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Where Is Strategic Meetings Management Headed?

A new white paper from BCD Meetings & Events takes a clear-eyed look at SMM programs.

While meeting planning departments wait for face-to-face events to return, there’s time for planners to look to the future, consider processes and best practices, and take time for industry education. A new white paper on strategic meetings management from BCD Meetings & Events provides some of each.

The 16-page document, “Meetings Management Programs: Building for Change,” expands on the SMM model developed by the Global Business Travel Association, considering 12 areas where organizations can measure their programs on a four-tier scale that runs from “unmanaged” to “developing” to “performing,” and finally to “leading.” The areas to be measured are strategy, policy, technology, registration and approvals, strategic sourcing, process, preferred suppliers, payment, reporting, resource model, engagement, and stakeholders.

BCD M&E is among the largest independent meeting companies—it executed more than 50,000 corporate meetings and more than 2,000 incentive travel programs from the U.S. in 2019—which puts it in a position to take a big-picture snapshot of SMM behavior. The report is based on a survey of account managers across 41 meetings management accounts from a cross section of industry verticals.

The authors look at the reasons that managing payments, engagement, and process development tend to be areas that most need improvement in a typical SMM program, and also drill down on three industry segments—life sciences, financial services, and professional services—to profile each one’s typical meeting management structure and issues.

The report also considers the future of meeting management program strategy, considering both internal factors, like cost cutting, restructuring, and leadership changes, and external influences including the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and venue availability. Planners can learn from the pandemic, the authors write, by taking the time to evaluate how their SMM programs stood up to the disruption: What kind of support did your company receive from suppliers? Were there gaps in processes? How much did the disruption cost in terms of cancellations and was this well managed through strategic sourcing practices? Is the meeting strategy changing, including your virtual meeting strategy?

The white paper ends with six predictions for how meeting management will evolve over the next five years. Here they are in brief:
• Globalization of SMM programs will continue with more regional adaptions to drive adoption.
• The number of face-to-face meetings will be reduced. Hybrid meetings will become commonplace.
• A digital strategy to support virtual and hybrid meetings will become common in meetings management programs.
• There will be further focus on the attendee experience.
• Sustainability practices with measurement will increasingly be part of meetings programs.
• Cost savings will become increasingly important, especially with internal meetings.

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