How to...

Manage meetings and events

Meetings, groups and events can be a significant category of corporate spend, yet attention to strategic meetings management has historically been a secondary concern. HRG’s Amanda Hanlin explains what should be considered when reviewing meetings management programmes


Recent research has shown that 56 per cent of firms cannot put a figure on their overall meetings spend. With business budgets tightening however, the monitoring and organisation of meetings on a company-wide level is now being taken seriously. Read on for our step-by-step guide.

STEP 1: Define the opportunity. Gaining visibility of spend is often the most urgent priority for clients. On the whole, companies have no idea what they are spending or who is doing what. Start by asking the following questions first: What are your objectives and definitions for meetings, groups and events? What meetings, groups and events spend do you currently track and how much is it? How many agencies are you using? What is your sourcing strategy for meetings and groups?

STEP 2: Get visibility of spend. Data collection and analysis represents a significant challenge for clients; research by CMP indicates as many as 55 per cent of firms calculate costs purely on a per-meeting basis. Everything is measurable, but choosing the right technology is paramount.

There has been a huge upswing in the number of clients who want meetings, groups and events (MGE) data capture integrated with transient, third party and card data for a complete T&E picture. TMCs are well placed to look at what companies are spending on MGE.

STEP 3: Drive control and compliance. Having a central technology platform for meetings management is a key enabler and plays a very important role from a control point of view, helping to capture missed savings when individuals turn down internal meeting space, and indicating areas of redundant or non-compliant spending.

Technology can also play a strong role in mitigating meetings risk, ensuring any meetings happening under the company’s umbrella are subject to a consistent approval processes.

It’s also worth considering implementing a standardised payment method such as a meetings card to provide an effective audit trail of all payments made. Not only does this approach minimise the tangle of human error that unmanaged payment processes often lead to, it also makes detailed analysis of consolidated meetings spend far simpler.

STEP 4: Consider where consolidation can drive savings, for better leverage, deals, compliance and control as well as the hubbing of services where it makes sense.

One oil and gas sector client wanted to consolidate its global venue sourcing and events for policy compliance and cost reduction purposes. We recommended they build a centrally-controlled sourcing model for their MGE programme featuring: safer meetings through a standardised process of health and safety checks; increased leverage and greater transparency; improved service delivery by sharing knowledge and experiences across the markets.

We then reviewed and standardised the client’s supplier agreements to maximise savings and concessions, and minimise attrition and cancellation penalty risks. The implementation of a consistent venue assurance programme enabled us to reduce rates through a standardised RFP process. We also agreed and communicated an HSSE/ risk assessment process with clear buying and payment channels.

Implementation of the programme across multiple countries was underpinned by a customised meeting sourcing website linked to the client’s intranet. The site provided a calendar for meetings registration, and an online RFI, as well as sections containing pertinent policy, programme and service information. The result was 20 per cent of savings delivered; 61 per cent conversion of enquiries received and seven per cent mitigation of cancellation charges.

STEP 5: Keep abreast of new technologies. We expect developments in this area as hotel inventory becomes available and their systems become less disparate. However, it will apply to small, simple meetings in the first instances. We’ll also see more integration between the management of internal and external space with users logging in through one entry point.

Mobile apps are seen as an important part of the future for downloading event details and recording meetings, along with virtual meetings which are in their infancy but creating a lot of interest.