Strategic Meeting Management Programs (SMMP) are part of a numbers game; In other words, it’s a measurement of ROI (return on investment). Having spent over a decade in the Meetings and Exhibition business, I have to say that the idea of adding processes and metrics to the business was not an easy thing to do. I cannot count the number of great events that have come to life thanks to sweat, stress, unorganized work and passion, not metrics. However, as the industry changes, strategic meeting management software is moving to the forefront. Updated in 2018 for relevance.
Can strategic meeting management software balance passion, a lack of bandwidth and unpredictability with metrics and processes? It’s time for planners to recognize that SMMP at least forces you to measure ROI in terms of cost, revenue, profitability, productivity. Boring I know, but measuring ROI is essential in today’s economy. Strategic meeting management programs force us to implement processes and when 80% is under control, it is much easier to deal with the unexpected (as opposed to 20% planned). It forces us to deep dive into all the aspects that make an event a reality, not directly from the content/engagement perspective, but mostly from an infrastructural point of view.
Now, would you use an outdated flip-phone, a mac classic, or fax documents? I hope not. Maybe it’s time (if you haven’t made the move) to try a new strategic meeting management platform, AKA meeting ROI.
What is SMMP’s original goal?
Basically, SMMP is about breaking down all the measurable event aspects to outperform them. It mostly applies to groups—often corporate—that manage A) a large budget and B) a large number of events. Event management involves a supply chain, logistics, marketing investment, travel and housing management, sales effectiveness and more. From a meeting planner’s angle, that’s a lot of layers to coordinate, and event management software can consolidate the layers. From a large corporate perspective, the investment will get sprayed into multiple responsibilities, teams, and governances – making the exercise incredibly challenging when it gets to controlling the performance better SMMP helps in understanding profitability, cost versus revenue, and the cost of the teams productivity.
Of course, strategic meeting management programs cannot tell you about the content, the speaker, the colors, taste of the food, or the ugliness/beauty of the venue – it can’t tell you as much about the attendee’s personal event experience. But SMMP will tell you the average cost per attendee; it can help you to control hundreds of events from a budget perspective, control the workflow, manage better rooming allotments and travel fares.
Economically speaking, having a single, all-inclusive strategic meeting management platform is great. First, meeting management programs create room for improvement in many cases – let’s be honest, saving a couple of zeroes on the bottom line doesn’t hurt. Second, it plays a role in better serving your community with more control over your vendors and how your process is executed. Strategic meeting management software gives both organizers and attendees greater accessibility to their meetings and events.
But what SMMP forgets is the very user experience, the final return of investment, which your brand benefits from. Even more, most CMOs have a hard time fully understanding how to fully measure and optimize the event channel.
The classic SMMP field:
- Meeting Design:logistics, cost, workflows, objectives
- Budgeting:forecasting, real negotiated savings, cost per vendor - per meeting - per attendee
- Strategic Sourcing:hotel, venues, airfare, transportation
- Procurement Process:standardized contracts and service agreements management
- Corporate Meetings Calendar: communication, tracking locations and participants/groups within the company
- Business process:rules for approvals, workflows
- Meetings and Attendee Management:attendee registration, travel and housing expenses, PNRs (passenger name records)
- Reconciliation of Expenses:assign specific event costs to specific budget codes
- Measure and Evaluate
Being procurement driven is necessary for large groups on one condition: strategic meeting management programs need to be transitioned into a P&L management, where events become an enterprise within the company that delivers a (great) product. There is no shame in productizing events. Isn’t Apple providing great brand emotions? Doesn’t Nike deliver great experiences with products? Can’t people be happy about processed food (not the best example, I know)?
Again, my point is that productizing is okay as long the quality is there. SMMP is not the evil side; it just has to be balanced with what makes an event successful: the content, the interaction, the emotion, the experience. This has a cost, generally leading to success and then to ROI.
Meeting ROI sounds as boring as SMMP. Yes, but…
the ROI definition doesn’t just mean cost optimization, process carved in stone. It means you have designed your event channel with strong goals, and invest money that is properly managed (thank you SMMP), delivering quality. It refers to customer or attendee satisfaction with a strategy that leads to results, which is measured separately from classic strategic meeting management program KPIs. You are now looking at the bigger picture.
A New Player in Strategic Meeting Management Software:
The data component: Recently strategic meeting management programs have transitioned thanks to greater integration opportunities within the software (event management software to reporting, budgeting, CRM or marketing automation tools), but one new player is the data layer that goes beyond the SMMP KPIs.
It helps marketers and sales professionals to better perform together, from public profile acquisition to behavioral capture on site. Let’s dig into those two data aspects:
First, the marketing data (also known as big data) helps companies to better market their event channel: it’s not about buying lists, it’s about buying data on your communities. Helping the marketer to better profile his/her audience, become more relevant to them and extend the reach by adding similar profiles to the existing community.
Second is the BI (business intelligence). As a CMO, you need to qualify leads for your sales organization. What if you could capture all the intel going through your events (who attends what, engages with whom, dwells where) with common sense (and the right tool)? Allowing you to directly update your CRM with a preferred list of prospects according to the sales rep distribution rules?
So in the end, what did strategic meeting management software change?
Events need a P&L owner that ally with IT or Procurement. The essence of an event and its success doesn’t come from strategic meeting management platforms, it comes from the quality and the user experience, in addition to a marketing to sales strategy that is properly designed and executed. However, a cohesive meeting management platform is undeniably a great tool to better perform and control aspects of event and meeting planning, especially within large groups that spend millions in events. The business stakeholder should embrace SMMP as long as they also have strong goals for event success.
At the end of the day, it is the best reward for this fantastic industry that will prove even further how the event channel delivers ROI – thanks to human interactions.