BOSTON, Aug. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Over the course of a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, ushering in a wave of regulations and measures that, for many industries, will translate to long-term policy and procedural change. The way we view the world right now, from both business and personal perspectives, is entirely different from the way we viewed it prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Understandably, the travel industry finds itself especially vulnerable in this new world. The meeting and event management segment faces unique challenges as companies establish effective ways to meet despite current restrictions.
Alisa de Gaspe Beaubien, the CEO of Groupize, discusses the questions and issues facing the industry, adaptation strategies, and the increased role technology will now have to play in meeting programs. With years of travel experience and a proven track record of success in group travel management, Alisa can leverage her expertise to shed light on the new normal for meeting programs.
During this crisis, the companies with an SMM program and centralized tool were able to act quickly and responsibly to manage their current and future events and meetings, while also having access to valuable insights from past meetings. But, do enough companies have a travel program that includes meeting policy? According to Alisa, no.
“The reality is that for most companies – meetings and events are a blind spot,” she explains. “It was the industry’s dirty little secret that decentralized and offline management of events and meetings was the status quo. While everyone agreed there was a big risk in not managing the 43% of travel spend related to meetings, no one agreed on whose responsibility it was to fix it. Now both the C-Suite and Travel Managers have a spotlight on this issue to close the gap in their program, to eliminate risk and liability.”
For the first time in Alisa’s career, she’s hearing stories of unabashed support from all stakeholders in an organization to solve the problem. Finally, Travel Managers are finding allies in new places, including Human Resources, Security, Finance, Marketing, and more.
“I’m not comfortable calling this point in time a ‘new normal’ because nothing about this is normal,” Alisa notes. “It has, however, established a now indisputable reality that organizations of all sizes need to change the way they manage the meetings and event category.”
Alisa makes an important point here; although the beginning of the pandemic represented a turbulent time for the industry, it also exposed shortcomings that were in desperate need of attention and action. Right now, most companies are using this pause in travel to prepare for an ever-changing travel landscape; preparations which, in many cases, have begun with new travel and meeting policies. These policies are critical, but the only way for smart companies to implement, enforce, and audit these policies is with technology.
“Travel Managers are a critical stakeholder in the return to travel. However, without technology to support their requirements for every component of a meetings program and the actual events themselves, the risk is unquantifiable,” Alisa explains. “Every company that ever thought about implementing a meeting program in the past, but decided not to, has since regretted that decision. Perhaps more importantly, companies that had not thought they needed a meeting program now recognize the value and have an urgency to take action.”
We are all in this together
While travel has slowed down, some companies have become invaluable to their customers during these trying times, solidifying their position as a ‘necessity’ for the new reality.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the core tenants of our value proposition – cost containment, risk management, and traveler safety with visibility to all stakeholders with flexible workflows. We did not need to pivot post-pandemic. We were able to stay on course with simple enhancements such as virtual and hybrid meetings. Simply put, these market conditions have elevated our solution from a nice to have to a must-have. Every company with corporate travelers has a spotlight on them to de-risk meeting management.”
“Groupize has always valued partnerships, admired competitors, and continued to learn from our customers and industry trends. In April, we were proud to unite 12 industry leaders on an eBook: Meetings Culture for Modern Companies – which compiled peer to peer insights and best practices to help companies structure their programs moving forward. In mid-July, we released a Groupize Assurance, helping companies with meeting program Preparedness, Readiness, and Response. Content like this, as well as many other recent publications from industry groups such as TAMS, are invaluable in a time of rapid and continuous change. The people behind the ideas are resilient and driving change in the industry, and we really are all in this together.”
What companies can do today
Alisa shares her belief that this moment in time will drive further innovation in many areas of the industry as we look to emerging trends and evolving industry demands. In the months ahead, the travel industry will be expected to adapt quickly to the ‘new normal,’ while acting proactively to address attendee concerns and wellness. In-person events and meetings are mission-critical to business, whether for revenue generation, employee development, team building, customer retention, or essential reasons.
This begs the question; what is to come? And what do companies do today?
“While we added features to our platform to support both virtual and hybrid events, we recognize that people are resilient and want to travel. I hear this every day from our customers, and people want to plan new events. While the structure of meetings and events may look different for the next one to three years, they will continue. But even if a company has just one meeting on the books in the future, they still need to manage every component every step of the way. The liability is just too large to ignore, and change is no longer an option; it’s an outright demand and mandate.”
Moving forward, industry experts agree that every event, regardless of the size and scale, will require pre-event approval, along with budget and pre-trip approvals to follow. More importantly, meeting planners, travel managers, executives, and travelers will all need to become more flexible in their process, as meeting logistics will always be in flux.
Alisa explains that core components such as dates, locations, venues, attendee lists, social distancing guidelines, attendance protocols, and virtual attendance that, in the past, never changed, will now be increasingly subject to change. Fortunately, the Groupize platform not only tracks these changes but also helps to manage them. The ability to centrally cancel all flights/hotel rooms for registered attendees in the event of a cancellation, perform contract tracing, and establish collaborative workflows will be increasingly valued and necessary. Moreover, some experts anticipate an increase in smaller and simpler meetings, a category for which Groupize is the industry leader.
“Ultimately, it’s clear that doing nothing is not an option. Technology will help companies meet their responsibilities. Just this week, we released a risk assessment calculator, aimed at helping companies calculate the risk in their program as well as in each meeting. We recognize that the focus in most organizations has moved from savings to safety, and we are developing resources to help companies understand their obligations and take action. We want to keep the CEO’s of our customers out of the headlines for lax or incomplete policies leading to bad press. Finally, we must see ‘meeting program management’ via a new lens in order to get back to business.”
Like Zoom to WebEx
“We have spent five years listening to the needs of the industry, and have developed the easy to use, easy on the budget, easy to deploy meeting management tool that planners want to use. Our path is very similar to Zoom when market needs changed; Zoom became the virtual meeting tool of choice because of its focus on accessibility to any user. We expect a similar trajectory for Groupize as SMM standards receive a much-needed makeover in the post-pandemic world.”
Groupize is the only complete self-service meeting management platform designed for enterprise-wide use. The technology manages all of the core meeting logistics, such as venue sourcing, registration, attendee management, and travel, as well as delivers mission-critical data for both risk and spend management. The platform brings oversight and insight into the largest area of unmanaged spend in a corporation. It can manage up to 97% of meetings and events not traditionally recognized as a meeting such as training, recruiting, projects, and engagements.
Groupize simplifies event and meeting management with easy to use tools that manage all processes in the lifecycle of a corporate event, creating better outcomes for all stakeholders. “At times like these, containing costs, managing risk and minimizing liability while focusing on traveler safety is a priority for every company. We are the entry point for all employees in a company to begin to manage any and all components of a meeting,” says Alisa.
Alisa also shares that the company has some exciting enhancements in their registration module that will make Groupize the solution of choice not only for enterprise customers but SMB’s as well.
In the meantime, Groupize will continue to develop features that align with the needs of their channel partners and customers, and this includes more functionality on approvals and budgets and for use cases like projects and recruiting. Currently, the Groupize Assurance enhancement is focused on lowering end-to-end risk related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Groupize Assurance includes modules to assess, update, and standardize managed meeting processes, policy, and logistics – making every step trackable and auditable our central platform.
“As a company, we are fortunate that we are not in a position that would require reinventing ourselves or pivoting from our core vision, we can continue to focus on our mission and ways to get better at delivering our brand promise.”
Groupize is supporting companies that are starting or restarting their meeting programs or switching vendors by offering risk-free terms.
Winner of Phocuswright Innovation Award, BTN Top 25 Most Influential of 2017 and Skift 2019 Corporate Travel Innovators, Groupize is committed to reinventing event management with easy to use tools that simplify all processes in the lifecycle of a corporate meeting, creating better outcomes for all stakeholders. We turn difficult into simple, make the unknown known, and put an end to tedious tasks while controlling the largest area of unmanaged spend in a corporation. For more information, please call 1.855.GROUPIZE, or visit groupize.com.