Driving Success in Strategic Meetings Management

June 2016


Executive Summary

This latest global research conducted by the CWT Travel Management Institute in partnership with The BTN Group, a division of Northstar Travel Group, explores the drivers of success in strategic meetings management. Drawing on interviews conducted with industry experts, case studies and a global survey, the report provides an in-depth look at strategic meetings management and the benefits and challenges of implementing a program. We also have provided best practices recommended by corporate practitioners who have successfully deployed SMM programs.


Early adopters of SMM programs describe a host of benefits ranging from transparency into spend and cost savings to risk mitigation, duty of care and compliance, whether to regulations, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or corporate policies. Others contend that brand and customer service delivery consistency that a strategic approach can provide are critical. These benefits have accrued to companies across industry segments and geographies.

Despite these success stories, the industry still has not reached a high level of market maturity.


More than half of companies surveyed had yet to launch SMM initiatives. Most of those who first embraced the concepts years ago still don't define their programs as "mature." For many, SMM appears to be a work in progress for which they're not yet ready to claim that they have mastered. The good news is that a program does not need to be fully mature to start generating benefits, and some of the most basic early components can yield significant results.


Experts agree that implementing an SMM program is a journey, not a destination, and that it is constantly evolving. Each program is and should be unique, designed to align with corporate goals and culture. This lack of a one-size-fits-all solution may make putting a program in place seem daunting to some; instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity. The fact that there are so many potential configurations underscores the required flexibility of SMM programs. Establishing a program does not have to be an onerous or daunting task. Many of today's most effective programs started small and grew, building on their successes.


Expanding globally, successful programs have been based on solid strategies but nimble enough to bend and flex to local cultures, practices and regulations.


We have spoken to these experts and summarized the best practices they have shared to provide practical advice to design a strategy, deploy a program or expand one that is underway.

Some key advice and findings include:


  • Focus on the strategy, not the tactics

  • Don't try to do too much at the onset. Start small, show value and grow from there. Many companies choose to start with big impact areas such as venue sourcing

  • Determine what you want to achieve before you start, and build a roadmap to reach that destination

  • Communicate early to all internal (e.g. business owners, meeting planners) and external (e.g. hotel partners and technology providers) parties who will support your program to ensure they understand the roadmap and goals

  • Consider outsourcing some or all of the components of your program to accelerate development and leverage external expertise. Travel management companies can be a great consulting resource to get your program started.

  • Stakeholders, stakeholders, stakeholders: Identify them early, get their buy-in and continually engage with them to maintain their support. Consider creating an internal committee with representatives from all impacted areas and regional road shows.


For those who have already started a program and are looking to expand, regionally or globally, experts advised:


  • Customize goals by region

  • Don't be intimidated by the concept of going global; programs do not have to be fully mature in all regions to show value

  • Consider pilot programs versus a full rollout to gain "mini-successes" and manage stakeholder expectations


All this advice must be taken with an eye to industry developments. Consolidation in the global market most certainly will impact programs through changes in pricing, innovation and improved client service.


What is next? As SMM programs mature and continue to show value, expect increased integration with marketing and sales groups. With that, expect an increased focus on attendee satisfaction and new and innovative ways to measure the Return on Event (ROE).