Are You Capturing the Value of Small Meetings?

By Kevin Iwamoto, Senior Consultant

Does your strategic meetings management program include small/simple meetings-spend
data? Having worked with many SMMPs, I’ve seen fewer than 40 percent of them include such data in their main reporting dashboards.

I’ve also seen many companies totally ignore small/simple meetings in their SMMP scope because the spend volume and risk levels are too low to bother with, according to SMM program leaders. Their focus of attention is instead on the bigger meetings and events where the company spend and volume levels tend to be significant and the gaps are important to mitigate.

Further, I’ve seen the price of managing small meetings become prohibitive when they are assigned to meetings
management intermediaries whose pricing for small-meetings sourcing is basically the same as the larger
meetings. While different intermediaries have different pricing schedules, some just relegate the pricing to an
hourly basis, meaning you pay the same price by the hour as you would for large meetings. That pricing
methodology has raised the ire of many buyers, especially procurement buyers, because the pricing logic doesn’t
support the theory that a small, simple meeting should cost less because it shouldn’t take as long to transact as a
larger meeting.

So why do a lot of companies ignore this spend category? Small meetings individually might be lower-risk,
lower-cost and not warrant much program-management oversight, but unless you’ve done the math and internal
analysis, you could potentially be ignoring anywhere from 30 percent to 75 percent of your aggregate meeting
spend!

I recently analyzed a client’s data, and what they thought was less than 20 percent of their total SMMP spend
was actually more than 70 percent. Their SMM program costs were inflated, based on the assumption their
SMMP spend primarily was on larger meetings.

If you haven’t yet done the internal analysis to determine what your small/simple meeting spend is, you owe it to
yourself and your company to try to determine what percentage of your SMMP spend falls under this category.
While you’re figuring this out, also consider whether you should be managing small/simple meetings separately
outside of your SMMP. I know this sounds like procurement and SMMP heresy, but let me explain why you
should consider small/simple meetings outside of your SMMP:

  1. The work flow for small/simple meetings is markedly different than a standard SMMP meeting that requires
    documented sourcing and specific process flows. In most cases, it is almost always done by administrative
    assistants and not meeting planners.
     
  2. The turnaround time to book the small/simple meeting is very tight, so asking the administrative assistant to
    add more time and steps to their work flow by processing it like they would a standard meeting almost always
    results in noncompliance. This explains why so little data is captured on small/simple meetings and why the
    noncompliance numbers are very high for this category.
     
  3. Consolidating meetings spend is a core value and benefit for SMMP, but most of the SMMPs I’ve assessed
    and reviewed don’t factor in small/simple meetings spend. Therefore, consolidating it with your SMMP is not
    going to produce the additional data that SMM program leaders desire. As stated in point number 2, the work
    flow to process and book small/simple meetings in most cases doesn’t involve an RFP. In fact, more small
    meetings are being done at restaurants and business centers like Convene, WeWork and others that provide
    corporate meeting rooms with full on-site A/V support that you can rent by the hour or day and can include
    catering, deluxe break refreshments, snacks and other items at less cost than at a hotel venue.
     
  4. If you currently aren’t capturing and reporting small/simple meetings spend now, any capture and reporting of
    spend volume is better than none. The current crop of small/simple meetings-technology disrupters has reporting capabilities that can be merged with SMM data, usually through a third-party intermediary/meeting management company or via independent data-aggregation companies like Meeting Analytics, now ZS Associates.

At the end of the day, all SMMP leaders need to decide whether their company’s small/simple meetings-spend
volume should or shouldn’t be included in their SMMP dashboards. My recommendation to SMMP leaders is
not to discount or ignore this bucket of spend until you’ve done the proper analysis of the aggregated spend
volume. You may be inadvertently ignoring corporate spend for small/simple meetings that could potentially be
even larger than your SMMP tracked volume.

This article originally appeared in Meetings & Conventions Magazine on October 6, 2017. For more information, click here.

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