The National Business Travel Association has released its first white paper in the meetings arena. The 13-page report offers a high-level profile of the issues and best practices for corporations working toward a “strategic meetings management program,” often referred to as meetings consolidation.

NBTA, the Alexandria, Va — based organization focused on the needs of corporate business travel managers, branched into meetings last July when it formed the Groups and Meetings Committee in response to a growing trend toward merging the management of corporate meetings and business travel departments.

“NBTA membership had expressed a continued interest in the principles of how to manage meetings enterprise-wide — not the individual meeting planning process as much as the entire process,” says committee co-chair Madlyn Caliri, global hotel and meetings program manager at AT&T.

The report is divided into two main parts. The first helps to build a business case for a strategic meetings-management program. While recognizing that “there is no single ‘right’ way” to approach such an initiative, the paper discusses the process of documenting the current state of company meetings and of identifying opportunities for process improvement, risk management, and cost savings.

The second section of the white paper looks at best practices that have evolved since meeting consolidation pioneers' initial efforts in the early 1990s. “Although strategic meeting management may be a new concept or endeavor for the organization,” the white paper states, “this centralized leveraging of meeting-related spend has been put into practice by visionary companies for quite some time.” The best practices section examines standards for required meeting approvals, meeting registration systems to allow data gathering, and sourcing procedures. It also touches on defining planner responsibilities, limiting methods of payment, reporting and measurement, and technology.

The committee will follow up the white paper with two meeting management sessions at NBTA's convention in Orlando, August 1 to 4, as well as further documents. Within the year, it hopes to report on insourcing versus outsourcing, developing meeting policy, centralizing data versus centralizing process, technology options (buy versus build), and meetings planners as internal customers.