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96% rank strategic meetings management as successful

Over two-thirds of companies with strategic meetings management programmes plan to expand them

Companies that have implemented a programme for the strategic management of meetings (SMM) say their programmes are successful, though they also say there is still more work to do. The key benefits of an SMM programme are greater transparency of spend, cost reductions, improved compliance, risk mitigation and, ultimately, improved effectiveness of their meetings and events. This is according to a new global study, released today by Carlson Wagonlit Travel and The BTN Group.

Driving Success in Strategic Meetings Management, based on both quantitative and qualitative research, highlights the clear benefits of SMM programmes. However, it also shows that the market remains immature.

More than half of the respondents said they had made 10 per cent savings from their SMM programme, with a further 17 per cent of respondents saving more than 15 per cent.

The research found that many factors go into the make-up of a strategic meetings management programme, making each one unique. There is a perception that the lack of a standard is because SMM is complex. However, SMM programmes are in fact ultimately flexible and are tailored to each company’s specific requirements. Over 60 per cent of the survey respondents outsource an element of their SMM programme, be it tactical support or consulting services for example, which also helps simplify the path to success.

Kari Wendel, Senior Director of Global SMM Strategy & Solutions at Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s CWT Meetings & Events line of business, said, “What we found is that practically everyone who runs a strategic meetings management programme defines it as successful. All the experts agreed that a SMM programme 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.”

While there are many components to SMM, strategies typically start with centralised sourcing and contracting of hotel suppliers. This is where much of the cost transparency and saving arises. The study showed that cost transparency and reduction is seen as the most important success metric, followed by attendee and sponsor satisfaction and regulatory compliance.

One of the main barriers to implementing an SMM programme is volume: a significant number of survey respondents felt they did not have enough meetings to justify a programme. However, the benefits can be realised by companies that spend as little at US$1 million on meetings each year. Over 70 per cent of respondents with a programme are looking to expand it, clearly demonstrating the value of SMM programmes.

Cindy Fisher, Vice President of CWT Meetings & Events at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said, “We also looked to the future and found that there will be integration of SMM programmes with marketing and events programmes. 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. What is abundantly clear is that an SMM programme is rapidly becoming a necessity.”

CWT and The BTN Group interviewed with more than 20 travel and meetings management experts and SMM professionals. In addition, 246 meetings planning professionals, from multiple regions of the world, completed an online survey.

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