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In today’s environment, with the scrutiny on spending and the perception of meetings, we must showcase the value and effectiveness of the meetings we produce,” says Angie Duncan, CMP, CMM, vice president of meeting operations for VMS, a meeting management agency based in Indianapolis. “It is up to us to deliver results.”

To do that, VMS, which has many clients in the highly regulated pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, knew it had to formalize and standardize the way it connects clients’ goals with attendees’ engagement. And last year, while researching an approach to that challenge, Duncan attended a training session on the Meetings Architecture Process. At its conclusion, she knew she had a solution.

MAP was created by Maarten Vanneste of Abbit Meeting Support in Belgium and is laid out in his 2008 book, Meeting Architecture—A Manifesto. It consists of four components: identify objectives, design the program and tactics, execute the design, and measure results. In addition, meeting objectives are organized into three areas—networking, information, and motivation. In January 2010, VMS provided MAP training for everyone involved in operations, client services, and marketing—more than 100 people in total.

The VMS team was re-energized, Duncan says. The framework has helped the team dig deeper into client objectives to ensure that programs achieve their goals. “It goes to our core value of making our clients look like heroes.”

One result, says Duncan, is that clients are becoming more open to innovation, which stems from MAP’s focus on attendee engagement. VMS has produced creative teambuilding activities involving road trips and art galleries, fireside chats, and other program tactics to ensure attendee engagement. While the client’s objectives must be met, so must those of the attendees, she adds. In fact, VMS regularly partners with adult-learning experts to help address various learning styles in all of its programs. VMS also is looking at mobile technology applications as a way to engage attendees and increase planning efficiencies.

“We’re not just meeting planners any more,” says Duncan. “We have to be strategic experts in meeting management. That’s the way the industry is going, and MAP will help get us there.”