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Strategic Meetings Management may well be one of the most commonly-misunderstood business methodologies in the world. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons meetings are so widely and universally decried as horrendous time-wasters – no one really has a decent understanding of how to tap into them. Let’s see if we can’t change that.

Today, we’re going to take a brief look at the precise meaning of strategic meetings management. We’ll go over the reasons a business might use such a program, and examine what SMM is – and isn’t. By the end of the piece, you’ll hopefully have a more complete understanding of strategic meetings management, which you’ll then be able to put to use developing better meetings, conferences, and events.

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Strategic Meetings Management?

First things first, we need to establish a working definition of strategic meetings management. Unfortunately, that’s something easier said than done – mostly because it’s actually a relatively complicated concept. Probably the best definition I’ve seen for the term comes from Cvent.

First coined by the Global Business Travel Association, A Strategic Meetings Management Program is defined 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.”

Put another way, it’s all the work that goes into ensuring your staff gets the most out of the meetings run by your organization. That includes workflow, sourcing, vendor selection, meeting policy administration, financial management, attendee management, and reporting/analytics. That’s an easy enough concept to grasp, right?

Let’s move forward.

Why Implement A SMM Program?

So, now that we know what SMMPs are, the next question we need to answer is why an organization might use one. Thankfully, this is probably one of the easiest questions in the piece to address. After all, who wouldn’t want their meetings to be better run?

“The common rationales for developing a strategic meetings management program,” writes Meetings Net’s Shimon Avish, “are to contain and reduce costs, to mitigate regulatory and duty-of-care risk, and to consistently deliver engaging events.”

Ah, there it is – the connection between SMM and event management.

“These are all exceptionally good reasons to implement an SMM program,” he continues, “because if these concerns are not addressed, they leave organizations exposed to the loss of customers and employees, significant financial loss, brand damage, intellectual property loss, litigation, and potential risks to the safety and security of meeting attendees.”

Yeah. You kind of want a SMM program in place, even if your business doesn’t run a whole ton of events. It’s pretty much a vital best practice.

Understanding What SMM Isn’t

Now, earlier in the piece, I explained that there’s a lot of misinformation about what a SMMP actually is, and how the business methodology should be implemented within one’s organization. While we can’t necessarily address every single SMM myth floating around the Internet, what we can do is tackle a few of the most common. According to a White Paper by Cvent, they are as follows:

  • They’re too complex/difficult to implement: SMMPs are only difficult if you’re doing them wrong. Approach it as a simple, logical, step-by-step process, and you’ll be just fine.
  • They’re too expensive: Again, strategic meetings management is only as expensive as you make it. Not only that the savings you could potentially enjoy – cited by Cvent as somewhere between 10-15% – more than make up for the money you might spend.
  • They’re only suitable for large enterprises: The best practices involved in implementing a SMMP can be applied to any business, no matter how large or small.
  • Success requires executive participation: An executive mandate isn’t necessary to see returns.
  • All You Need Is Technology: Unless you’re using your technology effectively, simply throwing fancy gadgets at your problems isn’t going to solve them.

Five Steps For An Awesome SMM Plan

Before we wrap things up, there’s one more detail we’ve got to address – we’re going to go over a brief step-by-step process to help you develop your own awesome strategic meetings management plan. Let’s not waste any time:

  1. Define Everything. Get a handle on how much you’re spending on your meetings and events, and review every shred of information you can. The goal here is to put together a complete picture of how you’re using your events and meetings – and why.
  2. Talk To Everyone Involved. This may involve pitching an idea to your executives, or simply bringing something before the board of directors. Figure out how the people you’re pitching to prefer their information, and structure your presentation accordingly.
  3. Start Developing A Policy. Once everyone’s on-board, it’s time to implement an organization-wide policy related to your SMMP. This policy should cover everything from the approval process to preferred suppliers.
  4. Communicate. There’s nothing else to be said here. You need to include people from every level of your business in the development of the process, and regularly correspond with them on the challenges and roadblocks they themselves face.
  5. Revisit. No policy or plan is developed in a vacuum – and no business is entirely static. Once you’ve a SMMP in place, you should review it every now and then to make sure it’s still workable and applicable to your organization. Check for any weaknesses, and rework it to address any new challenges that may have surfaced.

In Closing

So, there you have it. A (relatively) brief explanation of the strategic meetings management program – what it is, how it should be used, and how you can implement one within your own organization. At this point, there’s only one thing left to ask:

What are you waiting for?