To get a sense of how big a role meeting professionals are beginning to play in the National Business Travel Association, NBTA COO and Executive Director Bill Connors, CTC, needs only look at the agenda of its recent annual convention, held July 22 to 25 in Boston. Four seminars were geared toward meetings, three of which were designed by the association's increasingly influential Groups and Meetings committee.

Strategic meetings management has been one of the most important areas of expansion for both NBTA and our members,” says Connors. “NBTA's meetings management resources have helped travel managers to see meetings as an opportunity to drive significant value for their companies, and have drawn more meetings managers to join NBTA and to attend NBTA events.”

Says co-chairwoman Debi Scholar, CMP, CTE, meeting & events services director for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Groups and Meetings committee is a response to the trend of travel managers being given control over meeting management practices and meeting spend. Add the role that procurement is starting to play in meetings and, says fellow co-chair Lee Ann Adams Mikeman, assistant vice president, director, conference planning & special events, Science Applications International Corp., “everything fit together to get us to recognize this [groups and meetings] should be a direction of NBTA.”

What the committee looks for, says Scholar, is a way of thinking “strategically, rather than tactically” about meetings, with the understanding that there are plenty of other professional groups that look at tactics. The group's latest white paper — and the topic of a seminar at the recent annual convention — is Evaluating Strategic Meetings Management Programs. It provides sample methodologies for doing so, and assigns values to both tangible and intangible results of an SMMP, such as cost savings, risk mitigation, and security and crisis management. It also looks in detail at these specific areas to more fully explain how a better ROI may be achieved by investing in an SMMP. The white paper illustrates its argument with a series of case studies from companies as varied as Cisco, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and ConocoPhilips. “Evaluating Strategic Meetings Management Programs,” Scholar says, “is for planners who have programs in place and are ready to take the next step.”

What's next? A white paper that will examine how to make SMMPs work in a variety of companies of different sizes is due out the end of the year.

Strategic Reading

NBTA's Groups and Meetings Committee has published 10 white papers, four on “Critical Meeting Components,” including hotel and air ground transportation, venues, and DMCs, and the balance focused squarely on strategic meeting management practices:

  • Building a Strategic Meetings Management Program

  • Building a Meetings Policy in Support of Your SMMP

  • Mobilizing Internal Stakeholders in Support of Your SMMP

  • Choosing the Right Technology in Support of Your SMMP

  • Leveraging Group and Transient Spend with Hotel Suppliers

  • Evaluating Strategic Meetings Management Programs

You'll find the papers at, but most are available only to NBTA members.