New research released by American Express Meetings & Events reveals sizeable gaps in established policy, and also between policy and practice, when it comes to companies' management of meetings and events (M&E). The study examines the risk that organizations can be exposed to when M&E expenses and activities are not managed through a clear and comprehensive program. The survey(1) compiled the opinions of both meeting planners and leaders(2), uncovering the differences between company policies and actual behavior. Key findings include:
- 51% of meeting planners believe that risk is not properly mitigated in their organization
- 52% of planners do not receive a budget when meeting planning begins
- 23% of planners sign contracts but only 6% of leaders state that planners are allowed to sign contracts
- 68% of leaders said transparency of all data is a top priority; however, 85% of meeting planners still simply use spreadsheets for their budget tracking
- 64% of planners do not currently have a method to track meeting attendees in a time of crisis
"In an environment of increasing regulatory scrutiny and heightened awareness around security and safety issues, complacency in the meetings and events planning process can have serious financial, legal and reputational consequences," said Milton Rivera, Vice President, Business Development, American Express Meetings & Events. "This research highlights the disparity between the precautions and procedures meetings leaders and planners feel should be or believe to be in place and actual current activity. It demonstrates how crucial it is for companies' meeting planning processes to be formalized, documented and controlled as a means to minimize risk."
Legal and Regulatory
Both leaders and planners cited the legal/regulatory category as one of the most important areas of opportunity for meetings management. According to the research, 37% of planners currently do not forward ancillary contracts (e.g. for items like ground transportation, audio visual services, entertainment) for further review to a manager for review or approval. A wide gap exists in the contract process where 23% of meeting planners sign contracts relating to their M&E activity themselves, on behalf of the company, while only 6% of leaders state that planners are actually allowed to sign these contracts.
"Financial penalties, reputational damage and even legal action can result from not properly managing legal and regulatory requirements. So it's not surprising that these categories are of most concern to meeting planners and leaders," said Mr. Rivera. "To address these situations, we recommend our clients develop standard addenda and review processes for ancillary contracts, and a contract signing authorization matrix outlining the appropriate levels of staff who are allowed to sign contracts."
The other area most highly rated as an opportunity for meetings management was the financial category. The survey also revealed that while 82% of leaders said that providing a budget is either recommended or required at the onset of a meeting, 52% of planners do not receive a budget when meeting planning begins. In addition, organizations appear to be wasting investment dollars by not using available attrition or cancellation penalty credits. Thirty-six percent of planners said they are unlikely or neutral on using available credits and 50% of leaders said that their policy does not require the use of available credits.
Visibility is also an issue highlighted in the survey: 27% of leaders are unable to track meeting expenses and 32% of leaders are unable to report all meeting expenses.
"Small changes like adopting technology or online tools enabling meeting requestors to create estimated budgets, track actual spending and expenses, and also mandating the use of corporate purchasing cards for all meeting expenses can help meeting planners maximize budgets," said Mr. Rivera. "It is also advisable to develop a process to identify available credits at the onset of sourcing each meeting and share these throughout the organization. Utilizing credits in this way can help to avoid unnecessary spending."
Safety and Security
Sixty-four percent of meeting planners surveyed and 50% of leaders said that they do not currently have a method to track meeting attendees during a time of crisis. Further, 62% of all planners said they do not have access to international medical and security assistance during a crisis.
"It is vital for meeting planners to have tools and processes in place to be able to track attendees in times of crisis, as well as to have access to back-up information in case of a technical failure," said Mr. Rivera. "A Standard Operating Procedure – or a plan to offer guidance in emergency situations – should be in place and frequently updated to reflect current conditions and technologies."
The survey, which was conducted on behalf of American Express Meetings & Events by meetings professional Debi Scholar, also covered such areas of risk exposure as reputation, technology and business operations.
Appointment of Debi Scholar
Ms. Scholar recently joined American Express Meetings & Events, and will assist clients in developing clear, organization-wide strategies for their total M&E activities, and help them budget, implement and measure against this strategy. Before joining American Express Meetings & Events, Ms. Scholar was President of Scholar Consulting Group, where she advised numerous clients on meetings management, meeting design and content, travel, virtual meetings, card, and expense management.
Ms. Scholar is a renowned meetings industry expert, an author on meetings and events, and was the co-chair of the GBTA Groups & Meetings Committee and a GBTA Foundation Board Member.
About American Express Meetings and Events
American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel, offers longstanding experience, expertise and leading capabilities spanning program implementation to budget optimization to deliver powerful meetings and events experiences for clients. The team is comprised of more than 1000 employees world-wide focused on meetings and events sourcing, planning, contract negotiations, budgeting, expense management, reporting and benchmarking, combined with strategic counsel and integration of leading technology. This end-to-end approach focuses on creating visibility, driving savings and enabling effective meeting experiences.
With more than 40 years in the industry and an in-market presence in over 50 countries, American Express Meetings & Events is uniquely positioned to manage meetings and events locally, regionally, internationally and across the globe. American Express Meetings & Events works with market leaders to enhance its offering to clients. To learn more about the services offered by American Express Meetings & Events, visit businesstravel.americanexpress.com/meetingsandevents.
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