Communicate, communicate, communicate! How often have we heard this phrase yet not really put it into practice? When developing a successful strategic meetings management program, communications planning is a critical component. It's not enough to send out a corporate-wide e-mail telling everyone about your new SMMP — you need to spread your message frequently, using a variety of approaches to reach a diverse audience.

The content, purpose, frequency, and format of the communication also needs to be tailored to the audience. And it's important to be culturally sensitive, so, when developing communications that will be distributed outside the United States, use terminology and nomenclature that is universal to all nationalities. If your company has a corporate or marketing communications department, ask if they will assist you with all of this.

How do you determine what type of communication is best for which group? For executives, you need to keep them informed of goal achievement and success metrics on a high level. In most organizations, this can be done successfully with quarterly and annual executive summaries or dashboards. Typically, you can use the same procedure for clients and other stakeholders, such as travel, legal, and regulatory departments, within your organization. If you are collaborating closely with your procurement department, you may need comprehensive weekly meetings and monthly updates.

It's easy to overlook formal communications with your own team, but never assume your staff knows what you know just because they are part of your team. Develop a deliberate and frequent communications plan, as well as written standard operating procedures that can be accessed via the company intranet. If members of the team are spread out nationally and internationally, use periodic audio- and videoconferences.

Ideally, a face-to-face kick-off meeting is the best way to communicate the goals and processes of a new SMMP. Depending on the size of your company, an in-person meeting can be organized regionally, nationally, or globally.

Start communicating early in the planning process. Conduct focus groups with “occasional” planners in your organization. Ask what's important to them, and explain how the program will benefit them in their jobs. Set up conference calls with your service providers and hotel partners so they know what changes are coming. Seek their opinion and ask their advice; this will make implementation and the education process more effective.

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

5 Tips:

  • Start the SMMP process early and communicate continuously — once or twice isn't enough.

  • Tailor the frequency and type of communications to your audience.

  • Communications can take a variety of forms: in-person, dashboards, conference calls, web-based, e-mail.

  • Determine the purpose of the communication: Is it to train, broadcast a company message, collaborate?

  • Avoid jargon and use terminology all attendees will understand.