Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2012

Corporate Speak

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.
the strategic side of the communications and managing is similar. It’s a lot of internal business audiences, as well as our franchisees. We do not do a lot of customer-type events, outside of the things that we support within Olympics and World Cup, from a marketing standpoint. So for us it does make sense. We are very much at the table in all of the planning process when it comes to communicating and message development.

Do you operate under an agency model, where your clients are the other departments and they come to you with their meeting needs?

LS  For us, our clients come to us. They have a meeting, they register the meeting, and then we assign the appropriate meeting planner for that group. So we are then working with them to create the meeting that they are initiating. 

 For the job I just left [at Microsoft], we had internal clients where we produced and executed on the events from the other areas of the company. And the job I just moved to, I am actually now a client to them. So I own and create the event itself. It is a really good new perspective on the world; I’m going with depth versus breadth. 

 It’s similar to what Lisa does. We actually are responsible for our strategic meeting management program as well as the fact that we support internal customers who come to us with a meeting request, but then we also are responsible for designing and executing our two largest conventions. One goes to our franchisees worldwide, and then the other one is actually done for our U.S. managers. 

How is meeting planning seen at your company? Is it considered a valuable professional skill set in its own right?

SK  Absolutely. I think as we have been able to prove our value both in thought processes and bottom line, people ask us now in advance. The goal is to get them to involve us early, so that we can help them achieve their final goals. 

 I think upper management sees value in having events driven from an organization where professional event knowledge and execution is the core competency, and not second to another job function. As an organization, we are the hub of internal and external event and meeting services, encompassing market intelligence, strategic engagement, virtual events, Cisco TV, on-site conference centers, event technologies/global meetings portal, the Cisco Speakers Bureau, our incentive concierge, tier-one shows and conferences, metrics and measurement, and our global SMM program. Because of consolidating all of these event-related services and disciplines into one organization, there is recognition of this team as having the professional expertise for Cisco events. 

 We have always been a really meeting-centric company. And those are really the essential vehicles that we use within the company to drive innovation and brand connections for both internal and external audiences. But up until now that innovation has really been applied more to the creative aspects of events. However, now what we are doing is really incorporating strategic meeting management, so that is changing our role a little bit within our company. 

So, again, we have two kinds of internal stakeholders - key stakeholders - at our company, and one is our CFO, who really does rely on us to put in place the strategies that are going to help gain control over meeting-related costs and business practices and things like that across the company. But then from the other side of the fence, working with our internal clients, they really do rely on the professional event-management team to help them execute and plan their meetings.

 We are very similar to what Lisa just said as it relates to her company. We have a culture that is very much about face-to-face meetings, so the meeting-planning and creative-services department has always been expected to be part of those things. The other thing that we do here because of how global we have gotten is that we also provide training and education in meeting planning for folks that we cannot necessarily support full-service, so that they can actually go out and execute the things that they need to do in the way in which McDonald’s expects it to be done for the brand. So we do a lot of training to basically teach them to fish on their own. 

 We do have a formal role that is defined globally for event marketing. We actually shifted it globally from event program manager to event marketing manager about five years ago to emphasize the importance it plays in the marketing and sales function. With that said, there are still several people around the company that think that it is the fun, easy part of their job, and so they try to do it without any sort of professional assistance. So it is still the wild, wild west in quite a few areas. But it has gotten much tighter and cleaner in the last few years.

What role do meetings and events play when it comes to helping your company achieve its goals and fulfill its mission?

KQ  Well, if you look at it, we have external and internal [events], but they all lead to the bottom line at the end of the day. We are not an event marketing company. We are out there to sell software, and so it has all got to lead to that. It is one of our largest marketing expenses, though - it is only second to advertising. 

 Meetings play a big role here within our system, especially because we roll up into communications for a global franchise business, in order to be able to keep everyone aligned and meeting our business objectives and priorities. We constantly have to use meetings as our mechanism to do that, and all of the training at the various levels that lead up to that messaging.  If we did not have face-to-face, it is hard to get all of that out there anymore, even using technology and innovation. 

 At Nike, our culture has always been very, very event-centric. Our company goals are really to drive innovation and create brand connections, and meetings and events touch every aspect of that. Our team is responsible for managing everything - leadership meetings, team meetings, product launches, media summits, sales meetings.

 One of Cisco’s core principles of operation is collaboration, and meetings - whether they are physical or virtual, internal or customer-facing - are critical to getting business done. 

 We have a Spring Market and a Fall Market - they are buying shows. We set up over half a million square feet of exhibit space. The interesting thing about that is, 40 percent of that show floor is corporate space where we are delivering the corporate message, and then the other 60 percent is product that we actually sell to the storeowners. Displaying that product, getting them to understand why they need to buy that product - all of that has to be done on the show floor. And really all of our education and major events that surround it also are talking about what we are doing for them in helping them to be successful and trying to influence them to change in ways that we feel are going to be critical to their success. 

Where is your company in terms of implementing SMM practices?

CP  We have been on the journey for almost four years, and today have in place a fairly mature global SMM program, with service teams in the Americas, APJC [Asia-Pacific, Japan, and China], India, and EMEAR [Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Russia]. It is fully operational, encompassing policy compliance, leveraged sourcing, contracting, approvals and payment processes, website design, housing management, full-service logistics planning with on-site delivery, payment processing/reconciliation, evaluation services, spend, and compliance reporting. The key to any measure of success for us has

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