Expert insights

9 expert tips for making the most of your meetings and events data

1 September 2016 by Sam Welch

Data is critical to successfully manage meetings and events. You might have big picture dashboards, but drilling into the detail for each event offers powerful insights.

Meeting and events spend is under increasing scrutiny from procurement departments – and it’s easy to see why. Meetings and events costs are typically a sizeable chunk of most companies’ overall business travel spend.

The growing willingness to tackle these costs was revealed by last year’s SMMP (strategic meetings management programme) survey by Business Travel News. This showed that while only 62% of global procurement managers said they were “very involved” or “somewhat involved” in managing meetings and events, that figure had almost doubled since 2012.

When questioned about their general SMMP priorities, 60% of those surveyed stated that keeping costs down was important. Yet interestingly, only 43% listed data analysis and reporting – essential if you’re going to spot potential savings – as a priority.

A good travel management agency will provide a level of detail that will allow you to make the most of my top tips:

1. Compare your events spend with your peers

Track your key performance indicators such as average rates for day delegates, 24-hour hire and room hire. Complete this on a monthly basis in your main meeting locations. Compare your company’s performance against the industry generally, and against your market peers.

2. Check compliance and pricing

Ensuring employees actually comply with your meetings policies is vital to help drive bookings towards your preferred suppliers. Check you are achieving the rates you have negotiated at your preferred venues, and that you’re getting the best out of the agreed meeting packages.

Are your meeting arrangers using non-preferred venues? If so, review the reasons for their non-compliance. You might want to consider adding the new venue to your programme.

3. Think about delegate segmentation

Look at the number of meetings you hold for your various categories of delegate. Bookings for one to 10 delegates, for example, can often be accommodated by internal office space (see below for more on this).

Repeat bookings for 10 to 20 delegates can often indicate a regular need for training or development. If so, this regular business will be attractive to most venue providers, so you should be able to negotiate on cost.

Larger meetings and events tend to have a different set of requirements and success factors to smaller-scale events. It’s important to identify these and get them right for the audience you’re working with.

Know how your meetings business profile looks when it’s segmented and keep an eye on the total spend, as well as the average spend in each category. You can use these insights to influence your policy and booking strategy – and negotiate better deals with suppliers.

4. Make the most of internal meeting space

An organisation’s own meeting space is a fundamental opportunity to reduce its meetings costs. But it’s often the final frontier for the procurement team. Work with your facilities management team to make sure you’re making the most of it.

Cross reference your available internal space and the number of bookings with your maximum delegate numbers. This offers a real opportunity to maximise the use of your own space and reduce costs.

5. Learn from your league tables

Ask your agency to present your meetings and events spend by business unit or division. Make sure you include confirmed and provisional bookings that have venue space on hold. These could impact your overall financial planning and future events spend.

Be creative with the resulting league tables. Review what is being spent on the different meetings and events packages available. And consider having league tables to identify your biggest spenders. This will make it easy to identify your key stakeholders. You can then create a network of champions to share best practice with and target in your communications.

6. Collaborate!

The more you work with key meetings stakeholders, the better your insight will be.

Meetings and events data is often based on past events, but it’s essential that both your data and discussions also look ahead to the future. From a budget-planning perspective, the more you can learn from your meetings bookers about their future plans and needs, the better.

7. Understand why meetings are happening

Capture the reason for the meeting. Most people travel on business because they are meeting with someone, whether that’s an internal colleague, customer or supplier.

Keeping track of the reasons for meetings will quickly identify how much of your spend is linked to internal activity, rather than external meetings with customers or suppliers. You can then make sensible decisions about your meetings and travel policies.

8. Sense-check your meeting days, durations and extras

Establish the most popular days of the week for your meetings, and the average price per day in each location. Could shifting a regular meet-up to a different day or venue save you money?

Also, look at the average duration of your meetings. If most take less than four hours, then there’s no point in negotiating a full-day delegate package, for instance.

Next, identify the meeting items and extras you are using most frequently, and look at the average cost of each on a location-by-location basis.

For example, do you need three servings of refreshments for every meeting? Many venues provide unlimited beverages at breakout stations. And what do your delegates really want? The cost of incidentals such as Wi-Fi or flipcharts can vary significantly from city to city. If you know what you need and the baseline price you’re currently paying, you can use this information when negotiating with suppliers.

9. Keep an eye on accommodation and group booking costs

Group bookings might sit in your accommodation or in your meetings data. Wherever they appear, it’s important to identify them, as they’ll generally be linked to a big event of some kind.

Our analysis indicates that a big chunk of the events spend for any residential event tends to be on the bedroom requirements. Make sure you are benchmarking the 24-hour rate offered against the individual cost of items it includes, as well as any existing negotiated rates that are part of your accommodation programme. You’d be surprised how often the average room rate achieved for a bedroom at a conference is significantly higher than when booked individually.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit the details below, with an idea of the times that suit you for a call.