Strategic meetings management isn’t just for
large enterprises. Small and midsize enterprises can benefit from the rigor of formal SMM,
though SMEs often have little to no budget
to get started. BTN’s JoAnn DeLuna spoke
with Dart travel services manager Cheryl Benjamin, GameStop director of meetings Judy
Payne and Informatica global travel manager
Rick Wakida to hear about their motivations
and approach to establishing strategic meetings management programs.
Q How did you determine that your SMEs could benefit from an SMMP?
Rick Wakida: The procurement organization
wanted to gain more visibility and control
over meetings spend through contract review
and [purchase order] approvals. They hired
Marjan Ghaffari [as senior procurement analyst for meetings, events and travel]. She went
through the meetings sourcing processes and
determined that there was money to be saved
and that it would be beneficial to consolidate
meetings and put in a formal SMMP.
Cheryl Benjamin: We asked the small group of
our sales team if they’d be interested in the
service, and the floodgates opened. There’s a
big interest in [knowing] the liability of who’s
signing contracts, what they’re agreeing to,
and making sure the company’s best interests
are the foremost considerations. I’m not say-
ing those who were sourcing meetings weren’t
doing that, but SMMP is just taking a differ-
ent look and understanding how they’re being
sourced. Then, the cost savings, as well.
Judy Payne: I saw a lot of overlapping meetings
that were in the same cities or they had the same
attendees going a day or two apart to the same
location. If we consolidated our meetings and
piggybacked off the location and the contract, I
was able to prove that we would have saved a lot
each year, so much that I was able to hire another
head count to manage the program for me.
Q As SMEs, what do you want to accomplish with your SMMPs?
Wakida: The top three things are visibility into
the meetings and the data, savings and the
cost avoidance. Risk management is another
goal: the contracting process and knowing
where people are. Where it differs [among
travel programs] is in the degree of emphasis
or maybe in the ranking of importance, which
varies by company culture, industry, size, etc.
Benjamin: We’re all looking for the same thing.
Our top three are cost savings, making sure
that the contracts are reviewed by the legal
team so we know what [we’re] committing to
and then the risk management.
Payne: Risk management, cost savings and
taking that responsibility of meeting planning
and those contract negotiations away from
our field attendees so they can concentrate
more on our company sales and goals.
Q How do you place value on those goals?
Wakida: Marjan came up with an estimate
of 15 to 25 percent in potential savings
from consolidating meetings on a global basis. We’ve added other preferred dining and
preferred catering programs that could add
a couple percentage [points in savings]. The
visibility and the data goals are harder to put a
number on. It’s more intangible benefits. The
risk management process—you’re avoiding
potentially millions of dollars in liabilities and
losses by having a program in place.
Benjamin: We’re in the beginning stages,
but those intangibles are the things that
Left to right: Judy
Payne, Rick Wakida
& Cheryl Benjamin
What Happens When You Cross
SMM & SME
SMMP benefits like savings & risk management remain regardless of the company’s size.