Small and medium-sized businesses could be missing a trick by not thinking smarter about meetings, and the start of a New Year is the perfect time to make a resolution to make meetings work harder, say the meetings and conference experts at Inntel.Last year the 4.8 million SMEs in Britain employed over 23 million people, making them a potentially powerful force in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Events) industry. However, many SMEs spend more than they need - in both financial and man-hour terms - through lack of a sensible MICE policy.
"SMEs are the backbone of British industry, and many have struggled to stay in business over the past year. Taking a smarter approach to meetings and conferences could do much to keep costs and hassle down. Planning a basic corporate MICE policy is not rocket science, but can make a big difference," said Inntel Managing Director Douglas O'Neill.


Inntel's top MICE tips for small businesses
1.     If your company regularly books meeting rooms or accommodation in a few specific locations, build a venue programme. Work out which areas you use the most, research the hotels and meetings venues in that area and negotiate a discount for regular use. And be creative - Inntel has even booked meetings in village halls!

2.     Can the meeting be held internally? If you have a suitable meeting room in your own offices, there's no need to look elsewhere.

3.     Room hire charges for meetings held on Monday or Friday can be substantially cheaper than those for Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

4.     Leave the capital!  Meeting space in London is still at a premium, with venues around the rest of the country significantly less.  But when considering your venue, always consider the cost of travel.

5.     Examine the amount of travel involved. Free parking is a huge bonus at city centre locations, as are venues close to regular train links or airports if delegates are coming from further afield.

6.     If colleagues are attending the meeting from two different locations, consider meeting in the middle, as this could reduce the cost of hotel accommodation.

7.     Always ask if any extras you require can be provided free of charge.

8.     Is that meeting really necessary? Can you communicate just as effectively using video conferencing?

9.     Be prepared - whether you're booking a meeting room for 4 or for 400, taking the time to put together a comprehensive brief will pay dividends. Having a clear idea of what you do and/or do not want makes it much easier for you to get exactly what you need.

10.  Shout about it! Communication is key to the successful implementation of a MICE policy, so set out the terms of the policy clearly and make sure all your organisers understand it. You could even set up a special web page, accessible only by your organisers, which contains the policy and links to your approved hotels and venues.

... or turn to the experts
To have an even greater impact, SMEs can work with specialist organisations such as Inntel, which handles MICE requirements for companies of all sizes.  In addition to enjoying the benefits of a bespoke, expertly constructed policy, the SME has the peace of mind of knowing that its organisers have access to help, advice and online, phone or email booking facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and its delegates are trackable in the event of an emergency through Inntel's innovative i-Care online tracking system. And any complex arrangements or last-minute changes in plan can be easily accommodated.
By working with a MICE specialist, SMEs can also take advantage of the significant discounts that such companies achieve through their potent buying power, and could receive additional benefits such as room upgrades, free car parking and reduced (or zero) cancellation charges. They will also have access to continually updated electronic and online management information, tailored to give them precisely the information they require about their spend, and backed by expert analysis and recommendations to drive down costs and drive up efficiency yet further.
They can also minimise their admin workload by utilising the specialist's Billback service, whereby all venue invoices are checked, and any errors resolved with the supplier before the bill is paid by the agency and a single, consolidated invoice for the whole month's MICE spend is submitted to the SME. Inntel discovers and deals with up to 200 discrepancies a day on invoices submitted by hotels and venues, before the final invoice is sent to its clients, and Visa estimates that it costs up to £60 to administer a hotel invoice, from receipt in the post room to its settlement, so billback offers significant advantages.
"It's easy to view a specialist MICE agency as something that only the larger organisations use," concluded Douglas O'Neill, "but in fact we're suitable for all sizes of company. But even if an SME decides not to go the specialist route, I urge them to take the time to look at how they manage their meetings requirements, and to develop, implement and enforce a simple, clear MICE policy."