Meetings are back in business
If you haven’t already noticed, meetings – by which we mean good old fashioned ‘bums on seats’ meetings – are back. The UK’s largest meetings industry trade event, The Meetings Show, has already announced that it will be moving into a larger space at London’s Olympia in 2016 to meet the rise in demand from both exhibitors (UK and international venues) and visitors. In other news, IMEX, the European trade show, reported a ‘record breaking year’ for the 2015 event held in Frankfurt, with IMEX Group Chairman Ray Bloom claiming there is “Cause to be optimistic that the steady resurgence in the meetings industry since the financial crises was set to continue”.
This is all welcome news for those of us working in the meetings industry. It’s also a strong indication that companies are feeling sufficiently confident to want to invest again in their own futures: promoting their products and services, spreading key messages, training their staff and steering their businesses full steam ahead. And that’s good news for everyone.
‘companies are feeling sufficiently confident to want to invest again in their own futures’
Virtual meetings – a reality check
There was a time when the rise of the machines (video conferencing equipment and applications) suggested we could soon be reaping the benefits of face-to-face interactions from the comfort of our own office chairs. However, when the Meetings Professionals International association conducted a global survey of its members in 2015, 60% predicted an increase in ‘live attendance’, while the number predicting an increase in virtual events was down 10% on the year before.
The real surprise is that this comes as a surprise. Virtual meetings, however they are contrived, lack the engagement that comes with being in the same room. And nothing you write down and send out will have the same impact as a passionate speaker. As Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP business software, pronounced in his keynote speech at IMEX 2015, “If you are going to inspire people you have to bring them together.”
‘nothing you write down and send out will have the same impact as a passionate speaker’
Businesses driven by an urgent purpose
Companies in the banking and finance sector, in particular, have strong reasons to convene more meetings. They have seen sweeping changes to the way their services and products are regulated, and these all need to be assimilated and communicated to the troops, with strategic planning sessions for management teams and training courses for sales teams and field agents. In other industries, internal management changes, corporate rebrands and business development strategies are driving companies to organise more internal and external events.
While they are feeling compelled to call meetings, the recent financial storms have left companies across the board under pressure to save money at all cost and wherever they can.
So, companies have many and varied reasons for holding more meetings and events, but they need to keep their costs under tight control.
How can they possibly achieve both objectives?
- By consolidating
Regardless of their size, industry or sector, all companies understand buying power.
Whether they are bulk buying their office stationery or negotiating a volume discount with their suppliers, they know that the more business they put someone’s way, the better the deal they will get in return.
When it comes to meeting and events, having an integrated approach to travel, meetings and events will enable them to wield their buying power at a corporate level, rather than leaving their divisions, departments and teams to make their own arrangements with considerably less leverage.
‘an integrated approach to travel, meetings and events will enable you to wield your buying power at a corporate level’
If it sounds like we’re stating the obvious, you may be surprised at how many companies have not put an integrated policy into practice. In fact, only 40% of the 100 senior decision-makers polled at the Business Travel Show said they had a consolidated meetings and events policy. Almost two thirds answered the question with ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’, and nearly 30% of respondents claimed they could not see the value of an integrated approach.
- By outsourcing
Another option is to put the entire problem into the hands of experts.
Outsourcing is not a new concept for business. Who runs their own call centre these days? However, it seems there is some stigma attached to the notion of giving another company the job of organising and managing your meetings and events.
Is this because meetings and event management companies are considered an expensive luxury, or the more expensive option? If so, nothing could be further from the truth. As these recent Inntel case studies demonstrate, we achieve significant savings for our clients as a matter of course.
Institute and Faculty of Actuaries case study: Conclusion
As a result of our many initiatives, the IFA exams workload has become much easier to manage. And thanks to our tough negotiations, their meetings and event spend in 2013 was 23% less than it had been the year before. The following year, it was 21% less than the benchmark 2012 figure. Read the full case study here
Sales and Marketing Agency case study: Conclusion
The client has been delighted by the efficiency of the Inntel account management service, and the savings they have been able to make since Inntel negotiated special rates at their preferred hotels. In 2014, Inntel saved the company more than 26% of their previous year’s spend on meetings and events alone.
‘a definite win/win for everyone concerned’
All of this is compelling evidence that using a meetings management company should cost the business less than when they ‘go it alone’. So what else could be preventing companies from seeking out such an obvious solution?
One possible answer is that companies just don’t know enough about what we do, because we haven’t been doing it long enough to register with them. Alan Newton of Eventopedia, the leading online marketplace for corporate meeting and event planners, posted a comment under a report stating, “It is my assertion that meetings management has barely scratched the surface as a discipline that can add value to an organisation, and has largely remained at a tactical level. One of the reasons why meetings management has not progressed beyond a tactical level is – in part – due to its infancy as a discipline and thus the relatively low number of experts & practitioners compared with other business disciplines”.
‘meetings management has not progressed beyond a tactical level due to its infancy as a discipline’
Inntel has been actively helping clients with their meetings, accommodation, travel, and events for over 30 years, investing in its own technological innovations and delivering significant savings across the board, so we can definitely point to our expertise and experience in the field. But we accept the argument that, with relatively few of us delivering this level of support, we are not as noticeable as other more densely-populated service sectors.
‘The tide turned against meetings management for a while, as recession hit companies tried to do more of their meetings and events organisation, administration and management in house. But we knew we’d soon be back in favour – because we offer the most time and cost efficient solution for budget conscious clients.’
Kathie McGuire, Director of Procurement, Inntel
So, why should you use a meetings management company?
For the record, here’s why using a meetings management company should be a ‘no brainer’ for any company that wants to protect its brand and grow its business through a programme of meetings and events while saving money into the bargain.
- Better rates
Remember what we said about buying power? A meetings management company will be particularly skillful when it comes to negotiating better rates because they do it all the time. They know how hotels and venues calculate their costs, they understand what they’re prepared to ‘throw in’ to sweeten the deal, and they can reward the good service that a company gives to you, Client A, by recommending the same company to Client B. If meetings management is not your core business you will never know what more could be achieved by a specialist company working on your behalf.
With such a comprehensive knowledge of the market, the management company will also be able to advise you on venues in areas that may be off your radar – and this is important because the difference in prices around the country are significant. For example, research by BRDC Continental (a market research company) suggests that a 50 delegate meeting with one night’s accommodation in a mid-range hotel would cost £12,000 less in Newcastle than in London.
- Faster access to suitable venues
It would take days if not weeks for your in-house team to visit ten different venues, weigh up the merits of each and decide which would be the best match for the meeting or event in question. A meetings management company will already know the ins and outs of hundreds of venues, up and down the country, and be able to put together a shortlist of the most suitable for your consideration. They will know the mainstream providers and the quirky locations (castles, dungeons, race courses, museums), the number of bedrooms and the capacities of the meeting rooms, the technology on standby and the standard of the catering. They have already put the hours in, so you don’t have to.
- Cost saving algorithms
No matter how large or small your requirements, any meetings management company worth its salt will work out if you could achieve the same top-quality result for less. This could involve calculating the best location for a meeting based on the total cost of getting everyone there from their different starting points. It could require your delegates to use a different train line, or convert an open ticket to a fixed return. In short, if there’s a better way to use your budget, they’ll find it for you.
- Consolidated services
A meetings management company will be able to offer you a range of services, and the more you use the better. Because if you have one company responsible for many tasks – booking accommodation, travel, meeting rooms and catering requirements, for example – they will usually have devised a way of streamlining the processes to reduce the work (and therefore cost) involved.
- Quality without compromise
An experienced meetings management company should work hard to get you ‘great value’, which we define as a better price for the required quality.
In 2015, the cloud-based meetings management platform Cvent surveyed more than 800 meeting organisers about the factors affecting their decisions. A full quarter said that price was their main consideration, and a weighty 40% said they would be tempted to switch from their first choice of venue to a second choice in return for a 10% discount. They listed the most difficult aspects of booking as researching (24%) and negotiating with venues (22%) and a third of all respondents claimed to be ‘unimpressed’ with the speed of the responses received.
Speaking on behalf of a meetings management company, all of these figures fuel the argument for getting us involved in the process. It would be our job to research venues, negotiate prices and chase up answers – and we would never recommend settling for second best to save money.
‘using a meetings management company should be a ‘no brainer’’
What more can Inntel offer you?
The evidence is persuasive.
- Integrating your meetings and events programme with your travel programme is more efficient, and
- Outsourcing the management of your integrated programmes to a specialist company makes business sense.
So what makes Inntel any different to the rest?
We are the largest and fastest growing meetings management business in the UK. We have 30 years of experience, a remarkably broad expertise and a long list of highly satisfied small, medium and large corporate clients.
But even more than this, we have the Inntel Meetings Management Portal, a collection of nine online tools that make it easier than ever to implement your own integrated travel, meetings and events policy.
It’s quite simply the most comprehensive set of interactive meetings management tools on the market.
The nine tools operate independently to give you a focused solution for different aspects of your internal and external meetings management – including diary management, delegate management, budget administration, venue booking and more.
Used together, the tools provide a structured and integrated way to:
- Implement your corporate meetings strategies and policies
- Track how much you are spending on meetings and
- Monitor your return on that investment.
 ‘The Meetings Show to move in 2016 to enable future growth’ report by Lauren Houghton, C&IT, 28/5/15
 ‘Power of meetings hailed as recovery looks set to continue’ report on meetpie.com, 19/5/15
 Meetings Outlook report by the MPI (Meetings Professionals International), spring 2015
 ‘Power of meetings hailed as recovery looks set to continue’ report on meetpie.com, 19/5/15
 ‘More than half of planners ignorant of meetings programmes’ report on meetpie.com, 8/5/15
 ‘Planners can save up to £12,000 on meetings outside of London’ report on meetpie.com, 13/05/15
 ‘Planners more likely to switch for a tenth off, says report’ reported on meetpie.com, 27/5/15