Meeting Executives Must Focus on SMM

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Meeting Executives Must Focus on SMM

By Michael Pinchera | Aug 27, 2020

To learn more about some of the unique challenges and opportunities for meeting executives during this overwhelming time, we talked with Angie Duncan Callaway, CMM, advisory board chair of the MPI Meeting Executives Community. The focus on strategic planning, she says, is key.

How have you benefitted from belonging to the MPI Meeting Executives community, and what can those who join the community expect to experience?

Callaway: The Meeting Executive Community gives me the opportunity to get to know others who are dealing with similar issues in regard to business strategy, team management and trends happening in our space. Because you are surrounded by your peers, they understand the environment and pressures that are also present in your day to day world. Our advisory board is laying the groundwork to roll out a plan for Meeting Executive Mastermind Groups which we are really excited about. This type of peer support group is what our community has been asking and looking for to meet a niche in their education needs.

Are there COVID-19-related challenges specific to meeting executives?

Callaway: There are several strategic areas of focus related to COVID-19 that should be addressed including Meeting Policy changes, enhanced enterprise reporting and virtual event strategy. Just as COVID-19 brought about changes in HR and travel policies pretty early on, there are impacts on group activities and protocols that must be addressed and outlined in the meeting policy. For organizations that don’t have a formal strategic meetings management (SMM) program or stand-alone meeting and event policy, there’s a need to revisit travel or other policies through the lens of how COVID-19 has changed their ability to assemble in groups.

There’s an urgent need to develop digital event strategies now given the realization that virtual and hybrid event formats are here to stay, even when in-person events resume. While some of this solutioning happened fast and was reactive (and continues to be), it really feels like today’s version of the wild west of events. Just as we did with early SMM programs, applying that same type of strategy around digital events is critically important. This means selecting the right suppliers and tech providers and providing guidance around this new format for delivering effective events.

With the aftermath of COVID cancellations, new meeting formats, additional approvals or meeting justifications changes in reporting are necessary. This may mean updates to your meeting intake process to collect this type of new data and updating or creating your SMM reporting packages.

What’s another top challenge being faced by Meeting Executives?

Callaway: It’s hard to pinpoint an area that hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, it has seeped into all aspects of our business. I will say that a challenge that isn’t new but has boiled to the top is employee engagement and morale. With all of the uncertainty, colleagues and peers who are no longer working, family pressures and everything else on top of these, truly supporting and caring for our employees is more important than ever. Our team has set time aside to get together and just talk. The goal is to keep it non-work related, sometimes it’s about a team member’s vacation and other conversations are around the worries of planning an upcoming bridal or baby shower with the new protocols running over into our personal lives. It’s a great time to just connect and know we all support one another.

Tell us about a skillset that meeting executives need to possess that many people overlook.

Callaway: Grace under pressure. Our work world is filled with daily deadlines, client pressures and team member development. Then, we all know that nothing ever goes as planned whether that’s an internal meeting that gets derailed, a client call that was supposed to be 30 minutes and the client is 15 minutes late to discuss an important milestone decision or that email that now changes the course of your entire day or week. Having grace, being kind and keeping calm still has to trump any other pressures. Team members and peers look to us and our reactions in challenging times. With the years of experience and many challenges behind us, we have to be the ones to jump in, listen and use our experience to find solutions and make the tough decisions.

What do you love most about your job?

Callaway: Of course, first and foremost, the people! Being surrounded by people who fill your tank, push you to think differently and who truly support you makes work-life wonderful. Next is helping clients discover new solutions to old problems. My passion has always been with SMM and the prescriptive process that encompasses the business of meetings. What I love is strategizing with clients on building their SMM, taking them through an SMM implementation and then celebrating with them after the launch and success of their program!

What are you most looking forward to, professionally, over the next six months?

Callaway: The pandemic validated the need and value of having an SMM program in place. My goal is to help those companies who don’t have a program in place to use this momentum to determine how to take the first steps in creating a successful SMM program.

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Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera, MPI's managing editor, is an award-winning writer and editor as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997.