Meetings come in all shapes and sizes. There are one-on-one meetings
that can actually be productive, where you discuss a new strategy with
a like-minded colleague. High-level, closed-door meetings are another
sort, a permanent haven for some bosses. And there are off-site
meetings--where you pack your bag, board a plane, sleep in a hotel.
The last kind is growing ever-pricier, according to a new report by
American Express, which says global spending on meetings in 2008 is
expected to rise between 8 and 10 percent. Increasing hotel room rates
are a key driver behind the uptick, according to the report: "hotel
guestrooms now represent nearly half of all meeting spending ... the
average guestroom rate has also increased 10% year-over-year between
2006 and 2007, from $213 to $234."
Meanwhile, according to an article by John Buchanan in The Conference
Board Review, some businesses don't how much they're forking over each
year for off-site meetings:
Recently, for example, Pfizer learned it was spending as much as $1
billion annually, twice management's estimate -- not including airfare.
The same ratio of actual to assumed spending -- a lapse that often runs
into tens of millions of dollars a year -- has been found at Honeywell,
Cisco Systems, and many other companies. Even top-gun Fortune 500
auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers missed its original meeting-cost
estimate by a country mile.
Why such cluelessness, and what can be done to rein in unwieldy costs?