Planner Alert!April 1, 2016

Making the Shift to Strategic Meetings Management By
April 1, 2016

Planner Alert!

Making the Shift to Strategic Meetings Management

 CIT-2016-04Apr-Column2-Terri_Woodin-860x418Woodin,Terri-MeetingSitesResource-110x140Terri Woodin, CMP, is Senior Director of Global Meeting Services at Meeting Sites Resource. MSR is a strategic meetings management solutions organization with a 23-year track record of meeting excellence. This includes global hotel sourcing and custom contract negotiations, professional meeting support services and Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) consulting. Terri contributes articles to industry trade publications and speaks at many industry events. She also serves on many industry advisory boards including MPI, PCMA, APEX  Standards Committee and the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

It is safe to say that today, there are increased expectations from senior management and stakeholders for improved meeting planner productivity, added meeting value, cost savings, contract risk mitigation and ROI. This heightened focus on value can be traced to many factors, including concerns over a turbulent global economy, increased competition and the introduction and impact of the Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) initiative. All this has fueled a new era of meeting planner scrutiny and expectations for measurable meeting value and reporting.

Why Make ‘The Shift’?

Many thought the Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) initiative was a knee-jerk reaction to the recession, but in reality, this meeting accountability and value business model is here to stay. Whether corporate and association meeting planning meeting responsibilities are enterprise-wide, within a department, division or cluster of meetings, it is essential to embrace and implement SMM components that will work for you. A carefully planned and implemented SMM can save an organization 12–20 percent annually, which is a good way to get the attention of key managers and stakeholders. There is an umbrella of benefits, including a focus on stakeholder goals and objectives, improved meeting management systems and procedures, improved team productivity, emphasis on core competencies, leveraged spend and cost savings, contract risk mitigation, attendee communications and learning, and more.

Leveraging Meeting Data

The reality is that meeting planners are sitting on mounds of important meeting information, but generally, this data is “in silos” and is time-consuming to access. A couple of years ago, an industry survey of meeting planners who had implemented Strategic Meetings Management standards, revealed that 43 percent did not feel that they were leveraging meeting spend and maximizing overall meeting value and ROI results. Don’t be overwhelmed by the process to collect and use meeting and spend data. Since you are sourcing and contracting with hotels and venues, this is the low hanging fruit. Track your RFP distribution and which specific hotels and venues that you contract with. Capture important information, such as contracted rooms (the hotel’s biggest profit center), versus actual pickups, by night, including pre and post rooms, your actual F&B revenues (second biggest profit center), audio-visual/production and miscellaneous spend (business center, spa, etc.).

“A carefully planned and implemented SMM can save an organization 12–20 percent annually, which is a good way to get the attention of key managers and stakeholders.”

Now what, you say? When you are negotiating with a hotel or venue, print a report that breaks down revenue contributions, by category, as listed above. In addition to the value generated by the RFP being evaluated, clearly, consolidated revenues to a specific hotel or chain will improve savings and value-based outcomes, often by an additional 5–15 percent. When meeting planners track and leverage total meeting spend and create value reports, they will be “armed and dangerous” when communicating with managers and stakeholders.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so conduct your own needs assessment and game plan. Additionally, it is important for planners to grow their company business knowledge. For corporate and association planners, improving business acumen is a combination of both an in-depth understanding of “how your organization works” and how meetings and events can play a role in achieving stated stakeholder goals and objectives for each meeting. A good place to start is to evaluate your organization’s annual report, website, mission and vision statement, and strategic initiatives announced by the company.

Getting Heard at the Top

Communicating meeting value to senior management is an important part of the equation. Senior managers seldom have career paths in meeting management, so it is important that they understand your role and how you will achieve stated goals and deliver ROI (some with dollar signs, some not) for these investments called meetings and events. If you do not have access to senior managers, perhaps your direct report does, and if you prepare them with good meeting value data, they can be your path to the top.

Tips for Communication With Senior Management

  • Build your business acumen/understand how your organization works/business priorities.
  • Understand management and stakeholder goals and priorities for each meeting.
  • Create transparent metrics to define and measure results.
  • Track and leverage all meeting activity, data and spend by category (individual hotel and chain).
  • Prepare meeting value reports, including cost savings/risk mitigation, by meeting.
  • Communicate SMM benefits/meeting value reports to key stakeholders.
  • Introduce SMM technology that integrates multiple meeting management functions, automates workflow and delivers 24/7 data access.

Today, it is essential for planners to know what value lens their senior managers and stakeholders are looking through. As drivers of strategic solutions, we must all focus on what is important to each stakeholder, and post meeting, report on what was requested, and specifically, what was delivered (yes, you must keep score).


There are many factors that make the shift from logistics to strategic essential for corporate and association planners. The good news is that today, business executives see meetings as essential to solve business challenges and achieve company goals, and the tools and resources are there to make this happen. So enhance your communications with stakeholders, track and leverage your meeting spend, and create metrics and value reports for each meeting. When you make “the shift,” you will see a big impact to your organization…and career!

For a complimentary copy of Terri’s “SMM Action Plan for Success,” contact C&IT

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