ING's meeting-management strategy — decentralized meeting planners working off centralized policies and procedures — only works if someone keeps the communication flowing, taking a bird's-eye view with her ear to the ground. That person is Lisa Poulton, director, conference planning operations.

Previously a meeting planner with ING and a predecessor company in Hartford, Conn., Poulton and her then-supervisor had already started looking at ING's big picture by collecting information about total meeting spending in a database. At that point, it was a measure of protection, ”back when procurement was a scary word,” Poulton jokes. Their aim was to demonstrate that the goals of meeting planners and of ING as a whole could be aligned.

When senior management at ING began to focus on making meeting management more efficient and consistent, Poulton was the natural choice to be the liaison among meeting planners, compliance, and strategic sourcing (procurement). She was appointed in December 2004.

Currently on Poulton's big-picture plate are two projects with the crisis management, legal, compliance, and security departments. The first is to create standard procedures for emergencies or crises that might occur during an event, and the second is to design a pre-event risk-assessment checklist for meetings.

But ultimately, keeping the lines of communication open may be Poulton's most important role. “I communicate regularly with the planners,” she says. She maintains a Web site within ING's intranet that contains all meeting-related policies, contacts, forms, and communications. She sends e-mail blasts with important information such as regulatory updates or changes in policies. This information is then archived at the Web site and can be added to an M@I Summit agenda for follow-up. Poulton also distributes quarterly Web-based newsletters, which are archived at the meeting Web site.

While she proactively delivers information, she is also available to field questions from planners. “I am a resource. I can get them in touch with the right person,” says Poulton, who is quick to note, however, that she is still one of them. “I still put my hands into a few meetings,” she says, “so as not to forget what the team actually does.”