by Tim Brown | January 14, 2015

National surveys reveal that very few people fail to follow through with their New Year resolutions—92 percent, by one recent report. Of course, the easy part is making out the list of priorities, but the hard part is sustaining the effort to complete each defined task. Since this is my first Strategic Perspective column of 2015, I would like to highlight a short list of stated meeting planner challenges and provide my take on the appropriate solution. Perhaps you can add these to your list of New Year's resolutions.

Select Your Action Item

There are many meeting planner surveys that detail specific meeting management challenges and pet peeves that may create a "call to action" for you. And since these will have an impact on your company, the chances are good that you will have success, since results can be shared with your stakeholders, which is both good for business and your career. So let me start with key challenges, as stated by both corporate and association meeting planners, along with my recommended solutions, for your consideration.

Challenge: Hotel Contract Terms Less Flexible, With Added Hotel Fees and Surcharges

Solution: The key to success in a hot seller's market is assessing your revenues and leverage for each RFP and having flexibility with your peak night room pattern, rooms to space ratio and group F&B contribution. With meeting budgets remaining flat, we are seeing many ancillary fees to boost hotel revenue. Create and utilize a custom hotel contract (versus addendum), that addresses all contract components, concessions, hotel fees (eliminate or reduce), performance clauses (based on profit, not revenue), and company legal and liability language. Additionally, track and leverage total meeting activity and spend, by category, and have a negotiations plan for each meeting.

Challenge: Attendee Communications Strategies and Enhanced Meeting Experience

Solution: Content marketing, a watch word of 2015, assists in the quest to increase attendee communications, engagement, and interactive learning. Today, having a proactive process to create high impact attendee communications, engagement, and feedback—before, during, and after the meeting—is essential. This can include pre-meeting opinion surveys, an interactive meeting and event website, use of apps and mobile content delivery, multiple social media outlets and posts, cross promotions with strategic partners, creative use of production during the meeting, live streaming of educational content, post-meeting surveys (compare pre- and post-event feedback), post-meeting education on-demand, and more.

Challenge: Meeting Metrics and Demonstrating Meeting Value to Senior Management and Stakeholders

Solution: Clearly, there are increased expectations from senior management for improved planner productivity, cost savings, contract risk reduction, and ROI. Today, planners must have specific metrics to define, measure, and report success. Track all meeting spend, by category and by individual hotel and chain, and leverage for increased meeting value and savings. Additionally, create a cost savings and risk mitigation report from each countersigned contract. Post-meeting, report back to each stakeholders on stated objectives and goals and what was achieved (yes, keep score). It is important to understand exactly what each stakeholder values and your criteria for measuring and reporting results. Meeting value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and achieving stakeholder goals, objectives and expectations is our biggest job.

Your Path To $uccess

Today, the big focus by corporate and association planning teams is Strategic Meetings Management (SMM), which defines a business plan approach to manage these investments called meetings and events. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so conduct your own needs assessment and implement a plan that works for your organization. Getting buy-in and support from a senior manager is essential, so break down the umbrella of benefits to your organization (some with dollar signs, some without). A carefully planned and implemented SMM plan can save an organization 12 to 20 percent annually, which validates the need to get aboard this important initiative. So select your SMM New Year's Resolution action items and see a big impact to your organization—and in the process, build your brand and recognition!

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Tim Brown is CEO of Meeting Sites Resource. MSR is a global strategic meetings management solutions organization with a 20-year track record of meeting excellence. This includes global hotel sourcing and custom contract negotiations, professional meeting support services, SMM consulting and advanced meeting technology.
Tim contributes articles to industry trade publications and speaks at many industry events. MSR also designs custom strategic education for planning and procurement teams. MSR is a recognition recipient of Meeting Professionals International's Golden Paragon Award, MPI's highest recognition for meeting excellence.
For a complimentary copy of Tim's "Meeting Value & ROI Analysis," contact him at [email protected]