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IBM had brought in StarCite (now part of ACTIVE Network) in 2008 to develop its meeting portal. A year ago, the program went live in China, where it’s currently tracking spend on about 500 meetings annually. Wakelin estimates those 500 meetings in China account for about 11 percent of IBM’s total spend on meetings.
Any employee in China—adminstrative assistants as well as meeting planners—can complete a meeting request form, which is routed directly to one of two approved event agencies that source venues on behalf of IBM. The agency then uses the system to generate a request for proposal, and ultimately to select a venue from the responses.
About 80 percent of the China meetings that are managed through the portal are held in hotels; in fact, Wakelin says that except for the big product launches, there aren’t many events/meetings that use venues outside of hotels. Meetings are divided into two categories: creative events (those that require third parties outside of the hotel, such a production company), and non-creative meetings/events (no third parties, just hotel staff). Most fall into the latter category, he says.
The agency that handles IBM’s creative events is GPJ, part of the U.S.-based creative event agency George P. Johnson. The agency for meetings/events requiring just hotel staff is China Comfort Travel, a Chinese travel management company.