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CLAIRE Jolley Stroope, CMP, started as a meeting and event planner, worked in catering and, finally, began a business consulting event companies and corporations on their spend. Now she works in procurement as a senior manager of global meeting services for software company Oracle USA in Redwood Shores, Calif. She joins Oracle's director of global meeting services Jack Eichhorn as they discuss big business, big money and how to keep it all in check.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: How did Oracle and Claire find each other?

JACK EICHHORN: Just through the industry and reputation. Claire had given some support in the past to Oracle, and because of her organization and what it did, we were aware of Claire and the expertise she brought to this arena.

CLAIRE STROOPE: It's rather funny — I was discussing some event I was producing for Oracle, so we're having a meeting, talking about the different events and what their needs were, and at the end, the topic was broached that they would like to bring me in. It just started a whole conversation, and at that point, I didn't really consider it seriously. But over the next eight months we continued to talk, and I realized what a great opportunity it was for me, and I realized where the industry is going, and so as of May, here I am.

Q: What are some of the smartest moves a company can make to control its meeting spend?

CS: I think one of the best things that a company can do is identify and then consolidate exactly what suppliers they work with that are meeting their needs, then make them preferred suppliers. They then need to negotiate a really good rate that's based on the amount of dollars that are spent — that could be a sliding scale or not. Next you want to direct people company-wide to use those suppliers, not only because it's the best value for the dollar but also because they're educated and more familiar with the needs of the company.

Q: How does Oracle address cost savings in the meetings/event arena?

JE: We started to analyze our meeting spend and the volume of meetings — we looked at it from an industry standard standpoint that roughly 35 percent to 40 percent of total spend is food and beverage. Consequently, this was an area for us to focus on, and part of our larger strategy is to build a team of subject-matter experts to address and implement an overall strategy for Oracle to manage meetings.

Q: Claire, previously, when you took on new clients to manage their food and beverage spend, what areas did you analyze?

CS: We would help them define their goals and desired ROI as it relates to food and beverage and its importance in their overall event or meeting spend. Are they going into promotion and want a huge-name band rather than feeding folks dinner, or are they actually using the food, wines and beverages to be a branding opportunity for them? For example, I did a road show for 14 cities for one of our clients — an automobile company — and we basically used the food as a branding opportunity. So all the linen, all the menus, the uniforms — everything was completely custom. So it can go from that to doing a 15-city tour where really they just want to feed people but don't want to spend a lot of dollars. It's just trying to ensure good quality service.

Claire Jolley Stroope can be reached at [email protected].

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