Dealing With Meeting DisruptionsAugust 1, 2017

August 1, 2017

Dealing With Meeting Disruptions

IRF Education Invitational panel (left to right) Todd Zint, Michael Greto, Annmarie Molinelli, Koleen Roach and Sam Shelton. Credit Digital Blue Photography

IRF Education Invitational panel (left to right) Todd Zint, Michael Greto, Annmarie Molinelli, Koleen Roach and Sam Shelton. Credit Digital Blue Photography

Zint,Todd-MutualofOmaha-110x140Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, has two decades of experience aligning meeting logistics with event goals and objectives, maximizing return on value. He currently serves as Director of Corporate Travel, Meetings and Events at Mutual of Omaha and is an active member in the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners association, serving as its chairman in 2011, and a trustee with the Incentive Research Foundation.

As the hospitality community and event organizers continue to navigate the ever-changing global landscape of unpredictable disruptors, there has been an amazing display of resiliency and camaraderie among peer groups as they share best practices, successes and lessons learned.

I recently had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the Incentive Research Foundation Education Invitational, which featured the following seasoned event organizers across industry verticals:

  • Michael Greto, director, global event marketing for Ciena Corporation.
  • Annmarie Molinelli, vice president, sales strategy and planning, M&T Securities Inc.
  • Koleen Roach, director, meetings and conference management, Securian Financial Group.
  • Sam Shelton, marketing manager, KCMA Corporation.

In talking to this experienced panel, two general categories of disruptors emerged that apply to event organizers and the hospitality community as a whole.

Category #1: External Disruptors

The most common disruptors occur in external environment scenarios. A wide range of disruptors fall within this category, including extreme weather conditions, air carrier delays, legislative decisions, cyber challenges, travel warnings, virus outbreaks, protests and terrorism.

These disruptors have caused the industry to recognize the importance of developing comprehensive contingency plans that include contract liability reviews and duty of care for attendees. It’s equally important to work with hotel and vendor partners who are committed to managing challenges as they arise and determining mutually agreed upon solutions.

Category #2: Internal Disruptors

The second category of disruptors has presented the meeting and events industry with some new challenges. These internal disruptors can include change management scenarios, legislative decisions impacting event design and procurement engagement. Let’s take each of these one by one.

Change management is one of the most common internal disruptors occurring in the industry today. Top executives at corporate organizations are retiring and being replaced with new visionaries. These new leaders are increasingly engaging in customer and employee-centric initiatives and streamlining organizational efficiencies. Maintaining strong relationships with key executives is important for event organizers as they maneuver through new management ideologies. But it’s equally important for these organizers to develop a strong strategic meeting management program delivering transparency throughout the entire event-planning cycle.

The supplier industry also is experiencing a paradigm shift when it comes to change management. Take the recent merger of Marriott and Starwood as an example. This new organization continues to be a disruptor as it communicates brand positioning and integrates its legacy infrastructures. Another example is the increase in destination management company (DMC) acquisitions and DMC consortiums in an effort to gain market share.

Here are two actions you can take to effectively prepare for change management scenarios:

  • Become involved with meeting associations that align with your event organization and deliver relevant education, research, networking and sharing of change management within your organization. Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Financial & Insurance Conference Planners (FICP), the International Meeting Exchange (IMEX) and the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) are all excellent associations providing online research, communities and live events to cultivate learning.
  • Research and review articles, white papers, blogs and best-practice documents around Strategic Meetings Management Programs (SMMP). There are several sample documents online that provide a roadmap to begin a program including cloud-based solutions.

The current legislative environment is another common internal disruptor with new regulations impacting several vertical markets. Corporate organizations have created taskforce teams to interpret new rules and regulations and determine future changes related to event design at the strategic level. In the financial and insurance vertical, the Department of Labor rulings related to contests and incentives continue to be at the forefront of reshaping future solutions that comply with regulations.

What can you do to navigate this legislative environment?

  • Identify the taskforce team within your company — commonly found in the sales group directly impacted by key legislative decisions — and request to be included in key findings and status updates. Although decisions are happening at the highest level, having a better understanding of rules and regulations will position you as a strategic partner rather than a logistics implementer.

Event organizers are experiencing a third internal disruptor from procurement initiatives as organizations seek to streamline efficiencies, manage expenses and maximize supplier relationships and preferred agreements. Over the past decade, there has been a paradigm shift as procurement teams consider the historical relationship value of suppliers rather than solely their pricing. The hospitality industry is in the business of selling exceptional event experiences, not widgets, and event planners and procurement teams must continue to evolve evaluation criteria to comply with their organizational procurement guidelines.

Here are some suggested actions to help navigate the current procurement environment:

  • Develop standard preferred agreements satisfying your organization’s vendor management policies. It is important to have a relationship with your legal and procurement teams including open communication about new contracting trends and vendor evaluation tools industry peers are using.
  • Research and review articles, white papers, blogs and best-practice documents related to contracting and procurement issues.

There are major disruptors impacting the industry every day, and it’s understood why the event organizer role continues to be included in the Forbes “Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs” in America list. Although the designation is likely to remain for years to come, the industry has elevated the profession by managing these disruptors through peer sharing, educational events, strong organizer-supplier relationships, compassion for unforeseen challenges and instituting all-encompassing strategic meetings management programs. I&FMM

Back To Top