How to globalize strategic meetings management
20 DECEMBER 2013 8:34 AM
In order to globalize and consolidate a meeting-management plan, a commonality must be present between all parties.
Editor’s note: This is the third column of a three-part series addressing strategic meetings management. The first part examined the overall idea of SMM. The second part explored the challenges of SMM programs, and the third part discusses the global view.
I was asked to partake in a new project: a feasibility study on the globalizing and consolidating of congress and meeting services. After the head scratching was done, we approached the five largest global business units in the company with a questionnaire—a long and detailed one—in an attempt to glean every bit of information we could about how each unit ran its meeting business.
We analyzed the data for months. Many follow up calls took place. I likened the experience to bending steel with your bare hands. Finally, a sense of what it feels like to manage meetings in each of these business units began to emerge. Understanding began to creep in. But how did this apply to strategic meetings management?
Globalize and consolidate
Capabilities and resources vary so much among global companies. When you are looking to globalize and consolidate a meeting-management plan, you are seeking a commonality—a shared bottom line—somewhere. It’s the meeting planner.
While you might all be united under one company culture, it is important to understand each country’s resources and respective culture and what they can or simply cannot do.
“You constantly are needing to look at how the expertise works in each region and test it. Try a new provider for a small project. It is both a test and an incentive for them,” said Darell Stokes, strategic sourcing specialist for global meeting and events. “It is also important to maintain the top planner’s ability to maintain their performance. You don’t want to enforce a new service and company on them without careful consideration.”
Globalization also has much to do about attitude. There can be reluctance to change, especially when planners are set in their ways and comfortable with their suppliers. To ask them to cut down to just two or three suppliers in one country can be perceived as a burden; in another country there are only two or three suppliers who can fill the need.
Even though you are operating on a “global level,” Stokes said, “you must take it one region at a time. Build the direction with the experienced ones in the region. You want to speak to your company culture and define very specifically what you want. You must consider what is at stake when converting to SMM. What will be lost? Is what is being used enough?
“It is about building for the corporation, not the individual,” she added.
Philip Eidsvold, account director at Aimia (formerly Carlson Marketing), talked about the future direction. “Data is transforming the entire meeting industry. ... It centers around measuring information. It is critical to get the data done right. This involves not just SMM but strategic hotel programs and what’s trending. Other industries are starting to ramp up globally as well.”
How the data is captured so it can be measured and reported in a reasonable and sensible way is just as important as the type of platform and reporting tool you choose.
“A company’s first step is to create guidelines on what kind of reporting they need. For example, code of conduct reporting is different among countries,” Eidsvold said. Dining habits, per diems and expenses vary with cultural expectations. Determining what is practical and realistic needs to be spelled out.
“An SMM program provides the overarching strategy for internal and outward facing meetings and events across the whole organization. These efforts may appear different in each organization based on culture, business model and compliance needs,” said Debi Scholar, management consultant, author, speaker and founder of SMM Benchmark and T&E Plus.
“Moreover, the overarching strategy may include an undercurrent of standards. But, this does not mean that the creativity for meetings is disregarded. Creativity, marketing requirements, and meeting effectiveness are key components of a good SMM program,” she added.
The bottom line is SMM programs are designed and intended to protect your company’s best interests. A comprehensive program designed for your company with guidance from an SMM-program expert might be the best way to go.
Andria Goldin specializes in meeting marketing and hotel relationships. She provides collaborative, trusting partnerships with the corporate client in full meeting services and shared meeting knowledge training modules. Her specialty niche is marketing and managing a hotel renovation. Her Hotel Renovision™ programs are custom designed for the particular brand or boutique hotel. You can reach her at www.meetingknowledge.com or email@example.com.
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