David Taylor is managing director of Grass Roots Meetings & Events – specialists in strategic meetings management and delegate management. An industry figurehead with over 25 years’ experience, starting at Hotel Brokers International (HBI), he became sales director as they joined the Grass Roots Group. After a period of integrating GRG services with WPP in 2015 he was made managing director of the M&E division in 2016.
Winning over the doubters
Whenever a company appoints a new supplier it creates a degree of change which is not always appreciated by employees. Whilst the majority within the company will embrace the change and understand it is being done for good reason, a number will rally against the change and continue utilising their old method regardless.
There are any number of reasons for this – some more valid than others. Employees may see change as a threat to their jobs and therefore consider their resistance as a means of self preservation. Others don’t like being “told” how to do their job or being made accountable for their actions. Some will argue if “it ain’t broke why fix it?” and a small minority of staff are simply difficult.
Get clients on the agent’s side
The introduction of a Meetings and Events agency can be particularly emotive as event organisers are often quite controlling by nature – they have to be if they are going to ensure their event’s success. Many also enjoy aspects of their job that will fall to the agent, such as the site inspections, working with their preferred venues and dealing with and negotiating with the venues. How then do you get these people on the agents side?
More than mandating
The easy way is to do this is for companies to mandate their meetings policy but this method is not popular in today’s modern workplace. Far better then is to work with the doubters explaining the purpose of using the agent and what benefits they bring. It will be based around savings as the agent will consolidate venues, negotiate rates, contracts and billing as well as saving employees countless hours in searching for suitable venues. Using an agent will also ensure more accurate management information and budgetary control and stop spend leakage. Agents are there to work with and assist event planners, not as some feel to take their jobs away.
The key is to make the doubters feel involved in the change process rather than leaving them feeling estranged and ignored. There is for example usually no reason why the organiser can’t continue to suggest suitable venues, undertake site inspections and retain strong links with the venue. The agent should also look to involve the organiser on trips to suitable venues, new openings etc. and build a bond of trust.
It is imperative therefore that the stakeholder fully supports the agent and gives them access to all their bookers. I can’t over emphasise the importance for the agent to appoint a strong account manager who can meet, work and bond with the planners. If a relationship can be built here then the event organiser can free up their time for other tasks with the understanding the agent is a help and not a hinderance.
However, should the stakeholders or the agent fail to get the event organisers fully on board, any meetings programme will only be a partial success at best. It is essential therefore that their is a clear communication strategy in place that can be be rolled out as soon as the agent is appointed. Get this part right and a long successful working relationship should be enjoyed by all.
This blog also appears in Conference & Incentive Travel Magazine, August 2017