Meeting expectations

Organising small staff meetings can yield great savings

Picture the scene. Somewhere in Africa. A massive luxury resort hotel. A clutch of new model cars as well as a handful of celebs, a generous sprinkling of antelopes and cheetahs, who gallop by occasionally to remind you you’re somewhere exotic, and the obligatory lashings of champagne and lobster.

It may be the typical product launch but is it the typical meeting? Well, err, no actually. The typical meeting is likely to be regular – monthly or quarterly – repeat events rather than a one-off extravaganza. It’s also likely to be an internal meeting for fewer than 30 people rather than an external meeting for hundreds. And, most importantly of all, it’s likely to be the kind of meeting where shrewd management can deliver corporate savings and better value for staff. Whether rooms are required for new staff induction days, training for a specific department or a means of bringing together people doing the same job in different site locations for brainstorms, regular internal meetings are part of most organisations’ standard operating procedure.

In many companies the booking of venues for these meetings is left to individual PAs so “many companies don’t realise how much money is being spent on these small meetings,” says Jade Howgrave-Graham, Head of Account Management at cievents, the specialist meetings & events business of FCM Travel Solutions. “PAs don’t necessarily speak to each other yet 20 different people might be booking this kind of event within one company.” This phenomenon is especially true when bookers are at different locations of an organisation. If there isn’t a central point of contact different people could be negotiating with the same meeting location and the organisation is consequently notable to take advantage of the leverage that combining the volumes of spend might yield. And meetings rarely require only a room – there are always extra soft benefits to negotiate whether it is additional technology or better meals or an additional coffee break for the same DDR (day delegate rate).

In addition if the meeting is residential because it involves getting together people who might be based as far apart as Aberdeen and Penzance or it’s a team brainstorm so people are required to stay, rooms will be needed. If this is an organisation that also does a lot of transient travel, there could be a more favourable rate for both the meeting and those guest rooms than if it is booked by someone who does only one booking. For the organisation a single point of contact for internal meeting procurement can also mean greater efficiency. One expert can check the terms and conditions of one contract rather than having different contracts with one supplier dotted around different parts of an organisation. Any duty of care checks can be made once to ensure that corporate governance and safety requirements have been made.

Of course, consolidation may present some obvious benefits but it doesn’t mean that anyone trying to combine the small internal meeting bookings won’t meet obstacles. PAs who have responsibility for booking meetings can enjoy the responsibility. It often involves perks such as the hospitality extended by venue managers, whether it be membership of “bookers’ clubs” which can involve some glamorous evenings or being invited to high profile occasions such as Ascot or concerts. It’s not only internal consolidation which can deliver advantages.

Using a large specialist organisation such as cievents means that corporate buyers can take advantage of the keen rates to which the specialist will have access because of the large volumes of business they do. These large specialists will have relationships with a wide range of suppliers with excellent venues in different sizes and locations. Different clients won’t want just different sizes and locations of room – they will want a style of property that reflects their brand or perhaps conforms to their governance. Members of the pharmaceutical industry, for example, subscribe to a code which means they cannot hold events in a property graded above four stars. Jade and her team are experts in meeting planning – she has several tips for buyers (see box) but one guiding piece of advice: “Give as much detail as possible, especially around numbers. It’s really surprising how many people just say ‘sometime in March’ when asked.”


1. Book as early as possible – the further out you book, the more likely you are to get a good deal

2. If you’re doing a series of meetings, book all the meetings, not just the one that’s coming up next month. Annual events will be at a keener rate if they are booked for several years rather than just one

3. If it’s possible, book a Monday or Friday – the rates will inevitably be lower

4. Be as accurate as possible about delegate numbers

5. If you want to get people engaged, look for a room suitable for cabaret style or bean bags. If it’s teaching, you might want classroom style

6. Think hard about the character of your event – do you want a dedicated, possibly remote venue that is not within walking distance of any diversions or do you want somewhere close to public transport or buzzy so that people can have a good break away from fellow delegates?

7. Remember your brand. If your business caters for the luxury market, it’s important to use a luxury venue. If you are a technology company you might want a sleek building fitted out with the latest kit

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