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Marjan Ghaffari
Marjan Ghaffari

Small Meetings Can Have Big Costs

An Off Site podcast highlights how an SMMP can prevent small events from flying under the radar.

Sometimes, meetings happen in a particular way because they’ve always been done that way, and no one questions whether a change is needed. Implementing a strategic meeting management program means that all meetings and events are registered in a central place not just to measure costs, but to evaluate how a meeting is conducted. A recent Off Site: The Meeting Planner Podcast, hosted by Bryan Plofsky, highlighted how an event came to be reevaluated when a procurement specialist took a look at it.

Marjan Ghaffari, one of MeetingsNet’s 2018 Changemakers, is the travel and meetings procurement manager at Informatica, and has been able to save her company 25 percent on meetings- and travel-related costs by centralizing payments and agreements, and by registering all meetings, big and small. On the podcast, Ghaffari shared an anecdote about what happened when she mandated that all company events be registered.

One employee registered an event to be held on a lake in Texas. “The guy told me he had been doing the event for 20 years," she says. "It took place on a party boat, there were jet skis available for people to use, kids were invited, and people could bring their own alcohol.” Twenty years ago that type of event might have seemed like a good idea, but not these days. Ghaffari spoke to Informatica’s insurance provider and legal department and informed the employee that he would be responsible for some of the risks associated with the event. He would also need to budget for extra insurance for non-employee attendees and children on the boat, and to buy another insurance policy for having alcohol. 

The employee was unwilling assume the responsibility or purchase the insurance, and no longer holds that event. Ghaffari says, “I thought it was a huge win as far as risk mitigation goes for the company.”

To effectively implement a policy of registering all meetings and events, Ghaffari’s first move was to get the support of the chief financial officer. She also set up processes with the expense team and corporate credit-card program. She says, “I’ll get pinged if someone tries to book an off-site meeting with a merchant that is not approved by procurement or for a credit card charge of $5,000 or more.” Ghaffari also solved the problem of employees signing agreements that they did not have the authority to sign by adopting DocuSign for identity management and workflow issues.

For more of Ghaffari’s advice, and to find out why she is known as a spreadsheet master, listen to the podcast here.


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