Shimon Avish of Shimon Avish Consulting LLC, is the MeetingsNet SMM Pro. Send your queries about designing and implementing strategic meetings management programs to shimon@smmconsulting.com, then check back here for answers! Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Dear SMM Pro,

I am a director of operations for a company that has decided to implement a strategic meetings management program in order to generate savings. I am working closely with our purchasing organization, and in the past month they have issued RFPs for meetings-related services and technology. These are the right solutions and services, but the process feels haphazard and disjointed. I will eventually own the operation of the meetings program, so can you help me figure out what is missing?

Thanks,

Stumped in Stamford

Dear Stumped,

I suspect you are suffering from “Where’s the Strategy?–itis,” a well-known malady in this industry. WTS-itis occurs when those tasked with creating a meetings program think buying technology or implementing meeting planning services is the same as developing a strategic approach, instead of recognizing that these are really just tools. The best analogy I can think of is trying to decorate your family room. You’ve always loved the ultra-modern Barcelona chair, and you are going to have one now that you can afford it. And your significant other has had his or her eye on a beautiful but frilly Rococo coffee table at the local antique shop for years. Put these two quality pieces together and you have an unsuccessful mashup. Imagine a whole room like this; Tiffany lamps, a Colonial-style sideboard, and a Chippendale loveseat. Each a beautiful piece in its own right, but they don’t belong in the same room.

You may also want to read: Dear SMM Maven: Can a Travel Manager Plan a Meeting?

Missing is a cohesive vision for the room, and that vision is derived from how you intend to use the room and your aesthetic preferences. Pulling it all together into an eye-pleasing and useful whole requires a strategy, and so does creating a strong meetings program. In the case of your family room, you need an interior designer. When it comes to your meetings program, you need a meetings strategist.

I have identified 13 areas that require strategy development when it comes to meetings:

  1. SMMP Goals and Objectives: Why is a meetings program being implemented? Possible reasons include savings, compliance, or attendee engagement.
  2. Scope: What are the geographical locales—city, state, country, or region—and prioritization of the locales where the meetings program will be implemented?
  3. Service Configuration: Will the meetings program be sourcing only or will it include planning? Will the program will be insourced, outsourced, or a combination of the two?
  4. Agency Selection: What types of meetings management companies, or MMCs, will be used?
  5. Resources: How many and what type of resources are needed on the client and MMC sides to successfully implement the program?
  6. Governance: How will the client and MMC work together to manage compliance, process consistency, technology utilization, and business intelligence?
  7. Policy, Mandate, and Compliance: Which policies will be implemented? Will the program be mandated? How will compliance or adoption to the program be managed?
  8. Risk Management: What policies, processes, and procedures are needed to manage duty-of-care and regulatory compliance risk?
  9. Meetings Technology: How will the meetings technology system be used to enforce policy and support the sourcing and planning processes?
  10. Sourcing and Planning Processes and Procedures: What processes and procedures are to be followed while sourcing and planning events in order to achieve the goals of the SMMP?
  11. Commissions: Will commissionable rates be requested? If so, how will commissions be collected and returned, and to whom?
  12. Payment and Reconciliation: Which payment platforms, such as purchase orders/checks or meeting cards, will be used to pay for MMC services and event costs? Who will be responsible for event and payment mechanism reconciliation? What reconciliation tools will be used?
  13. Change Management: What is the organization’s potential resistance to change? What strategies can be used to proactively address the resistance? This category also includes developing a communications plan to educate executive leadership, the sourcing and planning communities, and business owners.

These 13 areas together define the functioning of the meetings program, and create a comprehensive and cohesive whole where each element of the program supports the other elements to deliver on the primary goals of the program.

For a more detailed discussion of these thirteen areas of strategy please see my article Where Meetings Management Strategy and Interior Design Overlap.

If you have questions of your own please, please send them to shimon@smmconsulting.com. My areas of expertise include SMM meetings policy, sourcing and planning processes, SMM data management, consolidation of SMM programs, implementing global SMM programs, change management for meetings, compliance management, risk management, and payment mechanisms. Thanks, and see you next time!