Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2012

Corporate Speak

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.

been a strong policy with both internal and external partner support. 

 I am actually in phase one of the implementation. We have spent the last 18 months benchmarking with all of these great individuals you are talking to on the phone, who helped me get where I am at right now. From our perspective for a global brand, we were at the bottom when it came to centralizing our sourcing and contracting process, trying to mitigate as much risk as possible. And then when you talk about how you go about leveraging funds and putting your meetings at the right places - it goes back to, if you do not have the right data and the metrics to tell your story, it is very hard to go in and be able to leverage that brand.

When we first started the program, the one thing that I heard globally was, “Could we just plant it one place where we have a master calendar?” You put management on events that you want them to be at, and their schedule gets so full that you have people canceling meetings because management was not available. It is just little things like that that started the process. 

 That is funny, Kelley, that you said that. I have spent years in my previous job here at Microsoft trying to get one central calendar, and it is almost impossible just with the volume of events. We were scheduling over each other. We do not have a formal SMM program, but we do follow a lot of the principles of it and have for quite a few years through the partnership the central marketing events team has with procurement. 

 Like Kati, we do not have a formal SMMP. However, because my team is the corporate resource for meeting management here at Nike, we have implemented SMMP within our scope of responsibilities. We have put a lot of things in place, like a meeting-registration tool, and we have been working on technology and building a framework to track and report meetings. We put a lot of standardizing practices and a lot of those tools and processes in place, such as centralized sourcing and hotel contracting. I think the biggest challenge is really informing and educating people as to why these are important. With our culture, you have to take a bit of a softer approach, so we built a lot of outreach programs really to do that - to engage people in part of the process. 

Has your meetings program been affected by the economic and political climate over the last few years - the AIG Effect, the GSA spending scandal, and so on?

SK  AIG/GSA really did not affect what we do very much. Everything we do we have always been very cautious about to begin with. But I will say the economy certainly affected what we do and how we do it. Our attendance has certainly been impacted at times, based upon whether the storeowners were doing well at retail or not, and that affected our sales on the show floor, which also is economically driven. We have seen some meetings canceled very last minute, mostly when looking at how the retailers are doing and what our sales are like. 

Obviously the economy did [affect Microsoft’s meetings program], and so we were much more financially aware of what we are spending and why, and the measurement piece is so much more pronounced and important to be able to show the real need for ROI. So I think in the long run it actually made us a lot smarter about our spending, rather than doing things just because they have been done before.

 Our meetings program was affected by the economic impact. In 2009, Cisco took a bold step to reduce costs by eliminating internal travel and meetings, replacing them with virtual alternatives - meaning we used our own “Cisco on Cisco” technologies to have internal meetings, either by Webex or Telepresence. Three years later, it’s been interesting to watch. Some travel and face-to-face meetings have been returned; however, the new behaviors that were created from not being able to travel made people more efficient in utilizing webcams/collaboration technology, and finding ways to achieve the same results. It also spawned a whole new culture of hybrid meetings, so that today almost every physical meeting has a virtual component, and those events that went purely virtual have added back elements of physical attendance. The overall results saved a lot of money and enforced new meeting behaviors.

 We have not been affected by [the political climate] at all, and we were pretty minorly affected by the whole economy. So we have been really fortunate in that regard. As far as meetings and events go, though, as well as everything else in the company, there has been more scrutiny. I would not say to any extreme amount, but just more disciplined in how we are moving forward and spending our money. 

 Yes, I would agree with that. I do not think we were impacted in that meetings went away. It was just more due diligence around being smart about what you are putting out there, and if you have the majority of your audience in the backyard, you should be looking [to meet] in the backyard. 

What do you like best about your job?

KQ  That it is ever-evolving. It is not predictable. And I get exposure to such a broad view of the business as well as the ability to meet people from all over the world. There is never a boring day.  [Laughs.] I can absolutely tell you that. 

 I could not agree more. I think that we tend to be a certain breed of people that come into this business. [Laughs.] And I think we all have a curiosity about the world, and that is one of the main reasons I think people get into this line of work. You are exposed to so many different cultures and so many different people. On the professional side, the networking is incredible. 

 I like that part of our culture is to lead and take risks in doing new things. I like working for a world-class company that believes being average is over, and whose mission is innovation to change people’s lives. I love (and am exhausted by it at the same time) doing business globally. I love thinking strategically global, but learning to deliver culturally local. Each week on my team calls, I enjoy accents from India, Singapore, Great Britain, and kind of Southern - it reminds me every day that we are only a very small part of a big world, and there is so much to learn. 

 It is never the same; it is always something different. Frankly, at my point in my career, my greatest pleasure is building great teams to produce wonderful events that everybody can feel proud of. 

 I think the fact that we never have two days alike adds to the adventure of everyday life - the opportunity to be able to benchmark, collaborate, share ideas, be part of the change, from the bottom on up and then also out from the various different types of professions that we are actually touching and interacting. I cannot say that I go home every day without having learned something else new. 

PCMA 2012 Global Corporate Summit

PCMA is convening its first-ever Global Corporate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, this month. Our five roundtable participants played a role in helping shape the event, and all of them will be attending. We asked them what they’re looking to get out of it. 

Carolyn Pund
 I am excited about the opportunity for the group discussions. Whenever you get the caliber of individuals together that PCMA has invited for this summit, the one-off conversations and relationships provide camaraderie and value-sharing far beyond the days of the summit. 

Lisa Schelle
 I am interested in learning new insights or perspectives from people outside of the U.S. There are just so many differences in the way that we view our tactical work - in hotel contracting, for example. From a more strategic piece,

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