January 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January 2002 Current Issue
January 2002 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Mike Tenholder


How to choose technology to ease consolidation and leverage an organization’s meeting spend

Travel and entertainment now comprise a company’s second largest controllable expense, directly behind payroll and benefits, according to a recent American Express survey. This helps explain why companies are becoming committed to using new time- and money-saving technologies to reduce labor, track spending and better leverage vendor negotiations.

Organizations often have a number of people planning events without any knowledge of each other’s activities. Technologies offered by B-there (www.b-there.com), Event 411 (www.event411.com) and SeeUThere (www.seeuthere.com) offer the ability to gather the data produced in several areas, such as registration, supplier databases and client-relationship management.

When evaluating technology tools, keep consolidation in mind. The system must provide the components necessary to develop an efficient plan, leverage the company’s buying power and improve the quality and effectiveness of any meeting. This might include the following.

Meeting-spend monitoring. In addition to having data-mining functionality to consolidate meeting spend on summary and detail levels, the program should help a planner secure better supplier rates. By controlling meeting spend, companies can increase productivity and save money while providing planners with more resources and flexibility.

Registration Web sites. Planners should be able to design and publish a simple-to-use online registration site using the company’s brand image, including the preservation of established guidelines such as logo size, font size and color.

Consolidated reporting. Information gathered from attendees during the registration process should be able to be consolidated into the reporting component.

Database management. A comprehensive database system should be put in place to facilitate management from the presentation stage through billing, enabling the timely collection, tracking and reporting of all program information.

Some other important elements to consider:

Balance. Does the system meet your organization’s objectives as is, or would you need to purchase and integrate other components to achieve your goals?

Basics. Do the features include automated site selection, expense tracking and coordination of supplier use?

Numbers. Does it offer data-mining functionality that consolidates spend on summary and detail levels, with real-time online reporting? These play crucial roles in maintaining and negotiating vendor contracts.

Follow-up. Is the product backed by adequate staff for fulfillment, technical support and knowledge of the industry? Does it provide logistics management, on-site services for registration and project/meeting management?

Marriage of data. Does the technology capture and consolidate all meeting spend, as well as provide summary and detailed information using a variety of filters? Planners should be able to maintain control of their meetings in a completely electronic environment.

Ease of use. Is the technology simple to use and designed for optimal productivity with Web access for secretaries and administrators, as well as meeting planners?

Cost. Does the pricing allow the return on investment to be calculated easily? Users should be able to identify various factors for soft savings and productivity gains, in addition to the hard costs of vendor spending.

Help. Is there adequate and ongoing product support and training?

Mike Tenholder is vice president of alternative distribution for TQ3 Maritz Travel Solutions in Fenton, Mo.

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