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


They Do Things Differently Over There: Meetings Management Without Borders

Pharma Meetings


Such best practices are what drives Pfizer, Lilly, and GlaxoSmithKline's successful global meetings programs, as seen in the case studies on the following pages:

Mandating the capture of meeting spend

Pfizer's 39-Country Solution

"Pfizer chose to implement a data-consolidation tool as one of the first steps in the centralization of meeting spend," says Sue Shillam, Pfizer's director of Global Travel, EMEA.

Pfizer enlisted the organization's global finance group to mandate centralized cost-center usage to ensure that all meeting spend was captured. As the technology was implemented, Pfizer discovered that some individual markets had as many as 20 meeting agencies, adding to the complexity of centralized data capture.

Unlike many SMM programs that start in North America and spread to Europe, Pfizer's meetings management strategy began from within the United Kingdom, Shillam says. Thirty-nine countries are now included in the SMM program, with special focus on 24 of the larger European markets. Both global guidelines and regional policies have been implemented across the company. In recognition of individual-market considerations, the SMM program is centrally coordinated but regionally managed, as Pfizer finds it unnecessary to make it "one size fits all."

Prior to consolidation, Pfizer recognized that meeting expenses were incurred from attrition and cancellations. Moreover, competition for the same venue space among internal meetings groups often increased overall meeting costs. Other big challenges centered upon the identification of meeting responsibility and data capture at the local level. The company was able to identify 90 percent of their meeting spend; however, they were not able to identify the source.

Pfizer formed a global meeting council with four regional councils made up of individuals who are responsible for both consolidated travel and meetings. Through the consolidation of responsibility and data, Pfizer identified that meeting spend is five times greater than transient travel spend. As a result, the stakeholders, with assistance from Pfizer's global finance services, are working to change behaviors and drive program changes.

Involving procurement can be key

Lilly's Lessons Learned

"Major pharmaceutical companies may find opportunities for significant savings by involving the procurement department in meetings negotiations," said Richard Darley, manager, Lilly European Travel and Fleet.

As the Lilly MICE teams were brought together to discuss processes and opportunities, they quickly identified several common initiatives that supported a centralized meetings program:

  • Improve communication

–Developing a central voice to communicate the concerns of MICE leaders to senior management is key
–Overall success hinges upon communicating meetings processes and activities
  • Apply consistent sourcing strategy to ensure supplier-performance management
  • Develop group air transport for consistency, quality, and value
  • Establish a metric for measurement and development of best practices
  • Optimize repeat programs with suppliers, concentrating on earlier bookings to secure space
  • Deploy a centralized software platform (single hotel database for quality control)

–Spreading meeting costs throughout multiple budgets under separate financial accounts prohibits consolidation of the organization's meeting spend
–Centralized data capture raises awareness for senior management of meeting spend and opportunities for savings

The Six Sigma project that Darley is currently leading might hold the key to bringing the Lilly MICE teams' initiatives to light. Six Sigma has strong senior management support, and its focus on driving consistency and consolidation lend additional support for consolidating the strategic meetings management program.

Finding 30 percent savings on meetings

GlaxoSmithKline's ROI

Through intensive internal change management and intelligently negotiated external agreements, the centralized venue-sourcing group at GlaxoSmithKline has been able to achieve between 20 and 30 percent savings on meetings costs, according to Virginia Harris, the company's sourcing group manager, Transient & Group Travel, Europe.

GlaxoSmithKline's venue-sourcing group does not own the meeting budget, but rather seeks to influence costs by getting the best savings for the organization.

GSK has been actively consolidating meetings in both Europe and the United States for approximately three years. The internal GSK meetings management group focuses primarily on group air and venue sourcing, while actual event management is handled by internal individuals or outsourced to meeting suppliers. By applying GSK procurement resources, venue sourcing has been able to establish guidelines and break through market barriers, achieving significant cost savings in the meeting sector.

In the European meetings management-consolidation process, one of the greatest challenges has been the acceptance of meeting-planning quality levels by meeting organizers and senior management. Expectations for event quality are driven by individuals, not corporate standards, and vary greatly from meeting planner to meeting planner—resulting in variances in cost-per-delegate levels. However, meeting spend is now getting senior management attention, and the venue-sourcing group has noticed more planning around meeting budgets, cost savings, season, location, and costs for meetings.

Bruce Morgan is SVP of BCD Meetings & Incentives. He can be reached at


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