Small Meetings - The Next Frontier of Meetings Management

Small and Simple Meetings in Focus

When we think of the meetings and events industry, we have an inclination for large-scale conferences or complex incentive trips.

However, according to a recent study by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)* – How Do Companies Approach Simple Meetings? – 50% of all corporate meetings are “simple meetings.” What’s more, some of our own clients report small meetings make up to 80% of their meetings portfolio.

What is a “simple meeting how can it be optimized?

Usually defined as a small meeting with basic, replicable requirements, simple meetings have historically not garnered the same level of attention or focus as their large-scale, high-spend counterparts.

Often managed without a strategic approach and in a non-central capacity, they present a significant opportunity for organizations looking for ways to further optimize their mature meetings management programs. By looking at the full picture of total meetings companies may achieve improved supplier negotiation, total policy compliance, and most importantly, duty of care.

So where does the disconnect begin? Given their nature, simple meetings are generally managed outside of meetings policies and are booked by individuals who may not usually be responsible for planning an event. These individuals will often operate without a formal bidding process or policy, and may not even be aware of their options. Rather, they will make bookings based on perceived ease or personal preferences.

As a result, total spend may not be captured and policy compliance may be unknowingly side-lined, potentially presenting both financial and reputational risk.

There are a number of emerging technology solutions providing new opportunities for the sourcing and booking of simple meetings. These online tools can not only make it easier to track and manage these meetings but also provide meeting planners with the freedom to shop for, and book, company-preferred venues.

Venues are also coming to the table to help the process. Hotels in particular have begun implementing efficiencies for small and simple meetings, to focus energy on higher yield events. With meetingsbooker.com’s report revealing that venues spend, on average, 47 minutes handling an offline meeting booking, it’s in their best interest to make the most of online solutions.

Using meeting booking technology is also convenient for non-hotel venues, allowing them to easily present their space and amenities to potential clients. As this sector grows, we expect to see a more automated booking model that will help to “transactionalize” the small meetings planning process, providing real-time, bookable, meeting inventory for a broad spectrum of venues.

This paper discusses three top considerations for meeting owners looking to gain control over small and simple meetings.

Top Considerations

1. Small meetings can add up to higher spending, so capture the full spend across your organization

Despite playing such a significant role in the running of a company, many companies have a lack of visibility into how many meetings are planned across all their departments, particularly the small and simple ones.

With GBTA’s survey* confirming that 42% of respondents did not track small meeting expenditures, these costs are often going unnoticed.

To gain maximum value from a meetings program, it is important to have a complete view of all spend, regardless of the size of a meeting.

As well as the basics, it is also important to gain visibility into meeting-specific information. This could include the room nights booked, the number of attendees, the meeting city, and of course, the total spend.

Once you have this information, what can it provide you with? With the GBTA study revealing that 40% of simple meetings in North America take place in hotel conference spaces, there is an untapped opportunity to align spend at preferred hotels and hotel chains in accordance with company policy.

The result? A likely reduction in overall meetings investment and greater relationships with your preferred suppliers.

Bringing these simple meetings into the broader policy lead to more complex booking process. Suppliers also seek new ways to interact with clients in a less demanding way.

Hotels may offer more favourable rates for online bookings so they can focus their time and effort elsewhere or may even provide added extras.

Meetingsbooker.com’s Online meeting bookings report** cited that 41% of bookings included a discounted rate against the venue’s standard prices or a complimentary item (eg. a coffee break).

2. Consolidating small and simple meetings is now critical for duty of care

It is an unfortunate reality that today we live in a world of uncertainty. Organizations therefore need to be more proactive to support and protect their employees, clients, and partners when they are attending corporate meetings and events.

Putting ‘part-time planners’ in charge of small and simple meetings presents a significant risk.

Despite having the best of intentions, these individuals may not have the same knowledge, tools, processes, or vendor relationships as a meeting manager, so the basic duty of care requirements may be missed.

Furthermore, simple meetings are more likely take place at non-standard venues that do not specialize in events.

You can begin minimizing your corporate risk in various ways; by only allowing meeting planners the option of booking hotels that align with your company’s policies and within a centralized system so you know where your attendees are in the event of a travel disruption.

3. Make it easy to comply with policy

Proactively managing simple meetings not only helps to manage duty of care requirements, but can also help to mitigate other risks, including, financial risks associated with appropriate cancellation and attrition terms, food and beverage minimum clauses, or legal risks arising from poorly written contracts (or worse, no contract in place at all). The key to making this work? Making it easy for meeting organizers to comply.

When looking at simple meetings take an extra care and have proper guardrails in place, to improve program effectiveness. Whether it’s an HR professional, a marketing executive, salesperson, or administrative team member managing the meeting, it’s important they make decisions that are in your company’s best interest and minimise exposure.

An article from Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine***, “The Costs and Benefits of Managing Small Meetings,” explored whether it was worth the effort and cost to manage small meetings.

The answer they came to? It depends. But if your organization has risk management and cost savings as a focus, it’s a yes.

Much of the article focused on risk and an organization’s tolerance for risk. This includes where meetings take place, who the attendees are, and how much is spent. The article showcases that the sector is large and seemingly untapped. They cite Group ize, a small meetings technology provider, whose e-book, Small Meetings are the Wild, Wild West, showcased that 66% of all meetings in the United States have fewer than 50 attendees, which represents a huge $124 billion in annual spend.

To help improve compliance to policy, organizations should make it as simple as possible for employees to follow the rules. Using online booking tools can help meet your organizational needs, but it’s also meeting your employees where they’re at.

As consumers, your team members are likely used to booking their leisure and business travel online, so similar “shopping” experiences when booking meetings should be the norm.

According to the GBTA study, almost half (48%) of simple meeting planners do not use a “managed” meetings channel when booking and venues for simple meetings. 77% of respondents said they used only consumer channels.

This shows there is a myriad of new untapped opportunities and a variety of platforms that can be mapped together to provide the continuity and coverage that organizations seek.

*How Do Companies Approach Simple Meetings? Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), July 2018

**Online meeting bookings report Meetingsbooker.com, March 2018

***The Costs and Benefits of Managing Small Meetings The MeetingMagazines.com, Corporate & Incentive Travel, October 2017

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