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by Kevin Iwamoto | October 27, 2017

Kevin IwamotoMany of you know I've spent my long career as both a global corporate buyer/category leader as well as in supplier sales and marketing. When I was in sales, I thanked my lucky stars when one of my clients or prospects had a "compelling event." I like the definition offered by sales coach Lee Levitt in his blog, Thoughts on Selling. Levitt says, "A compelling event has an economic owner, a defined date, and is a direct response to a business pressure. The action is expected to deliver a significant business result (either improving opportunity/capability or reducing pain). The compelling event defines the reason for the economic owner to act."

In the corporate-procurement world, some examples of a compelling event would be anything regulatory coming down the road where mandatory compliance and adherence to a new regulation or law has to be met by a set predetermined date. For all the procurement professionals, think of what you had to go through to be compliant with Sarbanes‐Oxley. For the life-sciences vertical, think of the Sunshine Act. The salesperson(s) calling on the companies affected by this compelling event would invariably benefit by the pressure of an accelerated sales process and closure of pending sales proposals.

What if I were to tell all the global Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP) leaders that the impending European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which becomes effective on May 25, 2018, is your compelling event? Consider what this measure aims to engender:

1) Visibility and oversight into rogue meetings/events spend and local preferred-supplier agreements throughout the EU and the U.K.;
2) Control over the actions needed to be GDPR-compliant to avoid huge fines of up to 4 percent of annual global revenue or €20 Million (circa US$23.4 million). whichever is greater;
3) Based on the country spend and preferred-supplier discovery, the gathering of all existing leakage into your SMMP and assuming global ownership for it.

Impossible? No! It's a golden opportunity of a compelling event based on what's happening with GDPR and the May 25 deadline. Companies, whether in the EU or U.K. or not, need to be able to demonstrate that they AND their preferred suppliers are GDPR-compliant or face hefty fines. What could be more compelling than that?

To date, I've made it my mission and crusade to get corporate buyers and planners educated to start asking questions about GDPR internally (legal, data-privacy office, etc.) and externally to their suppliers (meeting and event management companies, technology-solution providers, etc.). I've posted numerous blogs and have been interviewed by several media publications about the urgency to review and act on GDPR by the countdown to the May 25 date.

Use GDPR and its 2018 launch date to begin putting the wheels in motion to get the difficult-to-obtain global visibility and program oversight into all the leakage and rogue meetings/events activities in the EU and U.K., and the opportunity to finally review local preferred supplier agreements.

One of the best practices listed by many GDPR subject-matter experts and champions (like me) is to immediately do a global gap analysis on data governance for the meetings and events processes, supplier agreements and covenants, and identify for your executive leadership where the current program gaps and vulnerabilities exist when it comes to the handling of personal data. The next step is to create what I call a "Remedy Roadmap" for addressing and neutralizing all the identified gaps. You will need to gain stakeholder alignment and support, but you should have no problem there because of the hefty fines for noncompliance.

My next few blogs will cover some GDPR tips that everyone should follow to ensure your meetings, events and preferred suppliers don't compromise any of the GDPR regulations counting down to 2018. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and do some research on what GDPR is, what it means to your company and, most importantly, how it will impact your meetings and events programs that handle personal data. Here are some great resource links:

· The EU web portal for GDPR
· The Event Planner's Guide to GDPR Compliance by eventsforce
· Glisser.

Kevin Iwamoto is senior consultant at GoldSpring Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto