While each meetings-in-a-box program will differ based on a company’s priorities and strategic meetings management program, here are six steps you can take to get started:

1. Define “Small” Clearly define what constitutes a “small” or “turnkey” meeting at your company. This definition may be based on a combination of factors, such as number of attendees, total spend for the event, maximum number of room-nights, and business purpose of the meeting. Be aware that there will always be exceptions.

2. Get Execs On Board As with your SMMP, you will need to get internal stakeholder buy-in for the meetings-in-a-box approach. Align your business case with your company’s corporate goals. If risk mitigation is mission-critical for your company, lead with that (i.e., “Last month a meeting that was planned by an admin did not include the indemnity clause in the contract.”). If cost avoidance is a key priority, be sure you have data to identify the lost opportunity for savings. Getting senior management to sign off on this new process will help you when it comes time to roll out the program companywide.

3. Find Your Company’s Favorite Locales Determine where the majority of your company’s small meetings are taking place.

“Draw up a map of where these meetings are being held and then partner with your transient hotel program to identify preferred hotels in this space that are capable of hosting small meetings,” says Kari Kesler, president and chief strategist, KK Strategic Solutions, Minneapolis, formerly of Honeywell. “At Honeywell [the majority of small meetings were] around our corporate offices in Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Morristown, N.J.”

4. Create the Rates and Packages Reach out to your preferred hotel partners in these locales to negotiate discounted rates in exchange for premier turnkey partner status. “The advantage for the hotel is that they will get the leads from your company first and have the opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we have the space for your small meeting,’ or ‘No we don’t,’” says Kesler.

The level of concessions and discounts you can negotiate will depend on your company’s volume and buying power. A good jumping-off point for negotiations is your company’s transient hotel program, says Debi Scholar, assurance director for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Florham Park, N.J. “Companies might use their transient rate or obtain better discounts by moving transient and group market share to fewer properties.”

You will also need to determine what these packages will and will not include. For example, will Internet access and audiovisual be included? Will sleeping-room rates be prenegotiated for the calendar year?

5. Decide on the Process Determine how meetings will be registered and booked.

Some points to consider: How will technology play a role in this process? Will small meetings get sourced and booked through the same technology platform as other meetings at the company? Or will admins just register their meetings with the SMM team and then call each hotel to book?

6. Pick a Payment Plan Determine the payment process for these meetings. Will ad hoc planners need to apply for a meeting card to pay for each event?
Another thing to keep in mind, says Scholar, is cancellation credits.

“Companies are canceling meetings and incurring cancellation credits now more than ever, so it’s important to consider whether the small meeting can use an available credit before settling on a prenegotiated package so that you are not leaving money on the table.”