Strategic Meetings Management, or SMM, has become more relevant than ever during the current pandemic. However, it remains an area unexplored by many organisations in the Asia Pacific region, both small and large. In my pursuit to understand why so few are jumping aboard a proven methodology to produce tangible results, I realised there are misconceptions about what SMM is, which have led to many not knowing where to begin.
I’ll save you some time by linking you to a description of what SMM is here, according to Cvent. You can also learn more about Cvent's approach to meetings management in our "SMM Matters" series.
As a concept, SMM is simply an approach to managing meetings and events to achieve business objectives. What it is not, is expensive, time-consuming and technology-driven. While I would personally recommend automating the processes through technology, such as Cvent, there is nothing stopping you from putting this into an excel sheet (but why would you!).
Because I am such a fervent advocate for data-based decisions, which an SMM programme can offer, I will break down how to get started with SMM in this blog in the hopes that you will join the many who are already enjoying its benefits.
Start with the end in mind.
The King in Alice in Wonderland very gravely said, "Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Do not listen to the King! That is poor advice for an SMM programme.
In coming up with an event strategy, we should always start with the end in mind – what do we wish to achieve? Is it cost savings or wanting to know how much you are spending in the first place? Are you looking to be accountable to your customers through duty of care? Perhaps, you are looking to justify why you need additional resources in your team but nobody is listening?
Once you have clear objectives, you can ask the next question: “How can I achieve that?”
Also, do not stop as the King suggests at the ‘end’. An SMM programme does not necessarily wrap up once you have met your objectives. Event objectives can also change, at times abruptly; as you can imagine, post-pandemic objectives for businesses are probably not the same as they were pre-pandemic. Therefore, your SMM programme should evolve to adapt to the changing landscape of your business.
Keep it simple.
There is beauty in simplicity, especially in SMM.
Think of no more than 3 areas of focus or challenges that affect your business or day-to-day operations and how you think life could be better (or simpler). Write your goals down in S.M.A.R.T. terms – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and within a Timeframe.
An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is, “I want to reduce my cost per lead by 10% in the next 12 months.” This is just the ‘what’.
The ‘How’ can also be made S.M.A.R.T. E.g. “To achieve that, I will track all event spend and number of participants for all marketing events and consider virtual options for events with less than 20 people to save venue costs. I will review this policy around the number of people in 2-3 months’ time to see if we need to adjust the policy to meet our goals without impacting customer engagement."
Make your SMM programme relevant.
Events do not only impact the Events and Marketing team. Some events and meetings focus on client education and enablement, while others are internal events for employee engagement. Meanwhile, customer-facing events are some of the most important and impactful vehicles of sales and lead generation. Events can also be a main source of revenue for member organisations and professional conference organisers.
An event strategy supported by a sound SMM programme, therefore, can have implications in many other areas like Finance and Human Resources. Start making friends in other departments and get different perspectives for relevance.
Create an ‘Executable’ Strategy.
A mentor of mine often used the term ‘executable strategy’ to suggest that a ‘strategy’ is no more than a fancy word if it cannot be executed. It is pointless to dream up a huge event process and approval workflow, without the ability, time and resources to properly implement it.
Measure your Return on Investment (ROI).
Calculate the potential investment and quantify the effort. Then consider the return on that investment, which can be either a financial return (cost savings) or a less tangible but extremely important one - reputation (duty of care). If the return outweighs your time and money spent to get an SMM programme in place, congratulations! You have already done your homework and are in a great position to take your numbers and business plan to other stakeholders for support.
This blog was written by Jenna Toh.