Getting buy-in from the chief financial officer is a critical component of implementing a strategic meetings management program. But for some meeting professionals, just the thought of talking to the CFO is enough to make them want to run for cover.

During a breakout session at the National Business Travel Association's 2007 International Convention & Exposition in Boston, a panel of experts offered tips to help planners prepare for a productive meeting with their organizations' top financial executive.

Know your company's goals: If you don't have a clear grasp of your organization's primary goals, get familiar with them immediately. By understanding the company objectives and culture, you will be in a better position to align your statements with these key values and establish credibility as someone who is looking to further the mission of the company.

Have all your ducks in a row: Most CFOs do not have the time to get involved in the details. Don't approach your CFO to present him or her with the challenges your meeting department is facing and expect that you will brainstorm solutions together. Be concise when stating the issue at hand, and be ready with a solution.

Scrutinize the data: This step is crucial. If you don't have solid numbers to back up your claims, your credibility can quickly diminish. On the other hand, by presenting the CFO with compelling figures on the cost savings, risk mitigation, and incremental revenue that can be achieved by implementing a strategic meeting management program, you grab the CFO's attention and elevate the conversation to a strategic level.

Speak his language: John Adair, CFO at Concur Technologies, Redmond, Wash., says that the best way to get the CFO's attention is to address the issues for which he or she is responsible. According to Adair, when it comes to meeting and travel management programs, most CFOs want to know the following:

  • Are the meetings that we're holding positively affecting the business (i.e., driving sales, satisfying customers, making the numbers)?

  • Are we meeting the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley?

  • Do our employees view these programs as helping them with their jobs?

  • Are we being fair to our shareholders (i.e., the cost of executing these programs vs. the return on the business)?

Make it competitive: One travel manager who reports to human resources but who has regular meetings with her company's four CFOs notes that adding a competitive element to the conversation always grabs their attention. “I will have the data in front of me and tell them that 60 percent of employees in business unit A used the online booking tool, which saved the company X dollars. But only 40 percent used the tool from business unit B. Putting the CFOs from each business unit up against one another really gets them going.”

Drill Down

PERCENTAGE OF U.S. TRAVELERS WHO WOULD PAY A PREMIUM TO STAY AT A HOTEL WITH A RESPONSIBLE ATTITUDE TOWARD THE ENVIRONMENT:
70*
PERCENTAGE OF TRAVELERS WHO SAY THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO LEAVE A LIGHT ON WHEN THEY LEAVE A HOTEL ROOM THAN THEY ARE AT HOME:
63**

Sources: *International Ecotourism Society; **Starwood Hotels And Resorts