by Abbie Michaelson | February 2, 2018

Abbie Michaelson, vice president of meetings and groups for HRSJanuary's news that Marriott is reducing group and meetings commissions in North America will surely have ripple effects on buyers, suppliers and third parties that support corporate events. That (somewhat obvious) point aside, the moment does offer a "triggering event" for all parties in the meetings arena to take a closer look at the processes they use today. This especially rings true for companies that manage dozens to hundreds of simple meetings, the smaller gatherings that tend to make up the majority of a company's meeting expenditures.

In reaction to this commission cut — and the likelihood that cuts from other large chains are probably forthcoming — meeting planners and administrative assistants should consider the following steps.

• Make sure your cumulative spend reporting is top-notch. While blanket statements on commission levels can be made, a motivated hotel salesperson sitting across from a meeting planner with irrefutable spend figures can often deliver something better than the chalk deal. Know the true value of ALL your spend — not just room nights, but F&B, meeting rooms, A/V, etc.

• Examine your mix of meeting venues. Does your list of preferred providers give you suitable alternatives for the variety of meetings your company holds in your key city centers? This news justifies a thorough look at the options you work with today, factoring in the "negotiability" of each.

• Stay engaged on industry changes and local property trends. As commission levels fluctuate, big chains consolidate, regional group and independent properties invest in meeting services, and cancellation fees get more restrictive — how are you staying on top of the dynamic changes taking place? Are you getting a strategic view as well as necessary local insight? Planners should know the value of their own time, and truly consider the merits of outsourcing some or all elements of meetings management in an effort to be more strategic in their everyday activities… and deliver optimal value for the totality of meetings spend across the enterprise.

The altering of an economic equation is not necessarily a bad thing. Meeting planners should take this opportunity to give their programs a fresh look, and perhaps make changes that not only mitigate the negative metrics, but open some doors that can lead to better performance.

Abbie Michaelson is vice president of meetings and groups for HRS, a global corporate hospitality firm used by 3,000 multinational companies. HRS launched its Meetago small meetings solution for North American companies last July.