'Pulling' and 'Pushing' For Strategic Meetings Management

It used to be an almost universal truth that the drive to improve the way meetings are managed in a company came from middle management. Folks like travel managers or purchasing directors took the initiative to find out how much their companies spent on group events--separate from transient business travel. They researched how those meetings were planned, who was signing contracts and if preferred hotels and other vendors were being used to leverage existing buying power. What drove them was the knowledge that streamlining and centralizing meeting planning, budgeting and management brought savings and control and reduced risk. Then, they "pushed" their programs upward through the organization--to CEOs--to get approval and support in order to make changes really happen.

But now, increasingly, we're seeing senior management take a more active role in pressing for improvements in how meetings and events are managed. It's a phenomenon driven, I believe, driven by companies' aggressive search for savings in this challenging economy, and to a large degree, sensitivity over possible negative public perception of their meetings. Now, however, more and more CEOs are "pulling" for strategic meetings management and the creation of SMMPs. They're pulling for change from middle management.

I was greatly pleased to see discussion of this trend in print this week -- and coming out of the mouth of my boss, StarCite CEO Greg Dukat -- in a Business Travel News article: "One-On-One With StarCite CEO Gregory Dukat: StarCite Fights Mtg. Slump". When BTN asked how meetings management has changed in this economy, Greg said:

"Controlling meetings sounds like an easy thing, but organizations have been exposed partially through the media trying to hype people having meetings. Relative to the economy, our customers are coming to us and saying they want someone to take the leadership role and be the expert in this category. The expertise is centered on the technology, but also best practices, compliance, visibility, reporting and analytics. "

Then he got to the heart of the "pull" trend: "A year ago, when I first came on board, it was more of a situation where it was push-oriented, by which I mean that travel managers or someone heading procurement was pushing the organization to think about these things. Now, we're seeing the executives going back to those people and saying they need to cover these bases. It's moved from someone lower in the organization trying to push up to what I'd call pull, where executives are calling for greater compliance, visibility and control."

Greg very succintly verbalized a trend that I'm witnessing--as I visit companies around the world. There are still plently of travel managers and procurement directors "pushing" for systemic changes to planning and managing meetings. But these days, presidents, CEOs, senior finance executives and other C-levels are more vocal and knowledgable about strategic meetings management, and so there are more powerful voices calling, or rather, "pulling" for change.

What's more, I don't think the "pulling" will cease once global economic growth finds more stable, universal footing. And it'll mean more middle- and upper- management truly working together in pursuit of the same goal. This is a good change that's here to stay. After a "pull" from above, meetings managers and purchasing directors can successfully "push" their SMMPs with the support and backing of those "pulling" senior executives.

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