The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

Reducing Travel Costs: Strategic Meetings Management 101

Posted by Brian Coghlan on Nov 3, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Reducing Travel Costs: Strategic Meetings Management 101One of the most compelling reasons to implement a Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP) is to reduce T&E spend related to meetings held by your organization or attended by your business travelers. A successful Strategic Meeting Management (SMM) program will generate visibility into meeting spend analytics for CFOs and CEOs to judge the cost and value of events for the company.

SMM is useful for a variety of different meeting and event scenarios like conferences, training sessions, sales meetings, lectures, trade shows and other business events and meetings. When establishing your SMM program, you can select to manage all events and meetings, or limit the scope by event and meeting type, number of attendees, budget, or a combination of factors.

As your business grows and the number of events and/or meetings increases, you’ll want to track some meeting essentials, such as: objectives, agenda, size, costs, policy compliance and approvals; whether or not prices for the meeting space, hotel, air travel and other event services have been negotiated; the status of attendee registration, travel, hotel and other bookings; and afterwards, if the meeting met its planned objectives. A well-thought out SMM program will do just that.

In one of our previous posts, 5 Strategic Management Myths Debunked with Travel Management, we defined SMM as “the disciplined approach to managing enterprise-wide meeting and event related processes, activities, metrics, standards and supplier strategies to achieve business objectives, quantitative cost savings, risk mitigation, and optimal service levels.” But for small to medium-sized organizations, a lack of experience and resources makes it difficult to launch and run an effective SMM program.

As an alternative to building a SMM program from scratch, many businesses often turn to an experienced Travel Management Company (TMC) for assistance. A TMC will share best practices, implementation strategies and provide robust reporting and cost/benefit analysis in a SMM program designed specifically for your business.

How Can a TMC Help?

A TMC can lower meeting costs through improved supplier relationships as well as bring visibility to meeting data that impacts decisions at the CFO/CEO level. This data can be analyzed to measure return on investment (ROI) in connection to meetings and events. TMCs can put policies and procedures in place that will:

  • Define measurable SMM goals so success can be monitored and assessed.
  • Define SMM policy requirements and processes, such as requests for meetings, authorizations, online registration, shared calendars, travel and hotel management, cost tracking and analytic reporting.
  • Integrate SMM with global booking tools and budgeting components to compute savings against policy guidelines.
  • Consolidate a decentralized system and unify the purchasing process to leverage global spend.
  • Use data and analytics for smarter decision making.

How to Measure SMM Success

You can pose questions about meeting spend in a variety of ways to measure the impact to your bottom line. The following questions will allow you to uncover important information to calculate and judge ROI:

  • How many events and meetings are conducted by your organization?
  • Who plans meetings and events? Is planning done internally or through a third party?
  • How are meeting-related expenses handled? How are they paid?
  • What are the current ROI measurements for meetings and events?
  • How much did the average meeting cost per person?
  • How do actuals compare to budget estimates?
  • Does the cost of meetings increase or decrease each year? If so, by how much?
  • How much does your company spend with specific hotels and airlines annually? Are you leveraging special deals or rates?
  • What is the total amount of negotiated savings for a specific meeting?

The most effective way to lower meeting spend is to understand your meeting activities and related expenditures. With easy and flexible reporting tools, you will be able to analyze meeting travel data in any number of different ways. Equipped with accurate and actionable information, you can introduce enhanced policy guidelines to control meeting expenses. 

If you do not know how much meetings cost your company, you are probably overpaying for them. When you leverage existing travel data into an SMM policy, you will gain insight into how much meetings cost your organization and can more accurately determine and predict their ROI.

By working with a TMC, every aspect of your company-wide travel expenditures and patterns will be analyzed in order to deliver the best SMMP possible. In our free whitepaper, Travel Management Companies: What They Mean for YOUR Company, we discuss the benefits of working with a TMC and how they deliver value.

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Topics: SMMP, Strategic Meetings Management