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Putting together the pieces of the puzzle that will lead to SMM growth

The Stuck State of Strategic Meetings Management

SMM still isn’t moving beyond highly regulated companies, an increasingly saturated market. Here’s what I think we need to do get new SMM players on board.

As a MeetingsNet contributor, I often have written about the ups and downs of strategic meetings management, or SMM. I’ve questioned many things. Why is adoption so low? Is it too complicated? Should we stop calling it “strategic?” Then my day job took me to another corner of the meetings industry and I turned my attention to other things.

When I returned to meetings management after a year implementing a client’s global congress-management program, I found that not much has changed. We are still stuck with low adoption, even though, on the surface, adoption should be higher given the risk reduction and benefits associated with a comprehensive approach to managing meetings.

Benefits and risk reduction accrue to any company, large or small, that plans meetings under an SMM program: reduced costs, increased insight into and control over spend, and improved event quality are just a sampling as processes and procedures are standardized. While typically associated with companies in highly regulated sectors, such as pharma and financial services, risk reduction benefits from meetings management aids other types of companies as well. For instance, any company that comes into contact with foreign officials and is large enough to attract the attention of the Department of Justice as it relates to enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a prime candidate.

So why has SMM not made greater inroads beyond life science and financial services companies? I believe the answer lies in the complexity and traditional rationales of SMM programs. As I noted in a previous article, the earliest customers for SMM programs were procurement and compliance officers at companies in highly regulated industries. In the past couple of years as those sectors reach saturation in the implementation of SMM programs, new customers have begun to emerge—brand and marketing managers who view meetings as effective channels to generate sales leads and build brands.

The original motivations for SMM programs do not resonate with this audience because they seem to constrict the freedom needed when planning meetings to reach their goals. We have not done a good job of finding rationales that connect with these customers, nor of developing less complex, less intimidating meetings management models. We need to develop new models that solve their problems, such as engaging attendees or measuring success in building their brands or increasing sales. Only then will SMM programs begin to meet the needs of the remaining industries that have resisted coming onboard.

Am I on target? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.

I’ll see you next time.

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