Strategic meetings management (SMM) means controlling costs of an event from end-to-end. That requires managing a lot of moving pieces. To help event professionals get a handle on some of the variables to be considered, we invited Betsy Bondurant, a San Diego-based consultant, to share some of the best practices that make everything from stakeholder management and meeting registration to sourcing and data analysis look easy. You can listen to the complete strategic meeting management webinar here, but following are some of the questions she was asked that just might be keeping you up at night.

Q: What would be the first step in establishing an SMM program?

A: Gather some data on meetings and make a hypothesis as to what the volume could be, based on industry statistics (meetings can be 1% to 3% of revenue). Estimate the number of meetings that are being contracted by non-professional planners, who are unintentionally opening the company to risk. Suggest a simple pilot to centralize the sourcing and contracting of meeting through one area.

Q: There are many definitions of cost avoidance vs. cost savings. Please elaborate.

A: The answer depends on how your internal procurement and/or finance department defines cost avoidance vs. cost savings. For example, for many companies if the difference in-first rate quoted and final contracted sleeping room rate was $25 per-room, per-night and there were 200 total rooms, there would be $5,000 in cost savings. Other companies would say this was cost avoidance, and that only year-over-year savings can be truly counted as cost savings.

The main point is to come to an agreement on the savings methodology at the start of program, so that everyone understands the metrics being utilized in order to avoid confusion while evaluating success of the SMMP.

Q: What is the GBTA link or resource to gauge your SMM skills?

A: The GBTA maturity model is accessible to GBTA Direct members free of charge.

Q: Can you please share some reference materials or articles discussing the concept of SMM?

A: White papers and session slide decks are available on and MPI. Plus a number of the technology companies and third-party agencies have good reference materials and case studies on their websites.

Q: Can you recommend a stand-alone tool for creating meeting specifications/ function books?

A: According to Corbin Ball, the meeting technology professional, the most complete product for event specs is Meeting Evolution. Plus, it is also APEX (Events Industry Council “Accepted Practices Exchange”) compliant.

Q: What is the best way for a third-party or private planner to ‘get in’ to a heavily structured SMM-based company?

A: Follow the prescribed procurement practices. Ask how a new supplier can be added to the preferred supplier list, or ask when they will next go out to bid for the services your company provides. If you have a category of service that they don’t manage, ask if you can come in to do a brief capabilities presentation that will highlight how your company can benefit them.

You can view the entire webinar on demand here.