Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were looking at small, simple, self-service (SSS) meetings and how they could manage them — either within an existing strategic meetings management program or under travel management’s scope of responsibilities. Many buyers and companies viewed small meetings as a non-urgent priority, basically kicking the can down the road and intending to deal with it later, when time permitted. As a travel buyer once said to me, "We view it as a nice-to-have and not a must-have."
Fast forward to today, when we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and most business travel and meetings have come to a screeching halt. If you've been reviewing all of the industry data about the impact of COVID-19, current wisdom suggests that the return to business will start with small/regional/local meetings with social-distancing guidelines in place and/or hybrid meetings that include some virtual component. That should be a very clear indicator with respect to what you should be preparing for now.
Small Meetings are Vital to the Return of Live Events
Many companies still don’t have a strategy for how to manage their SSS meetings, much less have a technology solution for them. Before COVID-19, looking at managing SSS spend was not a priority. Now we're expecting the small meetings category will represent the re-entry point for a return to business. If you don’t have the related policies, processes and solutions in place, you will be missing out on a unique opportunity to lead the charge and be recognized for it by your management.
When in-person meetings return, the last thing any leader wants is a COVID-19 flare-up in their local community that can be attributed to their company. This is your opportunity to protect your company and employee health and safety by implementing a way to track and manage compliance to safety guidelines across the organization. Management is going to require greater visibility into what meetings are happening and whether they are in compliance, while also mitigating the financial risk with flexible cancellation policies.
For planners and administrators, this represents a singular opportunity to lead the way and gain visibility into SSS meetings practices. Integrating this meetings category into your management platform is essential. If you do nothing and provide zero guidance, your teams will go off and do their own thing; if that happens, good luck trying to get them to comply once business starts again. Start positioning now; the world may seemingly be on hold but we are quickly approaching the third and fourth quarters of 2020 and planning for the upcoming year.
Now is truly the time to demonstrate your strategic leadership, and to strategize, plan and execute in preparation for the return to business in a COVID-19 world. Thanks to the pandemic, management of the SSS meetings spend category has been elevated from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
Kevin Iwamoto, GLP, GTP, is an award-winning speaker, industry influencer, author, educator and subject-matter-expert consultant in business travel, GDPR, SMM, the meetings/events marketplace and personal branding. He is currently the chief strategy officer at Bizly, a meetings technology platform for small meetings. Kevin is passionate about strategic industry advancements and best-practice development.