So, strategic meetings management…disclaimer: This is a rant.
First of all, if one more person says the word “strategic,” I am going to scream. I personally like the word “plan,” it’s parsimonious all by itself. Not pompous or self-important, but simple and easy to understand.
Before the industry gets all in a ball about it, I’m not saying that strategic meetings management (SMM) isn’t important, I’m simply saying that I was terrified when I first heard the term. And then as all the articles and white papers rolled out, I got so overwhelmed that I said, “Forget it!” I know I’m not the only one that felt that way. With all the talk about ROI, stakeholder management, phases, cross-functional teams and enterprise-wide goals, who wouldn’t run away?
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If studies are correct, the average company spends 15 percent of its collective time in meetings. The whole point of SMM is that if your company spends nearly one-sixth of its time in meetings, then someone should really be making sure that the time and money is well spent.
With quantitative cost savings being a huge part of SMM, many planners focus on reducing attrition and cancellations (which by the way, are both the bane of my existence). But guess what, every time they (read: internal clients and/or the “higher ups”) look at the bottom line, what’s the first to go? Say it with me: Travel. Which means that some of the meetings you’ve already ruminated over and planned are about to be cancelled. And to your dismay, they really don’t intend on rescheduling, they just know this has to be cut, not now, but right now, as in yesterday.
So, let’s talk about that. How the heck did you just amass cancellations equivalent to someone’s salary? Does that mean they’re letting me go tomorrow? I mean literally, the cancellations amounted to $71,680.53. I think I better find a way to use that. Some way, somehow. You would think they wouldn’t cancel because perhaps, maybe, they can keep a co-worker from being downsized. But nope, even after explaining to them that they can host the meeting with an ROI for $72K or totally lose $71K, they still cancel the meeting.
Maybe we shot ourselves in the foot by telling them they had to have their requests in at least three months in advance. We knew that they wouldn’t know who was attending 90 days out. Like, why would they know who’s attending when they don’t even know what they’re going to talk about (i.e. the agenda); as in, why are you even trying to plan this meeting when you don’t have a purpose, an agenda or know the people that you want there?
So, let’s say they decided to hold the meeting, but they’ve rolled out this self-service policy where attendees can book any way they like versus going through our travel management portal. Now whose bright idea was that? What happens if something happens? How do I know where my attendees are because I don’t have an arrival/departure on them? It’s called duty of care, people. Why did we even bother selecting a travel management company as part of our SMM process? What a waste of time!
After saying all that, what did I really say about strategic meetings management? It’s probably time you instituted your own company’s plan. Because you are in the trenches and know why all of the above matters and can draft a policy that will make a difference. After all, policies change behavior, right?
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