17 experts advise on what’s to come this year. Spoiler: Data factors big.
The Innovate Conference for the Advancement of Business Travel offered business travel executives the opportunity to articulate priorities and recommendations.
Earlier this year, Forbes
rated event planner as the fifth most stressful job of 2014. This ranking makes
sense if you consider how the number of tasks a meeting organizer needs to
manage has increased during the past five years. The position's
responsibilities now can include managing social media accounts, live-streaming
event content, providing mobile apps to engage attendees and updating blogs and
other multimedia content in real time.
Many small and midsize companies still rely on basic Microsoft Office
tools to manage events and their various components, according to BTN's 2014 Small & Medium Enterprise
Report. To help automate some of these processes, Vinay Iyer co-founded
Goombal, a cloud-based strategic meetings management app that provides a
platform for companies to manage their meetings programs.
"Meeting planners have to do all of the traditional planning and
management that they've had to do for centuries, and now they have to do so
much more work," Iyer said. "Most people don't have more resources
and hardly have any extra bandwidth."
Iyer in 2012 left his job as vice president of marketing at enterprise
software provider SAP to develop Goombal when he noticed that many companies still
were using Google Drive or spreadsheets for sharing documents and meetings
content, or basic project planning tools like Basecamp to manage events. "The
problem with that," Iyer said, "is none of those tools is built explicitly
for the purpose of managing events. There are a lot of things very specific to
events that need to be managed, like venues, food and beverage and speakers,"
and tools like Excel are not specifically tailored for those needs, he explained.
Goombal allows planners to customize
their event dashboards depending on each meeting's requirements, he said. "We
modulated the idea of an event, creating a technology infrastructure where
relevant categories of activities can be selected by the meeting planner, and they
can add only those modules relevant to their event, and manage them with other
people," Iyer said. For instance, if an event doesn't include meals, there
wouldn't be a section for food and beverage. Organizers also are able to
delegate responsibilities to team members within the app. "The
tool is collaborative," Iyer said. "It can be used by a committee of
people or an individual."
The app also includes an alert system and status updates. Meeting
managers can handle requests, review orders, approve documents and track
meetings expenditure within the app. "We can track the return on
investment on events, as well as the budget spend, and say, 'What was our
aggregate cost per lead?' and 'Which events were more efficient in terms of
lowering cost per lead?' " Iyer said.
Within Goombal, meeting planners can collect and aggregate all data
points at their meetings. At SAP, Iyer aggregated data by doing a "whole
lot of manual rework," he said. Now Goombal puts all the data in one place
automatically. "Companies like this tool because the finance, operations
and marketing departments love the data we're now able to give."
There is no limit to the number of events an organization can manage
within Goombal. Since the app is cloud-based, its storage
capabilities are "very elastic," Iyer said.
Iyer has observed that companies that already have an established
foundation for a strategic meetings management program tend to have an easier
time adopting the tool. "If you don't have a strategy and a team that
knows how to do something in a consistent way, it's difficult to find the right
buyer and have them sponsor the technology rollout initiative," Iyer said.
He cited San Mateo, Calif.-based tech firm Satmetrix as a current corporate
There is no set pricing for Goombal, since each customer has specific
requirements, Iyer explained. However, the company does have three separate pricing
groups. "One is for smaller teams, consisting of about five people running
25 or so events a year," Iyer said. "Generally when we go into the corporate
world, we have a medium-sized [pricing group], which is meant for about 10
users and a lot more events annually, and for individual planners, we have a
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