by Matt Alderton | July 06, 2016

Among companies that have implemented a strategic meetings management (SMM) program, almost all of them (96 percent) say it has been successful, according to a new global study published last week by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) and The BTN Group.

Titled "Driving Success in Strategic Meetings Management," the study concludes that there are clear benefits to SMM programs -- but also lots of room for improvement.

All told, CWT and The BTN Group interviewed 20 SMM experts and surveyed 246 meeting professionals. Among the benefits of SMM cited by survey respondents were greater transparency of spend, cost reductions, improved compliance, risk mitigation, and, ultimately, improved effectiveness of meetings and events. Of these, survey respondents ranked cost transparency and reduction as the most important metric of success, with over half indicating that they'd made 10 percent savings from their SMM program, and an additional 17 percent indicating that they'd saved more than 15 percent. This was followed by attendee and sponsor satisfaction, then regulatory compliance.

"What we found is that practically everyone who runs a strategic meetings management program defines their program as successful," said Kari Wendel, senior director of global SMM strategy and solutions at CWT's CWT Meetings & Events line of business. "All the experts agreed that a strategic meetings management program doesn't have to be complicated and the returns can come very quickly. The advice that emerged from our research is that if you're starting out, it's a question of keeping it simple and focusing on strategy: tactical implementation will follow quickly. Don't be too ambitious to begin with, demonstrate value and then grow. And the absolute key is to identify your stakeholders early on and get their buy-in."

Further proof of SMM's value, according to CWT, is the fact that over 70 percent of respondents with an SMM program said they're looking to expand it.

"We also looked to the future and found that there will be integration of SMM programs with marketing and events programs. Continuing industry consolidation is also going to have an impact. Bigger hotel groups, for example, will make it harder for companies without a strategic approach to negotiate good rates, or even perhaps secure space," said Cindy Fisher, vice president of CWT Meetings & Events. "What is abundantly clear is that an SMM program is rapidly becoming a necessity."

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