They Do Things Differently Over There: Meetings Management Without Borders

Apr 03, 2008
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

When Lilly Corporation began centralizing meeting services more than 10 years ago, the company looked to two major regions: North America and Europe. Consolidation of meetings in the United States progressed at a consistent and steady pace. However, almost every country in Europe had its own meetings management personnel, multiple department codes, and no standardized purchasing.

Further complicating the situation was the absence of a central force driving meetings management across the region. In addition, the department to which meetings reported was inconsistent from country to country, and organizational goals for meetings varied greatly as a result.

The situation called for solutions. Stepping up to the plate was Richard Darley, manager, Lilly European Travel and Fleet. While not solely responsible for the strategic meetings management (SMM) program in Europe, Darley ended up playing a big part in identifying and bringing together the various meeting-planning groups from the five major countries across the European region to form a coordinated MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] team.


Organization and market barriers to meetings consolidation and alignment
Implementing successful global meetings management is demanding pharma's attention these days. The challenges of effective sourcing, data management, return on investment, and positioning within the organizational infrastructure are driving the search for innovative solutions to meet a multinational, multicultural business environment.

A new report, "The View from the Other Side of the Pond" by Advito, an independent consulting unit of BCD Travel, in interviews with key stakeholders with successful European SMM programs, provides a roadmap for achieving success across diverse markets.

"These results are possible despite the complications of languages and cultural differences in meetings consolidation," says George Odom, Advito senior director Business Development. "Travel department decision makers at Pfizer, Lilly, and GlaxoSmithKline cite key best practices at the heart of their companies' successful global meetings programs."

Controlling meeting costs—advice from the experts
While the primary components of meetings management (hotel, air, and ground transport) appear to follow transient travel practices, the unique nature of the meetings sector can—when acknowledged within the organization—lead to overall cost savings and the successful coordination of a SMM program.

Key business differences exist between Europe and North America, specifically in hotel negotiations and meeting-space restrictions. Proven success models, however, demonstrate that meetings management consolidation and alignment within the global organization is a reality outside of the North American market.

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