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The time is now

How to incorporate a virtual meetings strategy into your SMM program

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January, 2022

There has long been a correlation between Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) and virtual meetings, but live meetings have taken precedence. Incorporating virtual meetings as part of the SMM strategy was typically reserved for those programs referred to as mature or optimized. But what was once considered virtual reality is now just reality. The Pandemic has forced organizations to restructure how they execute meetings. Organizations were left having to create near-term virtual meetings solutions with no real strategy. But is the near term enough? Should organizations prepare for long-term virtual solutions? The answer is yes, and the time is now.

SMM to drive your virtual meetings strategy

For those who are not familiar with SMM, it is defined as a disciplined approach to managing enterprise-wide meeting and event activities. It includes processes, suppliers, and data to achieve measurable business objectives that align with your strategic goals/vision. SMM delivers value in the form of quantitative savings, risk mitigation, better service quality, and can scale to meet the needs of your organization. SMM can help organizations achieve long term success by incorporating a virtual meetings strategy, but where do you start?

Stakeholder engagement: a collaborative opportunity for feedback

Before creating your strategy or trying to figure out what technology or supplier(s) to use, start with stakeholder engagement. Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.” Who better to help you understand the needs than those tasked with organizing the event? Create a stakeholder map to include those who will use the services and those subject matter experts/departments who may have an interdependency on the service such as procurement or privacy. This engagement creates a collaborative opportunity to share and gather feedback, suggestions, requirements, wants, needs, and pain points. Everyone contributes to the process and, ultimately, to the journey. By gaining stakeholder buy-in, you will have greater visibility and adoption that eases change fatigue.

Mitigate the risks with governance

Now that you have gathered intelligence from the various stakeholder groups and before you develop your strategy, consider the governance needed to execute and support your plan. Incorporating your virtual meetings should have the same level of consistency, standards, and procedures as your live meetings. This is especially important, considering sensitive data is being transmitted electronically. This changes the type of security needed to execute. Having clear guidance, policy, and procedures on managing data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a critical success factor and mitigates risk for the organization. 

Technology + Data = ROI

Lastly, technology and data tie it all together. Establishing the infrastructure for data capture that incorporates benchmarking and best practices will not only measure the success of going virtual but also validate the positive impact of this change. During a crisis or during times where it is business as usual, data can be a powerful demand management tool to drive business decisions at the highest levels within your organization, resulting in greater ROI. 

While this new normal dictates the pace at which the meetings industry has to evolve, it creates an opportunity for ongoing process improvement and improved strategy design that will prepare organizations for the future. Integrating virtual meetings as part of your SMM strategy is a natural next step. SMM is scalable and adaptable to meet our ever-changing landscape. Whether it is a pandemic, economic downturn, or business, as usual, SMM sets your organization up for success. 

Our SMM Center of Excellence is already helping industry leaders incorporate virtual meetings into their long-term plans. Contact us to see what we can do for you!

Amy Harris, SMMC | Global Director, SMM & Client Solutions at CWT Meetings & Events





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