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How to Manage the Naysayers, Foot-Draggers, and Critics

A "what’s-in-it-for-me" strategy can help you push changes to the meetings-management process through your organization.

In many areas of business—but especially in meeting planning—it's so important to be able to manage any negativity that comes from bosses, colleagues from other departments, clients, or suppliers. The challenge is to shift a negative attitude to a positive one in order to improve relationships as you improve business outcomes.

With strategic meetings-management programs, negativity is usually rooted in the fact that people don’t like change. When an SMMP is implemented throughout an organization, it shakes up the process people use for buying meetings and events. For many employees, simply calling the hotel down the street for a small meeting is being replaced with a brief online meeting registration, which triggers a request-for-proposal process ensuring at least three hotel bids.

There’s actualy good news all around with this change: It protects the buyer and the company by ensuring a competitive purchasing process while guarding the occasional planner from any appearance of a conflict of interest. Although this new process might not seem as easy as calling the hotel, the benefits to the company far outweigh the slight efficiencies of unmanaged purchasing for smaller events. For example: Once a meeting is registered in the tool, the details are captured electronically, which allows for pre-populating a meeting website for the participants as well as saving time by avoiding duplicate entry for the planner. Also, that event's data gets added to the pile for negotiating volume discounts with hotel companies in the future.

For the planners championing the new process, it is critical to talk about WIIFM (What’s in It for Me) in order to transition negative influencers toward being positive influencers or at least neutral parties. WIIFM is a simple but powerful acronym; it allows you to develop a few key messages about why people should move away from something that in their minds works well enough, and adapt to the new process.

Frequently, the WIIFM value proposition for a meetings-management program is like other change initiatives at a company:

• Process efficiency, time savings, elimination of duplicate entry
Trained professionals do the more-challenging tasks: sourcing, negotiating, and contracting
Occasional planners still get to handle the interesting planning and operational elements of a meeting or event
It's the right thing to help the company save money, ensure quality, reduce risk, and fulfill the duty of care for employees and other participants

Although this example of managing negativity around change focuses on meetings management, it's likely you will find these value propositions applicable in other situations where you must work hard to win over hearts and minds to a new process or environment.

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