Many in the meetings and events industry will tell you that events and procurement professionals go together like chalk and cheese.
But I think it should be more like cheese and wine - admittedly the cheese is chosen as part of a three way pitch and the wine needs to show a return on investment but organisations spending money on meetings without strategic oversight are guilty of waste and procurement is the solution.
Strategic meetings management (SMM) is a board decision to consolidate spend and ensure minimum waste when it comes to venue finding and booking. In fact, for the enlightened few, it is a state of mind where the meetings budget becomes a benefit and opportunity for the procurement team rather than their worst nightmare. The right agency using the right systems should be able to save a client anywhere up to 30 per cent, across their global spend on venues. Surely that fact alone will give procurement and meetings professionals some common ground, particularly when you consider the best candidates for an SMM programme are those spending in excess of £2 million a year on meetings.
But SMM should go further, it should be part of a full service event offering. Corporates, associations, government and even those in the third sector should approach their whole meetings portfolio, and therefore its procurement, from a strategic point of view. Instead of just organising an event, we should ask why - does it really add value? Is there something else we should consider? Then, if an event is chosen as the solution, procurement and agency should work hand-in-hand to deliver value for everyone.
A recent example of full service strategic thinking was demonstrated during an automotive launch. The client had the venues, infrastructure, teams etc in place for several weeks, launching to key markets. However, working together, the savvy procurement and agency teams seized an opportunity to extend the programme to cover a host of other audiences - rather than spend more money on a series of different (possibly less impactful) events they negotiated longer contracts, made the odd tweak and saved a small fortune while delivering a superb result.
Anyone can book a meeting room, a handful can effectively provide a traditional SMM programme, complete with complex reporting, dedicated staff, supplier relationships and technical knowledge. But the future of meetings and events budgets should rely on a symbiotic procurement and agency relationship that delivers a full and measurable service.
Let's face it, a perfect meeting that shows a definite, measurable and commercial ROI is going to please everyone - including our friends sharing the cheese and wine in procurement.
☛ Des McLaughlin is divisional director at Grass Roots Meetings & Events