Back in 2005, when I first heard about Kelli Livers' consolidation plans for AIG, the idea of a company-wide strategic meetings management program was just a gleam in her visionary eye. Today, SMMP is a hot-button acronym in the meetings industry — and Kelli's experience exemplifies just how effective such a program can be.

As AIG's director, global meeting services, Livers helped to design and administer a complex SMMP that tracks and leverages meeting spend across the AIG enterprise of more than 90 operating companies nationwide. The return on investment has been impressive. Implementing strategic hotel sourcing with preferred-supplier agreements, for instance, has resulted in savings of 25 percent to 43 percent on contracted room nights. Now, AIG is embarking on the daunting task of broadening its SMMP reach to encompass global meeting spend as well.

Get the details in our cover story by Alison Hall, beginning on page 14, which also debunks some of the fears you may have about SMMPs, including what happens when standardized hotel contracts are no longer signed by planners. Contrary to diminishing your role, the AIG example shows that by not worrying about the contract, you can be empowered to focus on doing the job you love — managing your meetings.

But, you may ask, doesn't all the standardization, number crunching, and use of technology inherent to a SMMP weaken the planner-supplier relationship, a relationship that defines the insurance and financial conference planner industry? Not at AIG, where Livers brought together 15 meeting professionals from various offices nationwide to participate in what is essentially an internal advisory board that has had a voice in SMMP decisions throughout the consolidation process — and where planners continue to develop and maintain their own relationships with suppliers concurrent with a preferred-vendors program.

On another note, I've had the opportunity to experience strategic planning firsthand this past year as a member of Financial & Insurance Conference Planners' annual meeting design team, on the education subcommittee. As this issue goes to press in late October, it's just a few weeks away from the FICP Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., and I can't wait for the pre-con meeting. On countless occasions serving on this committee, I have been reminded of the wise words of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “God is in the details.” Every aspect of the program, from four different styles of education delivery at 40 breakouts (lecture, panel discussion, interactive roundtables, and labs), to exciting new technologies that planners can bring back to their own meetings (think nTAG, a cutting-edge interactive name badge), has been carefully researched, discussed, and chosen. Hats off to my committee colleagues, both FICP planners and Hospitality Partners, who have dedicated a great deal of their time and expertise. Look for on-site conference reports in our next issue, and in our monthly e-newsletter, Financial & Insurance Meetings Extra.

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