SMM: strategic meetings management. It's an acronym with roots that stretch back to October 2003, when the National Business Travel Association's newly formed Groups & Meetings Committee came up with the term and began work on a white paper on the topic, which defined SMM for the industry when it was released five months later.

Today, SMM is the gold standard for professional meetings management. Strategic sourcing, preferred suppliers, standardized contracts, working with procurement — all are now standard practice in many major companies. We've got some great examples in this issue: On page 12, learn how Tom Tolvé implemented a strategic meetings management program, or SMMP, that cut meeting costs at Norvo Nordisk by an average of 15 percent; and on page 20, hear from planners at Amgen, UnitedHealth Group, and others about how they built the business plans for their programs.

But SMM applies to smaller companies, too. At a panel discussion I recently moderated at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum in Colorado Springs, Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, vice president, meetings and event marketing, at NFP Insurance Services Inc., spoke about how he realized while developing his business plan for an SMMP that he already had all the pieces of the puzzle in place. (If you're not familiar with the SMM “puzzle,” it can be found at www.nbta.org.) All that was missing was one piece — a payment credit card. He was already partnering with hotel chains' global sales managers to leverage his overall spend, he was evaluating meeting requests across the company for potential replacements if canceled, and he was using standardized language on meeting contracts to minimize financial liability and risk for NFP. He had dozens of other best practices in place that are considered elements of an SMMP. You probably do, too, but the idea of creating an SMMP for your company might be so intimidating that you don't realize you're well on your way.

Now there's help, in the form of the first-ever certification for SMM professionals — the strategic meetings management certification (SMMC), which will roll out at NBTA's annual convention in San Diego. To learn more about it, see page 10. And for more on the Groups & Meetings Committee — of which I am proud to be a member — see page 17.

We all know that tracking and leveraging meeting and travel spend and minimizing risk will continue to be corporate priorities. I hope this special themed issue will give you a foundation to work from to develop your own SMMP — or, if you already have one in place, that you'll learn from the experiences we've shared here.

More On / Meetingsnet.com

Check out our SMMP Special Report, with dozens of articles and resources.