Crisis Spurs Coming of Age of Global Meeting Planning - Pharmaceutical Executive


Crisis Spurs Coming of Age of Global Meeting Planning

Pharma Meetings

Q What do you mean by internal buy-in?

A The people who are going to be impacted by the change have to understand it. They have to embrace it at some level. I spent a fair amount of time in departmental meetings talking to folks and getting their feedback. Later, I would go back and say: "OK, you told me this, and this is what we've done. Are you seeing the difference?" It was an important step. Otherwise, a lot of people feel like you're asking but you're not taking any of that information and doing anything with it. I wanted to make sure they knew we really did care about what they were saying. I always believe in working under the W-I-I-F-M theory, which is: What's in it for me?

Q You've said global meetings management is the ultimate in change management. Why is that?

A Meetings touch so many folks—legal; risk management; the attendees; marketing, if you're in that group; the procurement; the shareholders of the corporation; and your suppliers. When you start talking to all these people, it can appear to be a daunting task. But if you follow a change management process, it makes it easier: You can move from step one to step two to step three, versus kind of a shotgun approach and hoping you hit them all.

Q The old chestnut is that meetings are the last area of unmanaged spend. Is that driving consolidation?

A The reason meetings are one of the most unmanaged areas within a company is that they are done in different areas by so many different people. To look then for how the company manages their cost, you go to the places where it appears you're spending the most money. As you start collecting that data, you realize how big it is. That's why today most companies have gone to the low-hanging fruit, if you will. And now they're saying, "This is a lot bigger."

So they start looking at that, which in turn drives consolidation. If everybody's doing their own thing and you can get it into one central location, you'll know what your costs are. It just drives it down. Instead of using 50 suppliers, maybe you can get by with 10 or five. By doing so, you realize there's a lot of efficiencies that can be developed. That's why people are addressing it now where they didn't do it before.

Q So it's the economy?

A The economy is speeding up meetings consolidation, but it probably would have happened anyway.

Q How do you cut back?

A That is exactly the benefit of a strategic meetings program. The answer may be to look for alternative meetings, or use videoconferences, WebX's, or Web conferences. It could mean a different venue—perhaps one that is not as fancy as you had before. Maybe look for meetings on a regional versus national basis. How do we fly the fewest people in and cut down on our expenses? Maybe shorten the length of the meeting, don't have as many meetings or attendees, or conduct meetings where the attendees can drive to them.

It's a question of maximizing your resources—what's your return on investment? At the same time, it's about being cognizant of your objective and investment—the cost/benefit analysis. It used to be the best meetings were ones where the senior-most person said, "Man, that was a great meeting." Well now it's more—"What was our average spend per attendee? What did we get out of it?"


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