Data gathering is the first step toward developing a strategic meetings management program (See my article “Information Is Power” at meetingsnet.com). The next step is creating your business case.

So what exactly does this look like? To start, determine the way your executive team likes to review information: Is it a slide deck or an executive summary? Establish the key messages, organize the data to support the points, and stay away from minutiae. Structure it in “executive speak”: brief, compelling, data-driven, and results-oriented. It should identify consequences if no action is taken.

Identify a few compelling headlines, such as “Our company spent $22 million on meetings last year,” or “Our company uses 82 different meeting suppliers.” A little shock treatment can go a long way toward getting the attention and support of your executives.

As you work through the process of discovery, data collection, and development of your SMMP, it's critical to include an array of stakeholders from many disciplines. (See chart.) Let people know what's in it for them and why they need to support the changes.

Back It Up With a Policy

In addition to gaining buy-in throughout the organization, you need to develop a clearly defined and mandated policy. The policy requires support from the C-level and it must be enforceable. Your executives must understand that a lack of policy puts your company at risk. Ideally, the meetings policy should stand on its own and not be embedded in travel policy. Depending on the various meeting types at your company, you may need distinct meetings policies for company employees, customers, and suppliers.

As you develop the policy, review the draft with various internal organizations, including but not limited to accounting, procurement, human resources, and legal. This will avert the need for any major rework once you have a final version to submit for executive approval.

Your meetings policy should include specifics such as the approval process, how contracting is done and by whom, and the use of preferred suppliers. It's important to define who can plan meetings, locations that can and cannot be used for meetings, as well as who can attend meetings. Include a green-meetings policy if there is one. This would address alternatives to in-person meetings in addition to conservation measures, carbon offsets, and recycling requirements. Finally, determine whether your policy will be rolled out on a global or regional basis.

By proactively getting buy-in for your strategic meetings management program and by driving meetings policy, you will be viewed as an essential and indispensable leader in your organization.

Sidebar: SMMP Stakeholders: why Include Them?

Senior executives Key to driving acceptance
Meetings staff Must understand and support the SMMP and become change agents
Clients Have a vested interest in how changes will affect the success of their meetings
Procurement Will help give credibility to processes
Travel Synergies [with corporate travel] can streamline and save
Occasional planners Can work against you if they do not support the changes
Legal/regulatory Processes you may want to implement may have ramifications
Corporate audit Do new processes fulfill corporate audit requirements?
Finance Will need to assist with data collection, payment processes, and compliance

Betsy Bondurant, CMP, CMM, is president of Bondurant Consulting, Coronado, Calif. Contact her by e-mail at betsy@bondurantconsulting.com.

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