Friday 16 November 2012

GUEST BLOG: SMM: So much talk, so little action

Everywhere we look someone is discussing meetings: meetings management, strategic meetings management, small meetings management – but this is not a new subject.  ‘SMM’ has been the ‘next big thing’ for years.  So why, after all this time, is there still so much talk and so little action?

Admittedly there are plenty of reasons offered up:

No clear internal owner to champion the initiative and drive success.  The absence of a solution that is easy to deploy, supports broad based adoption AND integrates with the rest of your hotel management strategy.  The other perennial favorite, “we don’t really have that many meetings”, is also all too often cited.

These and many other factors contribute to an ‘Ostrich Mentality’: I can’t see it, therefore it isn’t there.

But it IS there and the cost implications of ignoring this category can be huge.  Admittedly, you don’t know what you don’t know, but from our own experience the total ‘hospitality’ spend for the majority of organisations is split across 3 areas – 40% on Transient Accommodation, 40% on Meetings and 20% on ad hoc Projects.  If your focus is purely on your Transient Accommodation, you are managing less than 50% of your total hotel spend.

So – how difficult can this really be?

You need to understand what your requirement is, so start small.  Begin by identifying your target audience.  Head for the departments most likely to generate meetings bookings – sales/marketing, training, the executive floor – and ask for volunteers for a ‘super-user’ test team.

At this stage, you want to garner support and not give the impression that you are trying to take away the responsibility for these meetings.  All you want is to build the environment where everyone creates their meetings requests (RFPs) in one place.   From there you will quickly gather the data you need to put the ‘strategic’ into strategic meetings management.

Aim to start with the small frequently booked meetings. The large conferences and major company events may be the more visible piece but (a) it’s always much tougher to persuade these bookers to give up any aspect of control or management of these bookings and (b) the chances are that you spend much more on smaller meetings.  You are offering meeting planners a solution that will take the ‘grunt work’ out of the process without stripping them of ultimate control and the easiest meetings to target for this are the smaller ones – which are usually just a time consuming chore for those that have to book them.

Ask a few basic questions:
Approximately how often do you book?  What’s the average size of the group and the length of the meeting?  What are the most common features they always need (refreshments, break out rooms, AV equipment etc)?  What type of venue do they typically look for (hotels, internal meeting space, other venues)?  Where do they go to find these venues and what influences their choice?

The answers will help you build the most useful information and features into your RFP tool so that the first time a meeting planner looks for a venue for a meeting, they find what they expect to see and the basic information is pre-loaded to make it the simpler process that you promised!

So all you now need is a system that all your meeting planners can access with nothing more than a User ID and Password, without any additional implementation, and with just an hour or so training.
And if they like it, if the system gives them access to the properties they need, helps them create an RFP with all their requirements in 4 easy to follow steps, presents the responses in a format they can share with their colleagues, gives them full budgeting and reporting capabilities and allows them to complete the process in a fraction of the time, then you’ve got your ‘champions’ within the organisation and selling the benefits to others will be so much easier.

And finally, the single most important element to consider.  The first step on the road to success is always the hardest. As you ponder this article, think about this.  What stops you from being the internal champion that gets the ball rolling at your company?  Just because you don’t have it in your job description, does that mean you can’t own it?  At a time when companies are in a constant process of evaluating people, processes and performance, perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your company and yourself is to take that critical first step.

This blog has been written by Jean Squires, director of business development EMEA, Lanyon. To find out more about how the Lanyon Meetings RFP Tool can help please contact Jean at 

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