The intense scrutiny our industry has received from the government and the press points to an even greater need to register, approve, and track company meetings.

In the past, the main driver of implementation of a strategic meetings management program (SMMP) was to control (read: reduce) costs. Now, with a laser focus on meeting site selection, the types of meetings being held, and who is attending, it has become even more critical for companies to have a meetings policy and program in place. Visibility and transparency have become as imperative as oversight.

It's not acceptable for the CEO of a company to plead ignorance as to why specific meetings were placed in certain destinations. However, in reality, a CEO “doesn't know what he or she doesn't know.” It's up to those of us involved in meetings management to educate the C-suite on what is taking place in the organization by capturing this information and turning it into knowledge.

How to Take the First Steps

If your company does not have a registration, approval, and tracking mechanism in place for meetings, it's critical that you take the initiative to develop a solution and get executive buy-in as soon as possible. This will protect not only your company, but your department and your own job.

Depending on the volume of your organization's meetings, or how quickly you are able to move, your first phase may simply consist, in its most basic form, of the following steps:

  • Create a set of guidelines covering the types of meetings that must be registered through your department, and have the CEO follow that up with a companywide policy that is communicated to all.

  • Register meetings via e-mail to a specific person who is responsible for monitoring and reviewing them.

  • Have a member of your team enter meetings onto an Excel spreadsheet for tracking and auditing purposes.

A more mature process could be automated to include registration on a meeting portal on the company intranet, an online approval process, and a data-collection tool.

What's Next?

What's on the frontier? As more and more businesses do things that lend themselves to positive PR — like including CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities as part of a meeting, greening meetings, or using carbon offsets — they need to create a centralized process to monitor these activities. Otherwise, it will be virtually impossible to report out the successes the company is having or to mark your achievement of measurement milestones.

In fact, in a 2008 corporate social responsibility survey done by Meeting Professionals International, when U.S. members were asked what they would like to track in terms of their CSR/green efforts, they indicated things such as cost savings, recycling, and reduction in paper use. All of these could be tracked through your department. Stay tuned.

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

Back Again!

We welcome Betsy Bondurant for her second year as our strategic meetings management expert. To view previous columns she has written, check out our Web site at www.meetingsnet.com and search“Bondurant.”