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by Kari Kesler Wendel | July 01, 2011
Takeaways

Gather data from all stakeholders in the organization -- even for "meetings in disguise."

Seek input from all planners, so they are a part of the process.

Identify some "quick wins" to get the meetings program off the ground.

Approach hoteliers in key markets to begin volume-shift negotiations.

As the program matures, explore opportunities for regional or national chainwide hotel agreements.


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The following checklist was compiled by Kari Kesler Wendel, senior director of SMM Program Management + Solutions for Minneapolis-based Carl­son Wagonlit Travel Meetings & Events. The information has been adapted from CWT Vision.

Lay the Groundwork • Start gathering data on existing meetings from leadership and administrative assistants, and work with human resources to identify any employees whose responsibilities include that of "meeting planner."

• Ask the aforementioned people to detail the recurring meetings and events they hold each year, both for internal and external audiences, including the typical number of attendees at each, and when/where they are typically held. Note that support departments, including finance and HR, can help identify other small meetings "in disguise," such as routine training classes.

• Begin identifying the number of small meetings currently taking place. Note any geographic and/or seasonal consistencies that emerge for potential consolidation with common hoteliers.

• Define what constitutes large meetings, small meetings and meetings not worth managing. Thresholds vary, but the focus should be to include the majority of unmanaged spend.

Communicate Internally • Talk to those who organize and plan small meetings about their priorities and needs.

• Share with leadership the number of meetings that are not currently managed centrally and highlight some initial, quick wins in pricing or service that can be obtained.

• Outline a phased approach for implementation that includes substantial upfront time for technology implementations, change management and communications. Be prepared to recommend the appropriate amount of resource allocation required to get started.

Select Preferred Hotels • Approach one to three hoteliers, perhaps those in the city where most meetings took place last year or where most meetings are expected to be held in the coming year. If possible, use properties that received positive feedback on past meetings and/or those that currently participate in the organization's corporate travel program.

• Share the recently collected data on local market volume from last year and/or expected for this year, and be honest about the organization's maturity in managing this spend. Offer to drive volume to their property, and see which property makes the best offer, keeping in mind hotels will be conservative until they've observed a volume shift.

• It's important to communicate extensively with executives, planners and meeting attendees. Training and change-management efforts are a significant undertaking, and the time required to do these well should not be underestimated.

Seek Continuous Improvement • Solicit feedback from the planners and attendees who use the processes and tools and interact with the suppliers.

• Over time, the number of preferred suppliers and the overall scope of the program can be expanded.