Finding the right tools to help implement a corporate meeting management program can result in a “huge amount” of savings on meeting spend, according to participants in the latest edition of the Meetings Group webinar series.

Linette Kostel, travel manager for the Sepracor Inc., Marlborough, Mass., said her company anticipates a 25 percent savings on meeting spend with the implementation of a new meeting management regimen. Kostel, along with Lisa Palmeri, director of consulting services at OnVantage Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., and Betsy Bair, editorial director of The Meetings Group, made up the panel for “Managing Up, Down, and Sideways: Discover Meeting Management Tools the Pros Already Use.” The webinar, sponsored by OnVantage and originally broadcast in late June, can still be viewed in an archive on www.meetingsnet.com.

Sepracor hired Kostel in 2002 as a consultant to help develop a better meeting management system. It quickly became apparent that Sepracor had no clear idea what kind of meetings were being planned, who was attending, or how much was being spent on these meetings. Sepracor “needed to get a handle on meeting spend and planning,” Kostel said.

Through a detailed process, which included retrieval and analysis of historical meeting and financial documents, Kostel began putting together procedures that would allow Sepracor to consolidate its meeting activities. This included implementing technology to help with issues like online registrations, attendee management, vendor data management, and data consolidation and analysis.

Getting senior management buy-in to such a process is obviously crucial. Kostel went through a one-and-one-half-hour meeting with 14 top executives, and even though she called the experience “gruesome,” she still got their support. OnVantage's Palmeri said that senior management wants to know “who is going where and how much will it cost.” Technology allows planners to provide those answers efficiently, particularly when it can configure reports and track meeting activities in myriad ways.

According to an online poll taken during the event, 92.4 percent of the attendees believe that their organizations need to be more efficient in their meeting planning. A majority also believe the communications process has to improve within their organizations, particularly with senior management (42.8 percent) and other meeting planners (23.8 percent).