In the beginning days of strategic meetings management programs (SMMP), there was a spend category we referred to as "small meetings." These were smaller, mostly internal and lower-budget organizational meetings that were commonplace and occurred frequently throughout the corporate enterprise. We considered them a fringe vertical, but what we’ve since discovered and quantified through various industry studies is that small meetings actually account for the majority of enterprise meetings spend. Depending on the study data, small, simple meetings can account for up to 60 percent of a company’s meetings activity.
In the past, SMM category leaders and meeting planners didn’t quite understand the uniqueness of this spend activity, and they attempted to lump it in with the rest of their program spend and processes. But they eventually discovered that the SMM processes, target venues and end users didn't quite apply to the small meetings vertical -- the SMMP was really designed for larger and more complex strategic meetings and events.
In recent years, the small-meetings spend category picked up an alternative moniker from various solution providers: "simple meetings," which better described what the category really encompassed. While simple meetings do tend to have a relatively small number of participants, what's really driving the definition is the fact they aren't heavily laden with logistics like sleeping rooms, F&B, A/V, speakers, session management, data reporting and so forth.
Most importantly, we've had to acknowledge that traditional SMM and sourcing technology doesn't apply so well to simple meetings. Most of the organizers of small and simple meetings are administrative assistants rather than professional meeting planners; they do not need to use multivenue platforms dependent on electronic requests for proposal. They work with minimal logistics requirements, and only occasionally need sleeping rooms.
Unfortunately, because so many corporations have tried to leverage their SMMP platforms for simple meetings as well, those who organize small/simple meetings often simply do not comply with the process and technology requirements of the SMMP; use of the technology often adds to their workload and stretches their time constraints. What's more, the unique venues they want to use (restaurants, day conference centers like Convene, flexible rental spaces such as WeWork and the like) aren’t part of the traditional SMM venue databases. The administrative assistants are square pegs that SMMP leaders have tried to squeeze into round holes.
What the true end users and organizers of small/simple meetings need and want is intuitive, "self-service" technology that augments and supports their workflow processes and doesn’t require hours of training and retraining for infrequent users. And they need a database of diverse venues that meet their unique needs.
That is why I’d like to propose another evolution of the term "small/simple meetings," and add "self-service" to the description. At a recent BTN Strategic Meetings Summit in San Francisco, I introduced the moniker "SSS" -- small, simple, self-service meetings. It doesn’t make sense to continue forcing the organizers of these meetings to participate in a rigid corporate process and technology platform that doesn’t apply to the meetings they organize. Rather, they should have the flexibility to take advantage of more automated processes that allow them to do their jobs more efficiently.
Watch this space for part 2 of this entry, where I’ll dive into the transparency of SSS data, how we need to change our mindset about sourcing and how open application program interfaces (APIs) have changed the way companies purchase goods and services.
Kevin Iwamoto, chief strategy officer of Bizly, is a regular contributor to the Northstar Meetings Group. You can read his Industry Insights blog on Meetings & Conventions, follow him on Twitter @KevinIwamoto and visit his Amazon author page.