Last June, the 3,200+ associates at the headquarters campus of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc., in Torrance, Calif., got the message that cost-savings was top of mind for executives. Then they got another message from Louann Cashill, CMP, CMM: If you plan any meetings, my hotel sourcing group can negotiate pretty significant cost savings.

To deliver that message, Cashill and Jennifer Keltner, travel services manager, held nine one-hour Travel and Meeting Services Forums over the course of three days, inviting any and all Toyota associates to attend. Attendance ranged from 10 to 40 people per session, and included a range “from people two levels above me to administrators.”

At each event, the duo went through a PowerPoint presentation with slides that outlined the process of requesting meeting services support online and the benefits of having the meeting services department do the sourcing and contracting. “We made the forums as interactive as possible by encouraging questions,” Cashill says. Some attendees wanted to know if there was a cost to use the services (answer: no) and whether the department could research several different destinations (answer: yes).

Similarly, Sharon Marsh, CMP, CMM, held informational events for administrative assistants when she was part of the SMMP team at Cisco Systems. “We would sell what we could do to make their jobs easier, and how we could save them money and time,” says Marsh, now meetings group manager at Medtronic Cardiovascular in Santa Rosa, Calif. “We told them, ‘We've been educated on how to negotiate contracts to minimize risks. We understand all the legal language. We're trying to make it safer for you. So we want to source hotels and negotiate the contracts. From there, it's business as usual for you.’ We reaffirmed what they ‘still get to do’ and assured them that we were not taking control, just supporting them.”