Expert insight

Strategic Meetings Management (SMM): what is it?

27 November 2018

Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) can help your business work smarter and ensure clear return on investment on your meetings. We explain how…

Strategic meetings management delivers clear return on investment (ROI) and return on delegates experience (ROE) on your meetings. But what is SMM, and what does this mean to you, your delegates and your business?

Leanne Fowler is director of strategic meetings management at NYS, the specialist meetings and events brand of Capita Travel and Events. She describes SMM as “metrics and data-driven initiatives for managing your meetings more efficiently and effectively.”

Leanne continues:  “SMM aids smarter buying, giving you visibility and control of your meetings spend, while having delegate wellbeing at its core. Technology (read about NYS specialist MeetingsPro tool here) is removing inefficiencies and supporting online content and aiding end-to-end management of internal to external meeting planning.”

SMM grew out of the success of strategically managed travel in the early 1990s where it had become more common to consolidate meetings planning into one central, managed function. This became increasingly sophisticated and, when combined with digital innovation, resulted in smarter ways of managing and delivering effective meetings. 

“However it became evident that there wasn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” explains Capita Travel and Events’ director of proposition – accommodation and meetings, Leigh Cowlishaw. “Depending on the customer’s needs, the make-up of meetings vary considerably. One company might have a requirement for a limited number of room hires, possibly with food and beverages, while others might need travel and accommodation, and delegate registration, as well as venue sourcing and contracting.”

Leanne adds: “Companies interested in developing SMM require programmes designed to support their company culture and meet their own organisational objectives. By aggregating a wide range of managed meeting spend through NYS’ and Capita Travel and Events customer portfolios, we deliver compliance through confidence, guarantee added value and efficiencies to our customers.”

As Cowlishaw says, “Let’s say we have one customer with a £300,000 spend, and another with a £4m potential budget. We combine them within our Meetings first service; an aggregation of spend, enabling us to achieve optimum rates, added value and dictated terms and conditions on all aspects of the meetings management requirement. “This is because we aim to be far more than a simple plug-and-play travel, meetings and events management company. And through a process of ‘Smarter working’ we achieve this with no compromise on quality or value. For example, we are educating customers to ensure that they are holding a meeting with purpose; whether the delivery, the layout, the start times, the content – all of which will impact on the success, the translation of messaging and in line with a meeting’s objective.”

BUYING POWER

What NYS is urging businesses to do is to move away from what Leanne calls “a fragmented buying” philosophy towards a much more strategic approach. With fragmented buying, each requirement can be treated separately and booked as though it were a one-off meeting, meaning companies miss out on the buying power and venue relationships of collective purchasing.

“By closely working with an array of partners and continuously recognising the ever changing industry landscapes, we make it our business to ensure that our customers have a breadth of opportunities within meetings and events,” says Leigh. “So, if we have a customer looking for meeting space in Milton Keynes for example, we’ll have hotels and venues with which we already have our aggregated programme in place and have worked with previously, so we’ll have that insight as a starting point.”

TEAM WELLBEING

But SMM doesn’t simply deliver savings – it offers insight into behaviour. Far from simply booking a meeting room, it also considers delegate wellbeing – adding to the meeting’s success, whether internal or, more especially, off-site.

With a delegate-tracker application you can be sure delegates have arrived, checked in and are en-route to the meeting. “This Meetings first approach gives peace of mind,” says Leigh. “It allows us to nudge delegates and be helpful at a meeting. For instance, during a coffee break, we can message delegates about any travel disruption within a certain radius.”

Leanne adds: “We can even advise delegates of negotiated hotel discounts for those who have a long journey and choose to stay an extra night. Tapping into such expertise allows the business to focus on the meeting content while leaving the logistics to proven the experts.”

Says Cowlishaw, “We might have a customer who’s running a meeting from 9am to 5.30pm. We’d help them to understand that this could mean delegates staying the previous night, or leaving at 5am, and possibly arranging childcare, missing personal appointments, enjoying down time too. Either of those might make the meeting experience more stressful and/or tiring than it needs to be. A 10.30am to 4pm meeting may be better for people - meaning people are more motivated to attend - and just as productive. And it can be better for budgets too. For example, arriving into central London after 10am, will reduce fares and should be wrapped up into the total meeting cost, rather than fragmented buying.”

To speak to one of our experts about Strategic Meetings Management, contact us today.

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