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Gain Control of Small Meeting Spend in 5 Easy Ways

Travel and procurement directors now have unprecedented visibility into meeting and event spend.

Recent innovations in venue sourcing shine a light on a trove of data that was previously in the dark. With new visibility into spend and savings, successful travel professionals are finding it’s easier than ever to mitigate risk and drive significant savings throughout their organizations.

Businesses today spend $100 billion per year on meetings and conventions in the U.S. In many organizations, this spend represents 4% of annual revenue. Yet most companies have no way of knowing exactly what they’re spending or where.

Small Meetings, Big Challenge
The situation is even worse when it comes to small meetings. These are the intimate sales meetings and offsite events for training employees, recruiting talent, setting strategy and celebrating team successes. Many of these gatherings are booked independently by managers and executive assistants throughout the company, not routed through a centralized meeting department. The spend is often misclassified as travel and entertainment expenses and scattered across multiple departments, regions and P&Ls. No wonder so many companies share the view that tracking small meeting spend is just too difficult. So they don’t try.

The trouble is, large organizations rely on aggregated spend data to negotiate better pricing. Expense tracking is a great starting point, but it shows gross spend. What’s missing are the granular details, such as savings or spend by different categories (e.g. guest rooms, food and beverage, audiovisual, etc.). For major corporations, tracking itemized small meeting spend across all departments and regions can mean millions of dollars in savings. 

Is It Worth It?
“But tracking small meeting spend can be so arduous – is it really worth it?” you’re wondering.

Absolutely! A whopping 40% of T&E expense is attributed to meetings. If your company spends $20 million on T&E annually, for example, that’s roughly $8 million in meeting and event spend.

Most companies can save up to 25% on meetings and events by adopting just a few new approaches to their expense strategy. That means $2 million in bottom-line savings.

Luckily, new technology is changing the data capture game for the better, empowering business with robust analytics. Forward-thinking travel managers now have the tools they need to drive data-driven decision-making on where to cut costs and better ensure compliance.

These 5 steps below will add transparency and unlock savings for your company in no time.

  1. Identify Biggest Opportunities

Roughly 80% of a meeting’s potential savings comes from venue sourcing, according to GBTA. Many organizations leave more than a third of their leveraging power on the table by not automating this crucial step. 

The latest sourcing solutions not only serve as RFP tools; they also do the heavy lifting on sourcing, negotiating, and booking meetings and events. The result? They capture 10x more data automatically – meaning more accurate reporting and more leverage for greater cost savings.

When you automate the sourcing process, you eliminate tedious spread sheet work and manual entry. Instead, you capture costs and savings data effortlessly for a crystal-clear picture of your organization’s meeting spend.

  1. Get 360-Degree View

Having a common booking platform is an easy way to centralize data and ensure compliance. Adoption is key. Your solution must be simple enough for occasional planners to start using right away, yet robust enough to handle the needs of professional planners. If the technology requires training for ad hoc planners, then it’s too complicated to get this job done.

A simple meeting request process also helps centralize data. Occasional planners can funnel their requirements through the meetings team for sourcing. The meetings team can take it from there and route results through the approval process to assure compliance. 

But what about employees who want to choose a venue themselves? That’s okay, too. They should go for it – but still funnel requests through a meeting registration process. Capturing the initial details of the meeting is a good way to start.

  1. Keep it simple

One of the biggest reasons for not tracking meeting spend is there’s just too much data. Where should you begin? The answer is simple: Start small. Focus on the data you need to drive the most savings.

Here are data points to consider:

  • Dates
  • Venue type; hotel, restaurant, or other
  • #pp and are they internal or external
  • Purpose
  • Division/department spend on meetings/events
  1. Start Small 

“But my company is so big. How can I possibly get everyone on board?” you’re say. The answer again: Start small.

Put your focus where you can have the greatest impact. Identify several groups or departments where executive assistants and managers book a fair number of meetings. Work with them first on creating and implementing a small meetings policy.

Monitor results, and develop a baseline for calculating ROI. Also create benchmarks, so you can make adjustments to ensure success on the next event.

When you can demonstrate significant impact, you’ll be better able to build your case for a companywide rollout.

  1. Have Fun 

But events aren’t just about cost savings and protocols.

Once you have your groups or departments on board, why not add some fun to the mix? With the right approach, gamification is a great way to drive engagement and foster understanding about new programs. 

Here again, the trick is to keep it simple. Think about the behavior you want to reward. For example, centralizing meeting requests and stacking events with preferred vendors. By performing these activities, participants can earn points and level up.

Create a leaderboard showcasing top participants. Laud them publicly for strengthening the company’s bottom line. Prizes could be tools of the event planner trade like iPads, or something fun like a team celebration at a favorite local venue – with an event request funneled through the meetings team, of course!

With these five easy steps, it’s clear employees save time planning meetings, while complying with company policy. Travel and procurement managers gain more control over small meeting spend. And above all, your company reduces risk and achieves significant savings.

With visibility into small meeting spend, everyone wins.

mike-masonMike Mason is vice president of  sourcing & hospitality solutions at etouches.

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