Utilizing Data to Enhance Meetings

By GBTA Meetings Committee

Many companies invest significant capital in meeting management technologies and resources to collect and report on meeting and event data. You might ask, is it worth the time, resource and monetary investment?  What do companies do with the data? Is the data being analyzed in a meaningful way that leads to positive business outcomes such as risk mitigation, quantifiable savings, or revenue generation? Does limiting data collection hurt your SMM program, or is there a such thing as too much data?

Meeting data can include anything from room rates, suite rates, meeting room rates, and décor costs to how many cups of coffee were purchased, who attended and what their t-shirt size is. There can be so much macro and micro level data that it can become paralyzing and time consuming to document and audit for accuracy. There is now the added risk of the GDPR which requires minimizing personal data collection for legal and legitimate purposes and putting fences around data storage.

You might save yourself time by determining what decisions you need to make within the business and your SMM program, or for individual meetings that require supporting data, then collect only that data. Room rates, per person costs, supplier costs, and macro market specific costs can support negotiation and meeting location decisions. Perhaps you could forego collecting some micro level details. For example, how does collecting the price of a cup of coffee help in managing your SMM program? Will your planners use that data to better negotiate coffee in the future? If the answer is “it doesn’t” or “no”, then don’t invest in the collection. Instead, document the final food and beverage spend for the meeting and associate it with the supplier. That higher level of data allows you to negotiate food and beverage discounts and show the value of your business with suppliers based on the total annual food and beverage revenue you contributed. It also enables you to understand how much food and beverage cost per person in one city versus another when deciding on meeting location.

Consider what decisions you face when managing your SMM program, not only the individual meetings, but the collective data, and what data points you need to make those decisions. For example, do you need to manage staff based on peaks and valleys; hiring contractors during peak periods? If so, it is important to track and report when meetings begin the sourcing process and when they take place, so you have a clear historical view to form a future forecast.

Think of potential innovation within your program if you had data to back up the validity of ideas – Is 50% of your spend in a single city? If so, how can you streamline the sourcing and contracting process knowing that the supply base might be limited? For example, if your headquarters is in a second-tier city where sleeping rooms and meeting space are often sold out, consider blocked space or a monthly agreement for a guaranteed minimum number of rooms and specific meeting rooms available only to your company. Think of it as a space lease that your SMM can manage versus sourcing every meeting.

Focus on collecting information that will lead to data-driven insights impacting your P&L, program quality and attendee experience.  Do not collect data for the sake of mere collection.