Small Meetings Tools Advancing More Than You Think

There was an interesting article discussing small meetings technology in called "Real-Time Meeting Booking Tools: Is Technology, Wherewithal There Yet?" The article noted several hotel brand online and other booking offerings, and I was glad to see StarCite's Small Meetings Solution mentioned as one of the enterprise solutions showing promise.  [more] StarCite has worked for a number of years with our corporate clients and with the supplier community to bring these "rogue" meetings under management. On both sides, the perceived low value of each individual meeting has kept any processes from being put into place. There’s also confusion around the definition of “small meetings.”  However you define it, our own research of our Global Marketplace data and customer benchmarking surveys show that 70% of corporate meetings are small. Both buyers and suppliers are realizing the great opportunity to be gained by streamlining this process online.

Small meetings was one of the "hottest" topics on the agenda at our recent Supplier Global Advisory Board Meeting. All of the major hotel brands are committed to moving to technology to deliver an automated solution for handling small meetings. For instance, StarCite has developed an integrated solution with Hilton's e-Events which gives our enterprise meeting planners direct access to Hilton's rates and availability.  We have also worked with both sides to establish standardized terms and conditions to make the program work.

When I talk to companies about their small meetings needs, the major theme I hear consistently is that they need to get a handle on just how many events of 50 or less attendees are occuring at their organizations. That's where most are at right now -- just trying to figure out how much small meetings bookings is slipping through the cracks of their overall strategic meetings management program (SMMP). Our work with our clients has led to us expand our consulting services that help firms analyze meeting patterns to determine usage trends, define small meetings, establish preferred hotel programs for small groups, negotiate rates, and standardize contracts.  If you really want to know what’s happening in this area along with your meeting spend in general, I encourage you to contact us and have our experts analyze your data and give you the best estimate of your meeting spend, small or otherwise.

Of course, our clients also want to streamline planning and sourcing and analyze the spend data that's needed to improve buying leverage with hotels.  A best practice is to utilize technology that provides a way for planners to centralize meeting planning and budgeting, as well as to drive all sourcing through a central RFP process that taps real-time inventory at hotels that compete for small meetings. The tool should also let a company build in preferred properties and even search for cancelled space that is available for re-use at hotels.

We're committed to our customers to bring these self-service tools to the marketplace. All this may sound like fantasy for companies just beginning to size up their small meetings volume, but the technology is real and is already driving savings and control for companies worldwide.  We have the clientele to prove it!

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