Good, Consistent Communication Helps Grow Meetings Management – It’s NOT the “Field of ...

I’m a baseball fan. So remember the movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner?  Well, building a successful SMMP and buying technology to deploy it for success is NOT like the “Field of Dreams.”   OK there’s an analogy here, and as you know I always speak using analogies, so more about that later.
Whenever I get together with meetings managers and procurement folks -- whether it's in Paris or Poughkeepsie -- the #1 subject these days is how to apply strategies that have been successful in controlling travel and entertainment (T&E) costs to meetings and events. For many travel and meeting managers, the impetus is coming from senior executives up the chain of command, all too often in the form of: "Find ways to cut costs and do it now!"  Usually there’s almost always a reduction percentage target conveniently provided as well.

But whether these professionals decide to implement a full-scale strategic meetings management program (SMMP) that streamlines everything from budgeting and planning to sourcing and measuring ROI, or whether they decide to implement event managment software to improve just a single area, it's essential to effectively communicate what you're doing to all your key audiences.

Whether you're making changes to your meetings management program or especially launching a companywide SMMP, I highly recommend building an on-going communications strategy that addresses what you're doing and why. The communication should contain different messages for different audiences, for example:

- For event planners, include very basic "how to" information on following new policies and procedures for such tasks as centralized sourcing of hotels and new rules around signing contracts with suppliers and using standardized terms and conditions; Also make sure you communicate ramifications for non-compliance.
- For senior management, keep the focus high-level, explaining your new or beefed-up meetings management program and how you expect the company will benefit in terms of savings and control.  These should be sent out with less frequency and cycled around earnings reporting season.

E-mails are a convenient and effective way to communicate new meetings management procedures. But you may also want to consider holding company-wide demos for planners. Also, ask your technology vendor for assistance or resources in promoting usage of your meetings management software. For example, StarCite sends quarterly newsletters to our meetings manager clients with tips and advice on how to increase internal usage.  For some customers, we’ve even created launch videos and online "how-to" videos.

Remember, just because you communicated about your program once, doesn’t mean you’re done!  You must have consistent and strategically timed communications for maximum success.  In addition, all communications should be tailored for each level of internal customer you service.

Spreading the word about changes to meetings management  is equally important as creating a new SMMP because, (Are you ready?  Here comes the analogy I'm overusing!) unlike in the movie, "Field of Dreams," even if you build it (SMMP technology), I can assure you from my own experience that they (meeting planners) will not come and use it. You will need a communication plan to maximize utilization and gain success!

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.