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Outsourcing Meeting and Event Services, Article Writing Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1966

Article Writing

Over the last couple of years, more and more organizations are choosing to outsource, rather than add internal headcount, their meeting and event needs. The outsourcing of meeting services may be a new concept for an organization yet analogous to the corporate travel department (“CTD”) evolution.  Whereas travel agents of the 1970s and 1980s worked inside an organization, many of these agents were transitioned to a travel management company (“TMC”) when travel began shifting to an outsourced model after airline deregulation.   Sure, many organizations still use internal CTDs and some are very successful. Similarly, many organizations use internal meeting and event planning teams that provide superior services.  Yet, the trend is shifting toward an outsourced model for:

  • Oversight of the meeting and event program
  • Site selections, sourcing and contract management
  • Logistics planning
  • Onsite management and execution
  • Small meeting management and execution
  • Dispute management and reconciliation
  • Meeting management technology

Consider the outsourcing benefits to the organization, the meeting requestor and to the meeting planner:

Outsourcing Driver Objective Method
Benefits to the Organization
Improve Strategy Improve management by focusing on core business activities ·   Reduce time spent on managing resources and performance.

·   Improve corporate appearance to shareholders

·   Move internal audit of meeting services function to an experienced meeting management or planning company

Increase speed-to-market ·   Become more responsive to market shifts.  As an example, blend in new acquisitions or transition out business units without reorganizations, restructuring and reductions in meeting services workforce
Share risks ·   Use meeting management company that has a strong focus on staying up-to-date on new laws and regulations (e.g. Personal Identifiable Information (PII) laws, other data security regulations, The Sunshine Act, HCP, HIPAA, etc.)

·   Take advantage of business continuity and backup plans supplied by meeting management company

·   Manage and control spend for SOX requirements

·   Ensure contracts include proper terms and conditions and are signed by authorized delegates

·   Ensure that meetings and events have the proper insurance riders required

·   Uphold document retention laws for all contracts and other documents

Mitigate ethical concerns ·   Remove temptations to collect personal incentive points, tickets, credits, gifts or other awards that may be offered by suppliers.

·   Circumvent participation in familiarization trips (FAMS) and other services that appear unethical but are common in the industry

Increase Agility Scale resources for variability ·   Staff can be added, or reduced, or moved to other clients quickly.
Provide for up-to-date services with skilled resources ·   Skilled staff can be used to provide services on similar meetings, within similar industries so that skills can be increased and leveraged
Manage Costs Gain visibility into cost of resources and services ·   Supply chain management principles can be used to monitor and manage costs for all resources and services with enforced key performance indicators and service level agreements

·   Ability to “pay for what you use”

Benefits to the Customer (e.g. Internal Meeting Sponsor or Budget Holder)
Improve Service Customer will get, and can demand, skilled resources, service consistency and specific meeting industry knowledge ·   Take advantage of skilled resource pool that may include “rebadged” sourcers and/or planners transitioned from organization when high-touch is necessary. From working on multiple accounts, tenured, highly experienced resources will have the most flexible industry intelligence
Document and manage service issues ·   Ability to report service issues and feel “heard” so that improvements can be made.
Seek help during crisis ·   Access to experienced crisis management experienced resources and a meeting management or planning company 24/7 for help and guidance.
Focus on corporate social responsibility ·   Support corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) initiatives by using supplier that is a leader in meeting and hospitality CSR advancements
Increase productivity and efficiency Access to additional, skilled resources and technology ·   Meeting management may be provided by global organizations that use consistent processes and technologies so that productivity is maximized

·   Access to the best of breed for resources and technology

Benefits to the Sources and/or Planners*
Career Development Develop career and seek competitive salary; Increase career upward mobility ·   Expand client base and possibilities for upward mobility within meeting management company.

·   Participate in training and development focused on meeting and hospitality industry.

·   Access to industry thought leadership and best practices

·   Preserve or obtain competitive industry salaries

Improve Service Focus on core competency ·   Focus on service delivery through meeting services company rather derailing attention on other types of projects within the organization
*If current staff are transitioned through rebadging process to the selected Meeting Services Company through the hiring process

If your organization is considering a move to an outsourced model, I recommend the following steps before creating a request for proposal:

  1. Conduct a current state spend analysis of all small and large meeting spend (group air, hotel, ground transportation, technology, and other services such as AV, production, entertainment, etc.). NOTE:  This is extremely important (to gain insight for future discounts, baselining, and current behaviors) and often overlooked. (Most consultants in the industry do not perform this service, but I do, so please let me know if you need assistance…I have horror stories of companies that skipped this step)
  2. Conduct a current state resource analysis of the internal and external staff that performs the meeting services.
  3. Conduct a current state scope of services performed from all stakeholders’ perspectives.

With an analysis of the spend, resources and services in hand, many organizations are realizing that an outsourced model makes more sense than using internal resources.

With optics on supply chain management, a comprehensive request for proposal followed by an aggressive contract negotiation, key performance indicators, implementation guarantees, service level agreements and quarterly business reviews are required as part of supplier relationship management.

 

That’s the Plan: Is Outsourcing Right For You? Innovative Ideas for Successful Planners

by Doug Gillam with Michael Vennerstrom

A good meeting management agency will improve your meeting’s outcomes. It will help you establish clear objectives for the project and develop measurements to determine their success.

For many corporate meeting planners, the word “outsourcing” conjures images of high-priced, one-size-fits-all, overblown productions and a tedious vendor education process. Some believe that external meeting management companies produce only “big” meetings and wouldn’t be interested in their smaller, day-to-day business events. And for a few, there may be a subconscious concern that they are opening the door to being outsourced themselves.

Fortunately, there are many meeting management agencies that have evolved to meet the needs of corporate planners facing increased workloads, reduced headcounts and a return on investment/cost-justification budgeting process. Comprising industry veterans, these companies are often multiservice, customer-focused, flexible and cost-effective, offering à la carte or turnkey services to support internal corporate meeting planners. Using a combination of experience, savvy and creativity, they can provide improved outcomes without significantly increasing the cost of a meeting.

The New Economics

Budgets drive many of today’s planning decisions. Corporate leadership is increasingly involved in decision-making to ensure that meetings are not perceived as extravagant or a waste of shareholders’ money. As a result, corporate planners are challenged to meet project objectives with fewer internal resources and less money. The result is a demoralizing, no-win situation that leads to disappointing results, stress, burnout and, occasionally, planner turnover.

Faced with these choices, corporate planners are embracing a new vision of outsourcing. They are discovering that with the right agencies, they have experienced partners who can cost-effectively provide the support they need.

How are these external planners providing services without increasing the budget? The answer lies in hard- and soft-dollar cost savings. In the past, when agencies were able to negotiate discounts, the savings went to profits without reducing the budget. In today’s competitive market, those savings are usually passed on to customers, resulting in cost savings that help offset the cost of hiring the agency. But that’s not the only way an agency saves you money.

Purchasing power. Many meeting management agencies have national account status with major hotels and ground suppliers that provide reduced rates not available to many corporate planners. They also have extensive personal relationships that can result in significant savings and add-ons (free upgrades, room amenities, reduced-rate staff rooms, etc.). And they negotiate commissionable room rates that help offset agency fees.

Experience. Many agencies consist of industry veterans who once worked at the mega-companies. As a result, they have a wealth of industry knowledge and experience upon which to draw. They understand how hotels and suppliers make their money, enabling them to aggressively negotiate on your behalf.

Soft-dollar savings. In addition to the hard-cost savings, outsourcing can provide soft-cost savings that can positively impact the bottom line. It’s not difficult to define the amount of staff time and internal resources required to produce a meeting. It’s much more difficult to quantify the distraction and lost opportunity costs. Today, corporate meeting planners are often stretched to their limits, forcing them to set priorities between project leadership and other responsibilities. Something has to suffer, and it’s usually project quality or attention to detail (along with the planners).

Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

With all the focus on budget discipline, another vital element is often overlooked in making a decision on outsourcing. The key question is not, “How much did the meeting cost?” but rather, “Did the meeting achieve the desired outcomes?”

A good meeting management agency will improve your meeting’s outcomes. It will help you establish clear objectives for the project and develop measurements to determine their success, and then work with you to define and deliver your messages in a concise and effective manner.

Expertise. Most agencies employ creative directors and producers who specialize in helping companies define and deliver their messages. They offer time-tested processes that have proven their effectiveness with many customers in a variety of industries.

Objectivity. The best agency’s primary focus is on the key messages and how your audience will receive them. They have the luxury of working outside the internal politics and paradigms that can often confuse or dilute a company’s agendas and messages.

Perspective. External agencies bring a broad business perspective to your project based on their work with other customers. They are familiar with business trends and the latest best practices and bring new ideas to the table.

Is Outsourcing Right For You?

Corporate meeting planners boast a broad range of experience and resources. A few companies have meeting planning departments filled with experienced planners and all the resources and contacts they need. For the companies that do not possess that depth of resources, outsourcing some or all of your meeting planning is an option worth exploring.

  • Outsourcing provides a wealth of valuable knowledge. The priorexperiences, industry knowledge and personal contacts of a meeting management agency will save you time, stress and ultimately money.
  • Outsourcing provides proven methodologies that can enhance your meeting’s effectiveness. The team assigned to your project comprises full-time, professional planners whose future business is dependent on making you look good.
  • Outsourcing boosts project efficiencies. Meeting management agencies have the tools, experience and instincts to manage your project quickly and accurately, regardless of time frame and budget.
  • Outsourcing gives you access to the creativity of seasoned meeting professionals who will bring many new ideas to your next project.

Employees of an external meeting management company cannot—and should not—be considered a replacement for the internal planner. They simply don’t have the business or cultural knowledge that a corporate planner uses to drive the process internally.

However, if you are one of the many corporate meeting planners that are running out of time, resources or ideas, take another look at outsourcing. It’s a valuable solution for a growing number of companies.

Doug Gillam is director of sales and marketing for Equinox Creative, a full-service meeting and event management company. A member of the MPI Minnesota Chapter, Gillam can be reached at [email protected]

Michael Vennerstrom is president of Equinox Creative and can be reached at [email protected].

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