Planner's Workshop: Corral Your Renegade Meetings

Meetings-related travel currently makes up approximately 35 to 45 percent of a company's annual travel budget, according to a 2005 PhoCusWright study. The same PhoCusWright study found that 75 percent of corporate meetings are considered ad hoc and are often coordinated by employees who are not professional meeting planners.

In most cases, impromptu or "renegade" meetings often bypass monitoring and negate cost-control efforts, resulting in unmanaged expenses. With pressure to make the most of business travel dollars, corporations continually are searching for new technologies and services that bring ease of use and cost control into the meeting planning cycle.

Here is a checklist of tips in seven areas crucial to using technology to bring those meetings under control.

1. Implement a meetings program, don't just use a tool:

Have a structured plan for use and adoption in place for all employees.

Offer training to help others understand the program and technology.

Get the meetings tool in the hands of the people who can use it, such as the corporate meeting planners, the executive assistants, and team leaders.

2. Have a C-level executive buy in to the meetings program:

Get an executive's approval and endorsement for the meetings program.

Build awareness for adoption of the program from the top down.

Send company-wide marketing communications from C-level executives about the meetings technology.

3. Put an ROI model in place to help people understand the value of using meetings technology:

How does it work?

Does it help the company save money or control policies?

4. Know how supply and demand impacts meetings:

High demand for meeting venues and hotel space can drive up costs, especially in top meeting locations. If you move your meeting by a day or a week or to a different location, you can often save your company money.

5. Give your corporate travelers options to enhance their meeting experience:

With the help of online meeting technology, not only can meeting planners book venues and rooms, but attendees have options to choose which meals they would like, activities they'd want to participate in, and the meeting favors they'd prefer.

6. Understand and analyze strategic goals and objectives for meetings and events:

Is the meeting ad hoc or is it a planned event?

Make sure everyone knows the purpose of the meeting/event.

Determine a budget for the meeting and stick to it.

Define the success measures for individual meetings and events.

7. Be sure to compile attendee reports for company records:

Use a tool that allows tracking on everything from invitation responses and survey question responses to room block responses, check-in/out dates, response history, and departure/arrival information.

Jeremy Stubbs is the director of GetThere meetings management, a provider of online corporate travel reservation technology. He is responsible for strategy, customer relationships, marketing communications, pricing, and product marketing for GetThere's portfolio of online meeting planning products. He can be reached (800) 850-3906 or via www.getthere.com.

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