"Get with the Program"

by Jennifer W. Brown CMP, SMMC
as seen in PCMA Convene Magazine, July 2011

An effective Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP) results in increased team productivity, streamlined sourcing, cost savings, risk reduction, and leveraged spend — assuming you involve stakeholders early in the process.

Betsy Bondurant,CMP,CTE,has seen this scenario many times: Planning and procurement teams do a good job of evaluating their meeting activity, processes, and spend. They are able to generate enthusiasm and gain support from management. Then it comes time to implement an SMMP, and they stumble and fall short of their goals.

Why is it that so many organizations struggle with SMMP implementation? Bondurant, who was the driving force behind the biotech giant Amgen’s successful SMMP and now serves as an industry consultant, said the problem is due to “poor communication and collaboration on the front end, and then a lack of clear processes, procedures, and communication about the new meeting- and event-planning model.” The more decentralized the meeting activity within an organization, the greater the need to bring key stakeholders into the planning process early and encourage their participation. That means that full- and part-time planners need to interact with managers in the finance, procurement, and legal departments — anyone with their hand in the meeting-planning process. “A big gap I see that can be easily avoided is comprehensive training and collaboration with employees and preferred suppliers,” Bondurant said. “Don’t wait until the last minute to inform them of pending changes and benefits. Introduce a combination of proactive communications, including face-to-face meetings, focus groups, written policy and procedure training sessions, online tutorials, FAQs, meeting portals, and helpdesk options to assure that everyone is on board and understands the mission.” Below is a list of key SMMP implementation components that must be incorporated into the master plan to ensure success.

Focus

  • Assign core SMMP implementation team
  • Announcement from senior manager with SMMP overview
  • Written SMMP company policies and procedures
  • SMMP training, online tutorials, FAQs
  • Meeting-approval process (based on meeting category, spend criteria, etc.)
  • Master meeting and event calendar
  • Sourcing and negotiations process
  • Custom hotel contracts
  • Meeting planning and on-site management
  • Preferred supplier program
  • Budgets, payments, expense reconciliation
  • Post-meeting analysis
  • SMMP technology

Benefit

  • Key leads to communicate to, assist, and support all stakeholders
  • Validation from the top provides big-picture goals and explains why SMMP is essential
  • Assure that all stakeholders understand the scope of the program, processes, and expectations in order to maximize compliance
  • Expedite learning for better SMMP outcomes
  • Quality assurance and financial accountability
  • Avoid duplication, better stakeholder communications, and crisis management
  • Maximize meeting value and cost savings
  • Risk mitigation and cost containment
  • Consistency, productivity, value-based outcomes
  • Complement in-house resources and volume buying
  • Financial management integrity
  • Measure ROI (financial) & ROE (service, goals, learner outcomes)
  • 24/7 access to meeting-management data, financial reports, and strategic decisions
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