What can we learn from the crisis in Japan, as far as strategic meetings management goes?
One lesson is that meeting managers who have built solid and rewarding relationships with preferred suppliers can come to rely on them during tumultuous events -- even in far flung places -- to get their attendees home safely. A recent piece in the online publication Management.travel
tells how travel management companies (TMCs) and their staff are working round the clock to get travelers out of the country. One Hogg Robinson Group (HRG) executive was quoted as saying, "Some of our workers have been working through the night and they are sleeping on their feet" to evacuate travelers and relocate its clients' employees.
Other TMCs have had to increase staff, extend work hours, set up special Japan relief hotlines and re-route calls to offices outside the country -- to keep pace with demand and serve their corporate clients. Other tactics: working with payment companies to increase tapped-out business charge cards and trying to compassionately work within (and sometimes around) corporate policy guidelines to address dire needs.
I am truly inspired by the efforts of these and other TMCs to help their clients through this crisis. What they are doing represents the ultimate fruit from developing a win-win relationship between buyers and suppliers.
Again, I can't emphasize enough the importance of making sure your meetings travelers are protected -- both by your agreements with suppliers to pitch in and help during emergencies, as well as establishing policies and updating contact information for attendees. This should all be part of your SMM to help you mitigate risk
On a personal note, I want to thank Craig Banikowski of Hilton, Bruce McIndoe of iJet and Ann Parsons of Microsoft for offering me support and help for my extended family in Fukushima prefecture. While they are still there by their own choice (Don’t ask me why; it’s cultural and comple
x.) and refusing to leave, it’s really gratifying to have received so many offers of prayers, support and help from friends in this great industry.
One last thing: It's not too late to contribute to The Red Cross to help the people of Japan recover from their overwhelming suffering. I humbly ask you to please go to the Red Cross site to pitch in with your contribution! Some suppliers like American Airlines, United and others have incentives for you if you contribute. Many companies, including mine, are also offering different ways to contribute and some even are matching employee contributions to the disaster relief efforts. Please don’t let this recent tragedy be forgotten just because it moves off the front pages of the media. The problems and issues remain and are increasing, and we need to do our part for a country that has been a good friend, ally and trading partner for the U.S.
Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.