In recent years, corporations have increased scrutiny of the way money is spent on large meetings. But according to a Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) Management Institute Survey, it’s small meeting management that could provide the biggest cost savings.
Nearly two-thirds of all meetings host 25 or fewer people, the survey indicates, and the collective spend associated with them can rival the cost of several large events. Often small meetings are planned independently by administrative professionals who operate independently of each other. And, according to CWT, attendees are frequently the ones making the travel arrangements.
By implementing a small meetings management program, organizers can begin to understand buying patterns and use that information as a bargaining tool with suppliers to ensure better pricing and services for multiple meetings, rather than negotiating with suppliers for each individual event. Bringing travel management in-house and educating all in-house planners about pre-negotiated discounts and best practices also has the potential to create huge cost savings.
CWT has these recommendations for organizations interested in establishing a small meetings program:
Lay the groundwork
- Start gathering data about how much money is being spent on small meetings, including how much transient travel spend is actually meetings-related.
- Work with human resources to identify any employees whose responsibilities include meeting planning and ask them to detail:
- Recurring meetings and events they hold each year, both for internal and external audiences.
- The number of attendees at each.When and where the meetings are typically held.
- Work with support departments, including finance and HR, to identify other small meetings, such as training classes, that otherwise might fly under the radar.
- Look for patterns. Using the initial data, identify the number of small meetings currently taking place. Note any geographic and/or seasonal consistencies that emerge for potential consolidation with common hoteliers.
- Establish definitions for what constitutes large meetings, small meetings and meetings not worth managing.
Interview stakeholders and those who organize and plan small meetings about their priorities and needs. Gather feedback on suppliers used and ask which aspects of the process they enjoy vs. tasks they would happily delegate.
Make a business case. Share with leadership:
- The number of meetings not managed centrally and highlight some initial, quick wins in pricing or service that can be obtained with a small meetings program.
- Outline a phased approach for implementation that includes substantial upfront time for technology implementations, change management and communications.
- Prepare an estimate for the appropriate amount of resource allocation required to get started.
- Engage suppliers.
- Approach a few hoteliers in cities where most of the small meetings took place and which garnered positive feedback from attendees and/or currently participate in the organization’s corporate travel program.
- Share with them recently collected data on local market volume from last year and/or expected for this year, and be honest about the organization’s maturity in managing this spend.
- Offer to drive volume to their property, and see which one offers the most value for your group.
- Keep in mind that hotels will be reserved until they’ve observed an organization’s volume shift.
- Communicate and train. Companies need to communicate extensively with executives, planners and meeting attendees. Don’t underestimate the time required to do training and change management.
Seek continuous improvement
- Build on past successes.
- Seek continuous feedback from the planners and attendees who use the processes and tools and interact with the suppliers.
- Over time, expand the number of preferred suppliers and the overall scope of the program.
- Explore opportunities for regional or national chain-wide agreements with hoteliers.