Meetings

The GSA's Plan to Keep Meetings Costs in Check

By / Mar 6, 2013 (iStockPhoto/Thinkstock)

Still reeling from a conference scandal, the General Services Administration is hoping to cut conference costs by implementing an enterprise-wide approach to event management.

The General Services Administration (GSA) has made strides to improve its cost controls in the wake of a scandal, but could standardization prove the long-term solution to its recent problems?

A MMP would afford a government agency the ability to tailor meetings management to meet their needs while controlling meeting spend, and consolidating meeting and event planning into a centralized planning office.

That appears to be where the agency is headed. More details:

The situation: Last year, a 2010 training conference in Las Vegas drew congressional scrutiny for its excessive spending and led to cutbacks on federal conference spending across the board—changes that a congressional subcommittee recently found were showing results. Last month, GSA announced it would cancel its 2013 Expo, though the event is likely to return in future years.

The potential solution: In an effort to prevent similar situations in the future, the agency is pitching a Meetings Management Program (MMP)—with the goal of creating a top-down approach to meetings management that would involve approved contractors. The news was first reported by FCW. “A MMP would afford a government agency the ability to tailor meetings management to meet their needs while controlling meeting spend, and consolidating meeting and event planning into a centralized planning office,” according to a request for information dated March 1. (The RFI goes out of its way, by the way, to note that the program will not be responsible for event planning services itself.) While not limiting conferences to specific options, the contractors would help the agency rein in costs and improve standards by centralizing purchases, limiting cancellation fees, and archiving important information for reporting.

Could it work? While the RFI notes that such approaches have “been adopted in the corporate world,” the agency is looking for feedback from vendors and others to see if a similar setup makes sense for a federal conference environment. GSA is specifically looking for contractors with a history of facilitating cost savings for government services and implementing high compliance standards.

Have you tried this approach to managing meetings? How has it worked for your organization, and what pitfalls could the GSA face in implementing such a program? Let us know your thoughts below.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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