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Does SMM Have a Perception Problem?

Changemaker Shimon Avish shares his ideas for three areas that need work in meetings management.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Shimon Avish

Principal/Meetings Management Practice Lead
Acquis Consulting Group

For being a tireless educator on the issues around corporate meetings management

Making Change
I’ve been a meetings management consultant for 20 years, and I believe one of the main responsibilities of a consultant is to help clarify critical issues in the industry. I lead numerous sessions at major industry conferences throughout the year and have published over a dozen articles and videos in the last year and a half. Most of my educational efforts are focused on rationalizing an organization’s meeting spend or supplier base, identifying and mitigating the risks associated with meetings, or describing how to assess, design, and implement a meetings management program. I invest the time to share this information because I believe in the value of managing meetings.

What’s Next? 
I’m serving on the Global Business Travel Association’s Blue-Ribbon Panel on Meetings Management, which is designing a new two-day course, “Fundamentals of Meetings Management,” which will roll out in August at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago.  I’m writing a module for the program on the key components of a meetings management program.

Thinking Differently
I went to graduate school for a doctorate in political science and learned the importance of research comprising face-to-face interviewing and the value of primary-source data. In my work as a consultant, that has translated into speaking with people on the front lines to better understand what is happening and to be clear where the issues are. It has also led me to dig deeply into data to get a better understanding of the facts. Ultimately, I think my academic training has taught me to look at situations from multiple directions to form a comprehensive understanding of a situation.

More Change
Three areas need work in meetings management, and they all relate to the way it’s perceived in the industry. 

  • There are the senior leaders who argue there is not enough meeting spend to warrant a meetings management program. This is simply not true, since meeting spend often equals one percent of an organization’s revenue. I have advocated for and gotten approved the creation of a meetings-spend analysis solution that identifies all meeting spend and presents it in a way that resonates with senior leaders.
  • Many stakeholders don’t see the benefits of integrating travel and meetings management. I have developed solutions that help reveal the rewards, such as leveraging transient and group hotel spend, increasing card rebates, and reducing redundancies. 
  • Event owners often fear that a meetings management program’s focus on savings and compliance come at the expense of their efforts to increase sales and maintain customer loyalty. Today, we finally have the tools to support those goals, using digital solutions that enhance the event participant’s experience. These allow us to measure participant engagement and satisfaction, and measure the event return on investment.

Managing Change
Change management is critical in any meetings management program. From my experience implementing two global programs, the key is to identify all stakeholders from the beginning and proactively engage them in the strategy development and program design phases of the project. Without doing so, your program is at risk from the start.

Got a Spare Hour?
In addition to reading academic works on politics, I enjoy visiting the Punto Urban Art Museum in my hometown, Salem, Mass., where there are over 50 magnificent street murals. In fact, I visit and photograph murals whenever I visit a new city. I also take time to play with our new puppy. She is a Lab mix, and quite the sweetie.


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