Strategic Meetings Management -- What Is It, Exactly?
By Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM, CMP
I do a lot of speaking and consulting on this topic, and I can tell you from first-person experience that a lot of misunderstanding exists in the meetings industry about what, exactly, a “strategic meetings management program” involves. The best explanation I have encountered to date comes from my respected colleague Sharon Marsh, who says: “Many people believe that a strategic meetings management program is when you manage a meeting strategically. It isn’t. It’s when you take a strategic approach to managing all of your meetings.” It is a collective process, not one that is applied on a case-by-case basis.
The confusion probably lies in the jargon. What is now “strategic meetings management” (SMM) was once referred to as meetings consolidation. At the same time, the concept of meeting managers as strategists was also entering the landscape of our profession. Somehow, the two lines got crossed and a generalized understanding of the subtle differences got lost.
Implementing a full-scale SMM program is a major undertaking. It involves measuring and leveraging costs, an increased awareness of ROI, and implementing processes and procedures that may initially seem extraneous but are part of leading to a greater payoff down the road. The sheer size of a complete SMM program should not, however, deter you from taking any steps in that direction. Simply knowing the scope of your meetings spend is a great first step.
The bottom line is that in a true strategic meetings management program, the value of yourself, your meetings, your department, your function, etc. is determined through process – not through any one event or meeting.
For those of you who may want to know more, I recommend starting by reading some of the materials available from the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) and Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) white papers on SMM. Discuss your challenges on the MiForum discussion boards, and talk to your colleagues at industry events. This topic will be part of the landscape for a long time to come, and becoming comfortable with what it means (and what it doesn’t) will position you for greater success in the future.