by Michael J. Shapiro | July 18, 2018
Simple meetings -- smaller, replicable gatherings with basic meeting requirements -- make up about half of corporate meetings globally, but fewer than half of those are booked via managed channels, according to new research from the Global Business Travel Association, sponsored by HRS Global Hotel Solutions.
 
The report, "How Do Companies Approach Simple Meetings?", takes into account survey responses from both travel managers and meeting professionals. Of the 260 global respondents who completed the entire survey, 123 were GBTA members, 66 were members of Meeting Professionals International and 15 were dual members of both organizations.
 
The report looks to shed some light on just how much companies might be forfeiting in terms of negotiated cost savings and duty-of-care responsibilities due to lack of small-meetings management -- a notoriously difficult figure to pin down. 
 
"This research puts numbers to something the industry has long suspected," said Jessica Collison, GBTA's director of research. "Simple meetings account for significant expenditures within companies -- yet they are very loosely managed, potentially costing companies when it comes to the bottom line, meetings satisfaction and duty-of-care compliance."
 
Specifically, the study found that 52 percent of respondents book simple meetings (of usually 10 to 50 attendees) outside of managed channels. While 45 percent of those meetings are estimated to take place on the corporate premises, a significant 40 percent use hotel conference space, and that number is higher (46 percent) when looking just at meetings in the U.S. That's a significant number of meetings that could be taking place at hotels with whom the company already has a relationship and potentially has negotiated rates for transient travelers.
 
For companies that are booking through unmanaged meetings channels, 77 percent are doing so through consumer channels -- either directly with the properties or via online travel agencies. So negotiated room rates and working relationships would not be coming into play in such situations, and compliance with internal policies would likewise be more of a challenge. Only three out of 10 respondents said they have a required bidding process in place at their companies for simple meetings, and 24 percent have loose guidelines but no formal bidding process in place.
 
Tech support
In terms of meetings tech, only 22 percent of respondents use an eRFP platform to book and/or manage simple meetings. Satisfaction with the platform in those cases is high, though it isn't perfect -- nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those respondents who use an eRFP say it is their preferred method of finding a site for simple meetings.
 
Interestingly, only an additional 12 percent of respondents indicated they have an eRFP tool but use it only for larger meetings, which means only about a third (34 percent) of the respondents to this study have a preferred eRFP platform in place. An additional 15 percent plan to introduce one for simple meetings in the next year. Still, that means that nearly two-thirds of the study's respondents do not use an eRFP platform -- considered by many a basic cornerstone of meetings technology -- and more than half don't have any plans to begin using one, at least for simple meetings, in the near future.
 
Meetings value
When it comes to measuring meetings effectiveness and value, the numbers are strikingly low. A little more than a quarter (28 percent) of respondents have key performance indicators in place to measure simple meetings, and in North America specifically, that number is even lower (20 percent). In the U.S., those with measurements in place are overwhelmingly meeting planners -- nearly one-third (31 percent) of planners use KPIs to measure, while a paltry 4 percent of travel managers are doing so.
 
An overwhelming majority (81 percent) of respondents do track spending on simple meetings, but only four out of 10 actually track all of that spend and break it down, as opposed to combining expenditures or submitting consolidated reports for simple meetings across the board. And again, meeting professionals are much more likely to keep detailed accounts of spending: More than half (54 percent) of meeting pros track everything, while only 18 percent of travel managers do so.
 
"The harsh reality this survey reveals underscores the urgency companies should have when it comes to enhancing simple meetings management," said Abbie Michaelson, vice president of meetings and groups for HRS. "The out-of-process metrics for shopping, booking and venue comparison would set off alarm bells in other areas of corporate procurement. With these findings, those responsible for meetings now have the ammunition to implement measurable changes in this category."