August 30, 2019
By Madison Howard

According to the GBTA groups and meetings committee, Strategic Meeting Management (SMM) is the management of enterprise-wide meeting-related processes, spend, volume, standards, suppliers and data in order to achieve measurable business objectives that align with the organization’s strategic goals/vision, and deliver value in the form of quantitative savings, risk mitigation and service quality.

On average, meeting spend is calculated to be .5–1% of annual sales, 25–30% of total T&E spend, 60% of air volume, or 2–3% of revenue. Do your estimates align with these numbers? If not, there is a huge opportunity within your company to uncover hidden meeting spend and implement a meetings program to increase visibility, reduce risk, automate business processes, and cut cost.

Who Uses Strategic Meetings Management?

It’s tempting to think that SMM targets large companies, but that’s not the case. While the biggest companies tend to have complex programs and events, that doesn’t mean they’re the only organizations that can benefit from an SMM program. SMM can be implemented for small, mid-sized, TPPs, and large companies. If you have multiple events a year across different locations, then you can take advantage of SMM. If there are many employees and large revenue, the organization should look into SMM. Most meetings in an SMM program tend to be small. The complexity comes from the sheer amount of meetings and the challenge that arise in scheduling all of those events. If you have an event program that has many meetings throughout the year, spread across many employees, and excellence is demanded, then SMM is for you.

Proving Event ROI

Proving the value of an SMM program is simple. It comes down to return on investment (ROI). First, ask yourself – how much does your company spend and what are the benefits?

Without a proper program, you have a network of meetings that have been set up in different systems, meaning they’re all being budgeted differently by the different event owners. Therefore, expense tracking is a near-impossible task. It would take days to track down everyone who planned a small meeting and to understand how they kept track of expenses. Then, you’d need to create an overarching standard measure of success, a challenge as none of the meetings were planned under that standard.

When it comes to cost-savings, you’re majorly missing out. In the same way, you can save when you buy in bulk vs individually, you’re missing out on savings by not brokering deals with venues, catering, and more to provide ongoing services.

SMM equals and measurement tool plus visibility.

With the right tool, it becomes easy to track ROI. There’s more to it than simple costs. Planning programs come with their own bag of problems. From safety concerns to compliance worries, if you can’t monitor all company meetings with one tool there’s a chance you’re opening the company up to future difficulties.

Risk Management and SMM

There will always be risks. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. First, know the risks and be aware of them. In the meetings and events world, there’s a lot that can go wrong. You have to be aware of safety in travel concerns for attendees, insurance coverage for events, data privacy laws like GDPR, and contractual agreements. The best way to mitigate these risks is to put a program in place that has clear processes and visibility. If every contract needs a specified authority to review and sign, that ensures consistency. Often, processes are looked down on for slowing down momentum when you’re trying to complete a task, but really, they create a safeguard against risk.

Customer Experience Matters

When many people are planning, the experience changes. This can be good or bad, but if given the choice, wouldn’t you choose to have a collaborative program that pulls together strategies to create the best events? A meeting that no one gets anything out of is pointless. Plain and simple. SMM is a great way to improve the experience. From onsite tools like registration and badging to data and analytics, it’s a fluid experience. There’s no need to worry about branding because it’s easy to make it consistent. With process implementation, you create a basic expectation for meetings with an improved experience. With SMM, it’s easy to use each meeting as an opportunity to grow at the organizational not individual level.

It Makes for a Better Program

SMM takes the confusion out of planning tons of events a year. There are stricter role guidelines that clearly articulate what each planner is responsible for and how to plan. Who wants to start from scratch each time? There's no need to create something new when it’s been done a hundred times over. Above all, take advantage of the best tools possible and collaborate.

Want more? Download Strategic Meetings Management for Dummies.


Madison Layman

Madison Howard

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents.

When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.

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