They Do Things Differently Over There: Meetings Management Without Borders - Pharmaceutical Executive


They Do Things Differently Over There: Meetings Management Without Borders

Pharma Meetings


Stakeholder interviews in the report show that users' interest, management support, and intercompany communications rank as the number-one challenge in global SMM. Differences in culture and language, legal and regulatory issues, and technology adoption tie for number two.

User buy-in Engaging the support of the appropriate individuals, particularly senior management with meetings responsibility, often poses the most difficult barrier to overcome. Hurdling this critical barrier will determine the level of overall success of the SMM program.

Cultural and language differences Consolidating and coordinating programs across multicultural groups presents unique challenges. Language differences, as well as disparities from region to region in meetings practices and terminologies, pose clear obstacles to successful meetings management. Effectively crossing boundaries of language, nationality, or geography requires a basic awareness of any unfamiliar cultures that are likely to be encountered—before starting the process.

Legal and regulatory issues Another significant barrier to the successful implementation of a global SMM program centers upon corporate operational accountability and regulations. Pharmaceutical regulations outside of the United States vary by country, says Advito's Odom. In Europe, the regulations are especially stringent. As a result, some companies have experts within each country who must be contacted by the meeting planner. This is particularly true when attendees come from several different countries and all regulations have to be reviewed to ensure compliance with the strictest regulations.

Technology acceptance, adoption, availability Technology simultaneously represents one of the greatest challenges to and one of the highest potential gains in cost savings and baseline success tracking. Most critical to success is the technology tool's data-capture component. Establishing a baseline for the scope of the organization's global meetings spend and vendor usage is imperative to the determination of savings and successes gained year over year.

Finances and funding In many global organizations, meetings costs and processes are not within the focus of finance and senior management. Gaining the collective awareness of finance, procurement, and senior management requires extensive fact-finding and data collection to present a preliminary meeting-cost overview.


The rising need for cost containment in the meetings management arena is leading to more procurement department involvement in the buying of meeting services and contract negotiations.

Procurement is always looking for additional areas where the organization may save money, and meeting spend is one of the last areas of unmanaged spend within organizations. Shifting the negotiation and hotel-contract process to procurement often begins data consolidation initiatives as well. Double-digit savings have been reported by organizations involving procurement in meeting negotiations.


Demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) for meetings is increasingly becoming the measure of meeting value. ROI is defined as the measure or accountability that answers the question: Is there a financial return for investing in a meeting? The answer involves capturing the fully loaded meeting costs, converting data into monetary values, and determining the outcome of the meeting on the value.

"Our clients are looking to measure ROI against their overall investment in resources," says Mary MacGregor, vice president, BCD Meetings & Incentives. "They are looking for a positive return based on measuring the savings in actual meeting spend as well as negotiated savings with vendors. We have also been able to offer a solution that measures the ROE (return on the event) their meetings. In these cases, we survey attendee attitudes and knowledge pre-and post-event to evaluate the impact of the meeting on key business initiatives. Both measurements provide important data to support meeting and event programs."


A number of consistent trends and best practices are at the heart of successful meetings programs in Europe:

Create collaborative event groups or a global event council Develop a working community of individuals that is empowered to align processes and best practices across the organization. Ensure that the global SMM program includes representation by meeting-coordination members from cross-functional and multicountry business units.

Ensure group efforts involve overarching strategies of the organization Collective buy-in among the meetings professionals of the organization will better drive senior management buy-in of proposed meetings policies and procedures. The involvement of the procurement and finance departments ensures visibility within the organization for the cost effectiveness and savings of the centralized meetings management program.

Balance local success with global strategy Local meetings management ensures awareness of market idiosyncrasies by stakeholders from local MICE teams. It also increases the buy-in with the global initiatives for capturing data in centralized spend categories. The contributions of all markets are represented in the big picture.

Share information The speed of change in today's economy—and in the meetings industry itself—requires the effective sharing of organizational information. Communication is key to the cohesive behavior of the meetings management teams.


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