In Challenging Times, Practice Strategic Meetings Management: 10 Reasons To Capture And Leverage Your Spend Now - Business Travel News

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In Challenging Times, Practice Strategic Meetings Management: 10 Reasons To Capture And Leverage Your Spend Now

July 07, 2009 - 05:08 AM ET

By NBTA Groups and Meetings Committee

The National Business Travel Association's Groups and Meetings Committee explains why, as meeting and travel expenditures face unprecedented scrutiny, a strategic meetings management program is an invaluable tool.

1. This is an opportune time for companies to get a handle on their meeting spend and use the information they gather to make immediate changes to save their companies money.

But how? If a company has no data on meetings spend, some first steps to take are: identify the internal stakeholders who may be planning meetings and discuss how to gather data; contact your national sales offices to provide reports of any programs your company held at hotels; and ask your accounting department to run a report of any hotel charges. This gives you a baseline.

2. With so many companies canceling at the last minute because of revenue shortfalls, and the resulting attrition penalties, it's more important than ever to mitigate contract risk--a benefit of SMMP.

Insisting on the use of standard contract addenda for meeting-related agreements is a proven approach for managing risk. Certain clauses can protect your company by not requiring the payment of cancellation or attrition damages if future functions are booked with similar revenue projections. Standard contract addenda should be developed collaboratively and approved by internal stakeholders (the conference/meeting department, legal, risk management, procurement, etc.) and updated annually. If your access to internal resources for addendum development is limited, seek outside legal counsel.

3. Reducing the number of hotel and travel suppliers by creating preferred partnerships can significantly cut your costs.

By reducing the number of suppliers, you will be able to give each more volume, which results in better rates. Also, with fewer suppliers, you can ensure the consistency of your meetings, contracts, etc., which will surely lead to further cost savings.

4. With meeting staffs being cut, outsourcing meeting planning can be handled the same way as outsourcing other meeting services.

It's important for decision makers to understand all of the costs associated with whatever resource model they use. For example, if you are totally insourced, then you need to know the cost of salaries, benefits, overhead, etc. Once you have this info, you can do cost comparisons to convince management outsourcing is the right thing to do (or not).

"The current economic environment is an opportune time for meetings managers to further demonstrate their value by providing virtual meeting options."

NBTA Groups and Meetings Committee

5. More companies are finding even greater purchasing power by leveraging meeting spend and corporate travel spend.

How? Identify key personnel who will serve on a management team to oversee the project; establish cost-savings goals/objectives and have performance metrics in place; ensure adequate staff resources and funds are available for the effort; pull historical spend data and project anticipated spend by geographic location for preferred suppliers; consider a request for proposal technology to streamline the process; and make sure a mandated policy exists that requires use of preferred suppliers (this must be established to effectively leverage group/meeting spend and corporate travel spend).

6. Meetings managers can still justify the investment in technology that SMMP requires, even when budgets are tight.

Show execs that by capturing the spend, you'll be able to identify the savings, which can quickly offset the cost of the technology. You also can set up a self funding model that will cover the cost by collecting commissions. Often substantial, rebates from the use of central meeting/charge cards to pay suppliers are another funding source.

7. An SMMP avoids the risk of contracts being signed by nonprofessional planners, who often don't negotiate at all, resulting in lost savings opportunities.

Occasional planners within a company don't always realize that by signing a contract they could be putting themselves and their companies at significant financial risk from huge cancellation/attrition damages, lawsuits, etc. Centralizing and standardizing key functions associated with the planning/contracting phase reduces that risk and ensures cost savings.

8. An SMMP helps not only in this hotel buyer's market but in negotiations with other suppliers (meetings and event companies, destination management companies, etc.).

Hotels are willing to drop rates lower than we have ever seen and agreeing to generous attrition and cancellation clauses, such as 100 percent rebook provisions. Other suppliers are having to sharpen their pencils, too, since there is so much competition.

9. Meetings managers can work with execs to develop policies to convert a certain percentage of live meetings to virtual.

The recent focus on how companies are tracking and managing their meetings spend can be leveraged to achieve a mandate for an SMMP and, ultimately, to include virtual meeting options. It's important, however, that policies be structured for the employee to first consider whether or not their meeting objectives can be met through virtual media.

10. Meetings managers can grow their visibility and value by sourcing virtual meetings, as well as live ones.

This is the perfect climate for meetings managers to further demonstrate their value by providing virtual meeting options.

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