An overview of technology tools — online meeting registry, hotel sourcing, budgeting, and registration — that maximize the benefits of an SMMP
Technology is the heart of anyprogram. By deploying a technology solution, you can better understand your company's meetings activity and start to strategically manage your spend. It's important for it to match the needs of your program, by providing:
Automated meeting registry and calendaring: Developing athat requires all meetings to be registered is the first step in tracking companywide activity. Having an intranet-based, centralized registry provides easy access for all users — and the easier a process, the higher the compliance. Once meeting data begins to come in, you can start to understand the anatomy of your organization's meetings. Some companies tie an automated approval process to their registry, thus ensuring that no meetings are planned outside of company policy. Typically, the meetings registry feeds into an online calendar that can be viewed 24/7/365 by all employees, avoiding overlaps and conflicts.
Online hotel sourcing (automated RFPs): Online sourcing technology increases staff productivity by sending your request for proposals electronically to multiple hotels in multiple destinations. Hotels can respond to your inquiry in a timely manner. An additional benefit is that you can ensure that at least three hotels are sourced for each meeting, thus avoiding any conflict-of-interest issues and supporting Sarbanes-Oxley audit requirements. You can also feed the hotel information from the RFP into a data collection and reporting tool, which gives you visibility into who is planning meetings, which hotels are getting the business, the size of the meetings, and how much is being saved through negotiations. Your ultimate goal would be to combine meeting spend with business travel spend to fully leverage your spend with specific hotel companies.
Online budgeting and planning: These modules help you to build the meeting budget from information in the RFP and the response from the hotel. This saves data entry time and improves accuracy. This piece of technology can also help speed the approval process by developing a top-line budget sent to management so they can see the potential cost implications of the proposed meeting.
Online attendee registration: Converting from Excel spreadsheets to an online system boosts staff productivity, increases the accuracy of your data, allows for increased communication and messaging to attendees pre- and post-meeting, and allows you to track meeting attendees on an annual basis.
Betsy Bondurant, CMP, CMM, is president of Bondurant Consulting, Coronado, Calif. Contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When You Can't have It All
In an ideal situation, you will have all possible technology tools — online meeting registry, hotel sourcing, budgeting, and registration — to maximize the benefits of an SMMP. If you can't have it all, a good place to start is with the meeting registry, which helps you get your arms around the total meeting activity for your company. Also, an online request for proposal process will give you spend data that you can use to maximize your meeting expenditures.