A RECENT WHITE PAPER on meeting consolidation published by the National Business Travel Association created quite a stir among a small, vocal group of planners who are concerned that it is a first step in corporate travel managers taking over the meetings function.

Many other planners don't appear worried at all — and I just don't get it.

For example, a poll I just saw on Meeting Professionals International's Web site asked members what kinds of educational workshops they wanted most, and their top choices were seminars on leadership and motivation — which appeared to be more important to them than technology, security, and even legal issues. At MPI's World Education Congress this month, only one education session is being devoted to strategic meetings procurement. And that session isn't even being led by a corporate planner, but by an individual from American Express Corporate Meeting Solutions.

Meanwhile, over at NBTA, a meeting committee was launched in March 2003 in response to NBTA members, who are increasingly being asked to manage the meetings function. The committee initiated the white paper, which came out a year later and focused on two key areas: building a business case for a “strategic meeting management program” (identifying opportunities for process improvement, risk management, cost savings, etc.) and best practices in corporate meeting consolidation (standards for meeting approvals, data collection, sourcing, etc.).

Meeting planners need to step up to the plate, just as their colleagues in corporate travel have done. Why aren't more planners coming up with suggestions for cost savings, shared efficiencies, risk management, and the other areas the white paper focuses on and bringing their findings to the corporate travel and procurement departments in their companies? Why isn't there more benchmarking going on? Why aren't they demanding further research and education on this subject — done from their perspective?

And although it did create a strategic alliance with NBTA, is MPI being proactive enough? Why hasn't it taken the lead in this area, when its members have the most to lose?

It's time to get moving.
Barbara Scofidio

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