For those of you who think it took 15 minutes to set up this meeting--this was three years in the making." So said Jill Adler, president of the Greater New York chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) at the opening of the chapter's first-ever Technology Institute, held July 21 at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers' Executive Conference Center.

It was apparent from the classroom setups--one room had 21 personal computers with a video projector and several tech assistants on hand--that a lot of care and a lot of money had gone into the preparation for this one-day seminar.

One presentation stood out because it displayed creative use of a software product not often seen at meeting industry demonstration sessions. The product in question was a meeting and event management application of Lotus Notes, created by Synectic Systems, Ltd., a New Hampshire-based developer.

"Probably the best thing about Lotus Notes is that it lets you work the way you need to," said Emilia Seibold, director of consulting services for Synectic. "Who in this business works on one project at a time? With Notes, you can have as many as nine databases open at once." What makes the product powerful, she said, is that the databases are on a network or on the Web, so it isn't necessary to have all the databases resident at the same place, and that Notes links all these databases into a single application.

Her example was impressive: Synectic managed the 1996 Republican National Convention using Lotus Notes. "We completely scripted the entire event, line by line," she said. "When George Bush's speech came up 20 minutes too long one-half hour before he was scheduled to begin, we were able to reschedule events around him so the program would stay on track--and the new schedule was immediately updated at all locations, including the Web site and the production companies and television networks."

One of the more intriguing applications for the Republican Convention was speaker management. Synectic created a grid and schedule that gave the organizers access to every document related to the speaker's participation in the event, and included a resume of arrival and departure information; time, place, and duration of speech; and such helpful security information as a Social Security number, automobile license plate number, and even a photo.

According to Seibold, meeting planners don't have to buy the software--it can be rented for however long it's needed.

The only shadow over the presentation was a recent report from Gartner Group (a Massachusetts-based technology consulting firm) that Microsoft Exchange, a rival to IBM's Lotus Notes, has been eroding the seven-year-old product's market share.

The next event for MPI's Greater New York chapter is Education Day 1998 on September 15 at the Marriott World Trade Center. For more information, call Kathie Stapleton at (914) 762-1456.