With more companies centralizing their meeting management and consolidating expenditures, the focus is primarily on larger meetings — those with more than 100 people and multiple room nights. Day meetings and meetings of fewer than 50 people often don't show up on many meeting planners or procurement officials' radar screens.
“Nobody wants to deal with small meetings,” says Tom Maguire, director, Eventcom Technologies by Marriott, Rosemont, Ill. “They're hot potatoes.”
The fact is, small meetings really add up and can have a significant impact on the bottom line. For example, Maguire has one corporate client that averages 80 training meetings a month and another that logs about 78 district manager meetings per quarter. These meetings cost the companies millions of dollars a year, yet because either administrative assistants or the trainers themselves booked the meetings, the clients had no idea of the volume.
That's where Eventcom comes in. “We kind of fell into a niche market,” says Maguire. Eventcom offers event technology consulting and production expertise as well as small meeting management through its proprietary software. With a growing demand for its small, the company is branching out in January by launching EventStar, an arm that caters strictly to that market.
Eventcom creates Web portals where individuals can log in and select the meeting dates, times, and venues in drop-down boxes. Eventcom books the hotels, sign the, sends the necessary food and beverage and audiovisual orders, and consolidates the invoices. Although the company is affiliated with Marriott, Eventcom does not exclusively book meetings in Marriott-owned properties. “We book them anywhere they want,” says Maguire. “If they have a list of preferred hotels, we'll load that into the site.” Fees are usually 10 percent to 15 percent of the total value of the meetings.
Get Their Arms Around It
The challenge is for planners and procurement heads to educate more people on the processes and benefits of going through a centralized procurement process. Technology such as Eventcom's product or the online meeting management product offered by OnVantage, Santa Clara, Calif., helps to streamline and facilitate the process of registering, tracking, and procuring small meetings. But even with technology to help facilitate the process, additional staff may be required to centralize small meetings because of the sheer volume.
Experts believe that in the next few years, more companies will increase their focus on small meetings. “Most companies try to understand their larger meetings first and then start to put policies and processes around smaller ones,” says Stanley Chin, chief operating officer at OnVantage. That will spur practices such as grouping multiple meetings in one venue or with one supplier when possible. Whether companies want to deal with small meetings or not, the benefits of doing so are clearer than ever.