Meetings Canada


Beyond the Basics

Taking your strategic meetings management program to the next level.

By Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CMP


Meetings and events continue to be one of the last areas of unmanaged spend in most corporations. This is an area of concern, because meeting and event spend can be as much as 25 per cent to 30 per cent of total travel and entertainment (T&E) spend; 6 per cent of corporate air volume; or 2 per cent to 3 per cent of company revenues (which vary from industry to industry). In fact, for companies in the pharmaceutical, technology and finance industries, this percentage can be as high as 4 per cent of revenues. Alternatively, firms with extremely high revenues may spend less than 0.5 per cent of their revenue on meetings and events. In any case, this is a considerable amount to leave unmanaged.

The good news is that when this category of spend is managed via a strategic meetings management program (SMMP), savings in the range of 10 per cent to 25 per cent are achieved in the first year of implementation!

Strategic meetings management is defined as a disciplined approach to managing enterprise-wide meeting and event activities, processes, suppliers and data in order to achieve measurable business objectives that align with organizations’ strategic goals/vision, and deliver value in the form of quantitative savings, risk mitigation and service quality. This definition was developed a couple of years ago in collaboration with Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Additionally, several years ago, the GBTA groups and meetings committee created a helpful graphic that depicts the various components of best-in-class strategic meetings management programs, as illustrated on the SMM “wheel” at right.

There are many companies that have deployed many or all of the SMM components identified in the “wheel.” It is key to note that most organizations that undertake the implementation of an SMMP do not attempt to implement everything at the same time. They typically develop a phased approach, usually starting with the centralized sourcing and contracting process, which bring us to the topic of procurement.

A major implication of SMM is the influence of procurement departments in the buying process for meetings and events. Pre-SMM programs, the buying process was simply between the meeting manager and the hotelier, with occasional input from the legal department. Now, there is quite often a centralized process for the development of an online request for proposal that funnels through the procurement department for approval.

Once approved, the sourcing can be done through a variety of ways: the procurement department, meeting planning department, or via an outsourced supplier. Initially, some meeting managers did not appreciate the support of procurement professionals; however, as the years have progressed, most feel that procurement brings a lot of positive attributes to the SMM process. In fact, the processes that are the focus of this article—stakeholder management, communication planning and change management—are key tenants of procurement organizations.

Many of those companies with an SMM program in place are working on advancing the scope and acceptance of their program by focusing their attention on stakeholder management, communication planning and change management. Employing these three essential elements consistently helps meeting managers achieve expansion with their SMM programs.

Let’s begin by examining why stakeholder management is so important. Through engaging in a process of identifying and mapping key decision makers and influencers who are affected by meetings and events, SMM champions are able to engage these stakeholders positively.

Additionally, by proactively reaching out to them, there is much more clarity in understanding the individual needs of each of the stakeholders. Through this understanding, you are able to modify the SMM to address their needs more effectively. Stakeholders can come from a variety of areas within your organization, so be sure to do a comprehensive environmental scan when conducting the stakeholder mapping process. For example, in addition to including key internal customers, the legal department and finance, you would also want to include the travel department, IT and key “occasional” planners, such as personal assistants/administrative coordinators who plan a high volume of meetings in your stakeholder map.

Once you have identified both core and extended stakeholders, you will want to establish an effective communication strategy to engage, nurture and manage these relationships. It is not as complex as it sounds!

Essentially, you will need to identify who you are communicating to and determine the objectives of the communication, because these variables will make a difference in the key messaging of what you are communicating. For example, you might be sharing project targets and objects, changes to process, achievements, good and bad news, status reports and milestones. Additionally, you will need to establish frequency of the communications, as some messages may be scheduled to go out on a monthly basis, others quarterly, and some will be ad hoc communiques based on evolving business needs. The method of your communications will vary, too. Some will be via e-mail, others will be face-to-face, yet others may be periodic conference calls. This is an area in which some SMM champions are more effective than others. Building the communication plan is one thing, but actually activating the plan is the key to effective communication success. Therefore, once you have outlined the plan, be sure to schedule the various actions on your calendar ahead of time, so that they stay top-of-mind.

Change management is also a part of the SMM that needs to be an ongoing practice, ideally put in place well in advance of the initial deployment of the SMM. Unfortunately, this is an area of the SMM process that is sometimes overlooked. For successful change-management implementation, “seeking to understand” the needs and desires of your stakeholders is essential. Knowing what they fear and why they may be reluctant to back your SMM is important, so that you can turn this anxiety and doubt into positive energy and support, ultimately resulting in the integration of SMM into the day-to-day meeting-planning process throughout your organization.

For those of you who have already deployed an SMM program, you will be able to take it up to the next level by utilizing the procurement tools of stakeholder management, communication planning and effective change management. If you are just now embarking on the road to SMM, be sure to include these key elements in the design of your SMM program.

Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CMP, is the founder and president of Bondurant Consulting. For more information, visit


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