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Strategic Meetings Management in a Post-Pandemic World

Now is the time to evolve SMM programs to continue to mitigate risk, capture spend, and control costs. Here’s how.

I find it startling that senior leadership in many organizations thinks that there has been essentially no meeting activity since the shutdown started. That is certainly not the case. No doubt, most involved with the planning process would agree that virtual events take more time, as well as more human and financial resources. As we begin to recover from the pandemic, there is an urgent need to prove the value of strategic meetings management, expand the SMM governance model, and update the meetings and events (M&E) definition. 

Reestablish the value of the SMM program. Those with an SMM in place pre-pandemic were in an excellent position to prove their value to their company: They could quickly assess the financial commitment for future M&E, share a postponement/cancelation strategy with stakeholders, and therefore reduce the amount of penalties and fees paid. I say it is time to do one of two things: 

  1. Reinforce the benefits of an SMM program to the company. Communicate with stakeholders now, so the program’s value is top of mind.
  2. If you don’t have an SMM, use your pandemic experience to begin making a case for establishing one.

Revise the M&E governance model to be more inclusive. Pre-pandemic, the governance of SMM was rather narrow, typically owned by the meeting, travel, or procurement department. With the transition to virtual, there are other key groups that need to be part of the governance conversation. The IT and security teams are at the top of that list for their roles in sourcing and securing virtual-event platforms. In the past, a virtual technology team might have helped with an occasional online town hall, but likely worked independently of the meeting team. Today, they should be collaborating on the delivery of virtual and hybrid M&E. The event marketing department could also be part of a new governance model, bringing their expertise with data and analysis to the virtual meeting arena. The call to action: Proactively reach out to each of these groups regarding M&E governance.

Retool the M&E definition to include virtual and hybrid delivery methods. There is a need to understand the enterprise-wide M&E portfolio, inclusive of face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid events. The benefits of SMM apply no matter the medium: visibility into spend; risk mitigation (financial, reputational, and personal); cost control; the ability to measure success metrics, and the use of vetted and approved suppliers. If you haven’t already, take time to redefine what a meeting or event is for your company, and communicate that to your organization. The directive could be as simple as, “If you would have registered this meeting as a face-to-face event, you need to register it now as a virtual or hybrid meeting.”

Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, is president of Bondurant Consulting.

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