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Corporate meeting and event teams face the opportunity of a lifetime. It may not feel that way, with last year's hotel commissions-cut announcements going into effect, but the opportunity is here.
The rise of remote and distributed teams is forcing the C-suite to find the right solutions for the future. "Borderless" offices have changed not only how companies recruit and retain talent, but also how they convert sales pipeline and build community—both inside the office and with customers. HR, marketing and sales departments are more determined than ever to build experiences that drive employee and customer engagement, as well as long-term loyalty. Those experiences have to include meaningful, in-person interactions, and with distributed teams in play, the strategy absolutely requires live events.
See where we're going here? The time is now for meeting and event teams to reinvent themselves as strategic partners that can provide M&E services across all company divisions, impacting business goals while also overseeing risk and spend. M&E teams won't get there with traditional meetings technology stacks, though. They're going to need to change their perspective on what the technology should do and even who can use it. If they can do that, they may also tap into a reservoir of new budgets and drive greater attention around their value.
Being a Strategic Partner
Prioritize User Experience: As a tech veteran, I've been surprised at how many buyers have said, "I don't care about the user experience; I just need the data." This perspective is not aligned with enterprise (or consumer) technology trends over the past decade. The reality is that great user experiences accelerate employee adoption and yield more powerful behavioral data that will help create the program of the future.
Data Portability Is Critical: For long-term success, each organization must own their data and house it in a centralized store which they control. This gives the buyer the flexibility to select "the best provider for the job" versus sticking with an existing provider. It also frees the buyer to negotiate directly with technology providers rather than expose the company to higher prices due to intermediary markups.
Support, Support, Support: Technology is great, but support is still required. Meetings and events are complex undertakings. When assessing a modern tech solution, make sure human support is available to deal with challenges that crop up in "the last mile."
Get the Metrics Right: Meetings and events metrics are not like corporate travel metrics. It's not all about savings. That's how you measure a cost center. Meetings drive revenue, engagement and shareholder value. Setting M&E against strategic metrics like compliance or "return on objective" is the way to tap a reservoir of new budgets. Cost center-type metrics are important, but they don’t tell the full story about the strategic value.
Start Small: Appropriate scoping is the best way to impact change and introduce new technology. Start with small user groups that reside in your backyard. Get things right, and then expand gradually, with adoption as the key metric. Build integrations and global plans only after the core is in great shape.
Here's what I see for meetings and event technology. Ready? Go:
Ditch the Clutter: Arguably, Google is the most highly adopted software on the planet. Its interface? A single search bar. Yet, most of today's events technology asks employees to begin their event journeys with a 10-minute-long meeting request forms. Forget it. While the events team will always require complex solutions for their needs, significant change is on the horizon in terms of who will be using the tools. In a decentralized workplace, admins and ad hoc meeting owners in HR, sales or marketing need to build events, and this requires a completely different self-service approach.
It Must Be Intelligent: Strategic meetings programs have to get easier to deploy and adopt. They will do it with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that automatically design events around business objectives and personalize packages with negotiated rates and policies, attendee preferences and local market nuances.
Analytics Ascend: The future of M&E technology should make lives easier and deliver data insights. In-person experiences can build a "social graph" of the workplace, ensuring event organizers include the right people in the right gatherings and understand the journey of the customer or employee. Return on objective or experience analytics will live easily alongside spend analytics to give the business a more comprehensive value picture.
When we embrace the value of meetings and push for a technology future that enables a consistent meetings strategy across the organization, teams finally will be recognized for the shareholder value they create.
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