Survey Shows Lack Of Meetings Policies

There is startling news from American Express' "Managing Travel in the New Normal" survey that was released this week. I say startling because, on one level, it shows increasing sophistication around meetings management, yet I'm dismayed by other findings about the lack of movement on some very basic principles.

First I'll focus on the sophisticated.  [more]

Amex found that almost three-quarters of 169 respondents -- from more than 30 industries globally that it polled -- say their companies are now using or planning to use audio conferencing as a meetings travel alternative.

- Another 15% are looking into more sophisticated technology, for example, high-broadband collaborative type tools.
- Only 10% have no technology-based travel strategy to replace face-to-face meetings.

It's encouraging to see evidence that so many of today's meetings managers are incorporating virtual conferencing into their strategic meetings management programs. The technology is there, and, for certain types of meetings (for example, training events), it makes "cents," as in dollars and cents. And it didn't escape me that they consider the technology "alternatives" to face-to-face meetings, which companies -- even in these tough times -- find essential for doing business successfully.

Now, for the disappointing findings: fewer than 30% have a formal, enforced meetings program policy, while 11% have a policy with no teeth, that is, one that's enforced. Worse, one-quarter don't have a policy at all. I think what shocked me most about that finding was knowing that 44% of Amex's respondents said they were managing global travel programs. I know first-hand how tough it is to manage a travel and meetings program globally, and it's tougher if not impossible without a meetings policy in place.

One of the most important aspects of a true SMMP is a comprehensive policy that addresses all aspects of meetings management -- not just spending guidelines or rules but also areas as diverse as using corporate contract addendum, spelling out who's authorized to source and how to access technology to simplify planning, budgeting and attendee management.  And of course, getting executive endorsement (and a mandate) of your policy gives it a major boost and sends the message that this is a matter to be taken seriously.

This is an age when every meetings dollar is being scrutinized, and a strong policy is essential for controlling costs and ensuring compliance.  And, in an unstable world where having a corporate contingency plan is mandatory because of natural calamities, disease outbreaks and dangerous radicals, not having all of your meeting attendee information in order to initiate a well developed contingency plan could be financially and morally devastating to any company unwilling to take a solid stand.

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