in ensuring global consistency in process, pricing and use of technology. These challenges can be overcome through the use of Statements of Work and Service Level Agreements between the meetings management company’s head office and local affiliates, and during the agency selection process this issue should be explored in-depth with the agencies.

The benefits of consolidated data, consistent SOPs, greater leverage with preferred suppliers, and regulatory compliance, outweigh the difficulties inherent in the performance of suppliers, and the recommendation is to select a single supplier if possible. However, if the selection process reveals that not one supplier can be found that can reliably deliver on the Meetings requirements on a consistent basis, then consider implementing no more than two regional agencies, using a model that puts one of the agencies in the position of strategic lead. The strategic lead agency would then be responsible for working directly with the organization to define and determine how to best implement strategy, as well as overseeing process standardization and operationalization. The other agency would be responsible for operations in their regions, but not for setting strategic direction.

 

Level of Customization by Country or Business Unit

In order to achieve the goals for the Meetings program, it is essential that the Meetings program be implemented as similarly as possible in all countries, allowing exceptions for true business or regulatory requirements only.

Key elements of the program that support policy and data collection and consolidation must be standardized regardless of country, including:

  1. SOPs
  2. Workflow of the meetings technology
  3. Data collection formats
  4. Adherence to far-reaching regulatory requirements, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the UK Bribery Act, and industry-specific regulations
  5. Payment processes and platform

Customization can be allowed in language, currency, and local reporting requirements, but do not allow customizations to sourcing and planning SOPs or data collection processes and formats. Allowing such customizations will make data consolidation untenable, thereby undermining the ability to evaluate historic spend, savings, or supplier data, or forecast outcomes of future initiatives. Customizations will also undercut the meeting management company’s ability to deliver consistent service, and make it more difficult for your organization to comply with regulatory requirements.

 

Agency Selection

As noted above, agency selection should be limited to one or, at the most, two providers. The selected agency (ies) should be able to:

  1. Provide a quality experience for the personnel engaging their services
  2. Ensure that policy is followed by implementing consistent sourcing and planning processes in support of the policy
  3. Ensure that your meetings technology system is used for all meetings, and that all data entry is accurate
  4. Provide a governance structure to ensure delivery of consistent service on a regional, or ideally, global basis, in adherence to your Meetings program design, including standardized processes and procedures, and the use of your meetings technology system
  5. Offer sourcing and planning services
  6. Work well with other meetings management companies when required
  7. Provide group air support, or partner with your agency of record
  8. Offer a compelling financial deal, including appropriate concessions, savings guarantees, technology offering, and incentives

 

Resources

The success or failure of a Meetings programs can often be traced to the resource commitment organizations are willing to make to oversee and implement the program. Following is a list of resources needed to oversee the program, which is typically mirrored by the meetings management company. The country level resources are responsible for:

  • Working with local customers to ensure their voices are heard
  • Gathering unique business and regulatory requirements
  • Identifying and mitigating resistance to change
  • Interfacing with Legal and Compliance departments to ensure compliance to local laws and regulations
  • Interfacing with the agency during implementation

 

Under-resourcing can lead to slow implementations, as well as allowing resistance to change to fester, and derail the program if a resource is not on the ground and able to identify and mitigate a groundswell of resistance. As the program matures the resource commitment can be reduced.

 

Governance

In addition to the resources that your organization should stack against the meetings initiative, the strategic lead agency should provide an account management team to ensure the success of your strategy. This team provides the governance structure to oversee the program and ensures that all components work in concert to achieve your goals. They are also responsible for overseeing the interactions of clients with the selected agency’s resources, as well as interactions with diversity suppliers, and other third party suppliers. The agency account management team should be staffed by consultative subject matter experts that oversee governance, performance management, and cost and process improvements and efficiencies, and should be comprised of one full-time executive-level global leader, and full- or part-time regional account managers. The strategic lead agency should also provide a data analyst to support the account. This resource will be responsible for providing the data and insight needed to manage the Meetings program and ensure compliance reporting.

Your organization should also establish a global governance committee with representatives from key stakeholder groups, such as Administrative Services, Procurement, meeting planners, and key regional business, procurement, and finance organizations to serve as the primary decision-making authority regarding the Meetings program, and oversee governance of the program in partnership with the selected agency.

 

Policy, Mandate and Compliance

Policy

A comprehensive meetings policy is one of the core components of a Meetings program and constitutes the rules by which organization meeting owners and planners should:

  1. Engage with suppliers
  2. Ensure the safety and security of meeting attendees
  3. Protect the company from financial loss or reputational damage
  4. Comply with governmental regulations

Consider having your organization’s policy benchmarked against a best-in-class policy, which covers over 65 areas of policy.

 

Mandate

With the emergence of new regulations in recent years, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the UK Bribery Act of 2010, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2007, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act that went into effect August 2013, and increased prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the primary rationales for implementing a comprehensive meetings management program have now shifted to risk mitigation and duty-of-care responsibilities. With the stakes being so high, a mandate can help prevent:

  • Significant injuries or fatalities to employees or third parties, such as customers or vendors
  • Game-changing losses of market share
  • Long-term negative media coverage
  • Financial loss of millions
  • Significant prosecutions and fines, litigation, including class actions, and incarceration of leadership

 

Compliance Management

Policy and a mandate are insufficient to prevent the negative consequences delineated above, and compliance management is also an essential function. By implementing a compliance management program your organization can be certain that the mandate and policy rules are being followed. If the Meetings program is designed in such a way so as to funnel all demand through a meetings management company (or two), the agency will ensure that policies, the use of preferred suppliers, and negotiated deals, will be used by meeting owners. A simple audit can then be conducted to determine if meetings are being booked outside of the Meetings program.

Developing a meetings policy is a crucial first step in building a Meetings program. As part of the sourcing process suppliers must be provided with escalation procedures to use in the event a meeting owner refuses to comply with your organization’s policy. If a mandate has been granted, it will be important to develop and implement a compliance management program that can review PO and Meeting and Corporate Card data to identify meetings that are not going to the sourcing supplier. The team auditing these data sources can then send “educational” communications to those with exceptions, informing them of the need to comply with the mandate, and explaining why it is so important. A similar program at a major pharmaceutical company yielded a 300% growth in managed meetings within one month.

 

Risk Management

Regulatory compliance and duty-of-care concerns are two primary reasons to implement a Meetings program, and the Meetings program can help mitigate risks that expose your organization to safety and security violations, fiduciary and legal breaches, and brand damage.

 

Regulatory Compliance

As noted above, companies today face a bevy of regulations that should impact the behavior of their employees when sourcing, planning, and executing meetings. Your Meetings organization should work closely with internal resources responsible for regulatory compliance to determine if the meetings technology system can be used for regulatory reporting. The compliance resource should also be involved in the development of the meetings policy, which should address regulatory requirements in a comprehensive manner. If your organization does not currently have a regulatory compliance management program in place for meetings, one should be developed as soon as possible and incorporated into the meetings policy.

 

Duty-of-Care

There are two main areas in meetings and events in which duty-of-care lapses can impact your company, and they are (1) safety and security and (2) brand exposure; both of which can lead to serious financial and legal impacts. Solutions should be built to address each of these areas, including the following:

Safety/Security:

  1. Develop processes to find, contact and evacuate meeting attendees in emergencies, and ensure the pass through of contact information and location of attendee data to your security services provider
  2. Develop policies regarding driving after late night arrivals
  3. Develop policies regarding alcohol consumption at company events
  4. Contract with a security services company to distribute pre-trip health and security advisory information
  5. Include fire system and room safe requirements in venue RFPs and hotel addenda

 

Brand Exposure:

  1. Develop a policy on meeting optics and acceptable venues
  2. Develop a policy on venue sharing with competitors
  3. Develop a data protection policy for travelers
  4. Develop a policy on acceptable event activities
  5. Develop a policy on spend per diems and acceptable gifts

 

Meetings Technology

As noted elsewhere, data is key to achieving the goals of a Meetings program, whether it is driving savings or risk mitigation. Without spend, savings, and supplier data, an organization will have no visibility into its own program, and will not be able to plan future savings, demand management, and supplier initiatives, or forecast potential outcomes. The meetings technology platform also enforces policy and compliance management by ensuring that users adhere to a certain workflow, which is a manifestation of the organization’s meetings policy. It is the technology that collects critical data and ensures that meeting owners are adhering to the organization’s Meetings strategy. The following sections discuss the modules, configurations, and resources required, as well as the importance of data quality assurance.

 

Modules

There are five key modules of a meetings technology system needed to implement a Meetings program, including:

  1. Planning – event registration and central calendar
  2. Sourcing – eRFP and supplier data
  3. Budgeting – budgeted, negotiated, and actual amounts
  4. Attendee Management – invitations, websites, and attendee information
  5. Reporting – on spend, savings, suppliers, and attendees

 

Configuration

Configuration of the meetings technology system is an important factor in the success of the program. The two primary reasons for acquiring and implementing a meetings technology system are to implement a workflow that supports the meetings policy, and to collect useful data. Standardization of workflow and data collection cannot vary by countries, so the meetings technology should not vary from country-to-country, or region-to-region.

Implementing a single instance of the meetings technology that can accommodate any unique business or regulatory requirements of the countries to be included in the program is essential. Only allow customizations to data collection that will not undermine the uniform consolidation of spend, savings, supplier and attendee data. Investigate with the technology providers whether their solution is capable of this requirement using a single instance, or whether they require regional instances, which could significantly impact pricing.

 

Resources

A number of insourced or outsourced resources are required to support the meetings technology system, including:

  • Global System Administrator – responsible for configuration of, and changes to, the system, configuration documentation, training documentation, and level one support of the system
  • Regional Trainers – responsible for the training of users on the various modules of the system. Users include internal meeting planners and non-planners, outsourced sourcing and planning staff, and diversity suppliers
  • Web Builders – responsible for building invitation websites for meetings requiring meeting attendee management

Work with your selected agency (ies) to determine which roles will be insourced, and which outsourced.

 

Data Quality Assurance

Your meetings technology system will inform at least nine different critical areas of the Meetings program, including:

  1. Operations reporting
  2. Financial reporting
  3. Executive reporting
  4. Supplier program reporting
  5. Security reporting and data feed
  6. Regulatory reporting
  7. Ground transport reporting
  8. Group air reporting
  9. Arrival & departure reporting

Data entry into meetings software is handled through imports from Excel, data feeds from other systems (e.g., HR) and manual entry by any of the following user types:

Meeting planners Meeting owners
Sourcing specialists Meeting attendees
Group air agents Corporate Travel and Meeting Directors
Operation managers/directors Technology system administrators
Invitation website designers Financial analysts

 

This represents numerous ways to enter inaccurate data into the system. Users can make errors of commission, but also of omission, and any one of the ten user types can upload a file, manually type information into the meeting profile, budget module, or RFP section, resulting in numerous mistakes in fields such as event dates, number of attendees, attendee names, contracted rates per attendee, and venue location. Users can also forget to enter data in these fields, leading to other kinds of inaccuracies. Mistakes in any of the five fields mentioned above will have ramifications for all nine report types delineated above, but perhaps most importantly you could:

  • Have serious problems locating travelers en-route and onsite during emergencies, making evacuations more difficult
  • Have ground transportation show up on the wrong day, leading to stranded attendees
  • Have arrivals and departures at the hotel set for the wrong days, causing undue hardship on attendees and speakers
  • Misreport amounts spent on attendees such as government officials or healthcare professionals, causing regulatory problems
  • Misreport Meetings program costs to the CFO, leading to unwarranted budget cuts or expansions

 

Consider the following two strategies to prevent data inaccuracies:

  1. In the meetings system cut down on data errors by using (1) drop down menus to populate fields with variable spellings, such as venue name, chain, city, country, etc. (2) mandatory fields to force users to provide all critical information prior to submitting the form, and (3) “Tab Next” to force users through the workflow of the form.
  2. Implement a fully automated middleware system to review every record for the various types of errors. This type of solution uses a rules engine to test every record against a pre-agreed upon set of exception rules. These rules look for the exceptions described above, but additionally they can determine whether actions were taken or not, and whether on time. For example, one exception might be whether a sourcing specialist turned over an event to a meeting planner, and if not, the middleware can generate a warning to do so. This way a meeting never falls between the cracks. This type of system can also generate periodic email exception report summaries that help educate users so they do not repeat their mistakes.

 

Sourcing and Planning Processes and Procedures

The sourcing and planning processes and procedures that your organization implements should reflect your meetings policy, and should be manifested in the configuration of your meetings technology system. In other words, once a meeting owner has engaged with the meetings technology system, the system should keep them within policy, because the process of sourcing or booking a meeting according to policy is encoded in the workflow of the system. Work with the selected agency and meetings technology system provider to configure the system so that the workflow supports the processes and procedures needed to comply with policy.

 

Commissions

Commissions are a channel marketing fee that hotels offer to meeting management companies when the agency places volume at their hotel. These fees are only available to agencies, and are seen by the hotels as just compensation for the use of the agency’s sales channel, as this reduces the hotel’s cost of resources to sell and process the transaction. As such, the use of commissionable rates does not drive up the cost of sleeping rooms, as the hotel draws the commission from marketing funds provided at the chain level, which do not impact a property’s individual profitability. Since the commissions are paid in cash, they are typically recognized as a hard dollar savings.

If your organization decides to use commissionable rates you should decide whether commissions are paid centrally, or whether they are returned to the home division and country where they were earned, and in that division’s currency. The latter could raise serious issues for agencies, as they might not have a global financial system capable of managing commission collection and disbursement. Industry commission collection success rates range from 75%-95%, depending on the resource level the agency is willing to commit to collections and disbursements.

Consider having your sourcing supplier request commissionable rates, and create a KPI that measures the agency’s success in collecting commissions due. The general rule for commissions is that they go to the organization that paid for the sourcing services. Keep the commissions centrally, if paying centrally, but return them to the division if the division paid the sourcing fees.

 

Payment and Reconciliation

There are two areas in which your organization must make decisions regarding payment, and they are for sourcing and planning services, and for venues. In order to maximize card rebate opportunities, you should consider moving all payments to a meeting card platform. Under no circumstances should your organization agree to pay merchant fees to any supplier, whether for sourcing and planning services, or for venues. Reconciliation of meeting expenses is also another area of consideration, and setting clear expectations with your selected agency supplier will be critical.

 

Sourcing and Planning Services

The primary question vis-à-vis the payment of sourcing and planning fees is whether they will be paid centrally (at corporate or divisional level), or whether each meeting owner will be responsible for their own fees. Since the fees for sourcing services are not always visible to meeting owners in the current state, having meeting owners pay their own sourcing fees in the new program might engender resistance to the adoption of the program as meeting owners perceive that new costs have been added.

The choice has an impact on the pricing proposal that you request from suppliers, with per person, or per event, transaction fees working best when divisions are expected to cover the costs of their own sourcing and planning services, and management fee models working best when costs will be covered centrally. The advantage of paying centrally is that it truly does eliminate resistance to the new Meetings program. Central pay is a key factor in highly successful implementations.

If your organization chooses to have sourcing and planning fees paid at the meeting owner level, the fees should be paid on a meeting card at the time the sourcing process is closed and handed-off to the meeting planner.

 

Paying for Venues

Your organization’s meeting card platform should also be used to pay for all venue expenses. If your company has a good credit rating you should not be required to pay venue deposits, but when this happens, a process should be put in place to allow the sourcing professional to use the meeting owner’s card, together with a Credit Card Authorization Form signed by the cardholder, authorizing the sourcing professional to use the card. You should require that outsourced meetings management companies always pay for venues using your organization’s payment vehicle, in order for your organization to realize the full credit for the booking.

 

Event Reconciliation

To facilitate reconciliation of the event, a separate meeting card should be generated for each meeting. This requires the institutionalization of a process to request and disburse cards in an expedited manner, especially for meetings with a short lead time. You must also decide whether to have the internal meeting planner/owner reconcile the final venue invoice and meeting card statement, or engage the meetings management company do so at an additional cost.

 

Change Management

Resistance to Change

Nobody wants to be told what to do, whether it is HQ telling the divisions, or the United States telling another country. And because of the high stakes associated with a Meetings program, there is a lot of telling. The reasons for resistance are very straightforward. Sourcing and meeting planning is already happening in every place in the world where you will be implementing your new Meetings program. Those processes and procedures were built organically over time as your meeting stakeholders and their existing suppliers hammered out the details to arrive at a way of doing things that is mutually agreeable to both parties. After all that work, nobody wants to discard their effort for a “new and improved, one size fits all,” and, “untried” approach. From the customer’s perspective it is a question of, “Why mess with success?” From the incumbent supplier’s perspective, “Why make me change the way I do things?” Or even worse, “Why take away my business?” There are ways to lower the resistance, and they are listed below:

  • Always think about it from your internal customer’s perspective
  • Executive level support is critical as a prerequisite to the success of the program
  • Executive leadership should identify and clearly communicate the rationale for the program, along with the key objectives
  • Key objectives should include high quality service, duty-of-care, compliance to regulation, and spend control
  • The program owner(s) should solicit design input from global partners early in the process to ensure buy-in later
  • The core program should include the invariable aspects of the program that support the key objectives, such as policy, sourcing processes, and technology configuration
  • The program owner(s) must pre-sell the program to every stakeholder level that can block its successful implementation, and gain their buy-in. This is true even for mandated programs
  • Every benefit of the program must be framed in terms that resonate with the business needs of the stakeholders
  • Allow and encourage flexibility in noncore elements of the program, such as event planning

 

Taken together these thirteen areas of strategy define the functioning of the Meetings program, and create a comprehensive and cohesive whole where each element of the program supports the other elements to delivery on the primary goals of the program.

 

Please let me and your fellow readers know your thoughts on this topic. Are there any areas of strategy not addressed here that you would like to see me address in future articles? Do you have any feedback on the areas I did address? I welcome your feedback and you can add your thoughts in the comments box directly below.

 

If you are a travel or meetings director or manager needing assistance with the assessment, design, or implementation of your meeting program, please contact me at 609.466.0100 or email me at shimon@smmconsulting.com. I will be happy to discuss your program with you.

 

Also, if you would like to read more of these articles in the future, please submit the registration form in the upper right hand column to receive notices about my new articles by email.

 

Thanks for joining me!

 

[1] See Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index at http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/