19 February 2004 | David Arminas
Purchasers have been warned that it can take up to three years to get to grips with their organisation's budget for business meetings.
Maggy Sainsbury, a consultant and former travel manager with international drinks giant Diageo, told delegates at the Business Travel Show in London last week that they must understand that many people who organise meetings are not professional purchasers.
She said: "Marketing people tend to handle the larger meetings but smaller ones can be done by almost anyone with no experience, from a receptionist to a managing director's PA.
"In fact, many organisers of small meetings are simply frightened of doing it. They might like doing some of it, but hate doing other parts."
Sainsbury said purchasers must win over these people by showing them and their bosses that they are doing well and that purchasers are there to help.
Sainsbury also recommended that purchasers shop around and seek proposals for innovative venues such as football ground facilities and universities.
Gina Turnbull, director of alliance accounts at hotel chain Marriott, agreed that more purchasers are getting involved in meetings buying and seeking better savings.
"Three years ago, of the 180 global corporate accounts we manage, the number of requests for proposals (RFPs) for meetings and events received was probably in single figures," she said.
"But today, around half of the 180 are issuing some form of meetings management RFPs."
She added that few companies support their RFP with solid data about what services and facilities they want which makes it difficult for suppliers to respond.