special report WINNIPEG'S PRESENTATION WINNER Multimedia presentations encouraged; dancing optional

Need to meet in the middle? Think about this: Just about equidistant from San Jose, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., is the Winnipeg, Manitoba, Convention Centre. Winnipeg only sounds like it's off the beaten track. Actually, if we were holding a meeting at which our CFO was expected to tap-dance through a session with venture capitalists, the city would be our first choice. First, because it demonstrates fiscal responsibility - the U.S. dollar is still almighty in Canada. Second, because it's the home of the world-famous Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and managers could get in a dance lesson or two before heading for the podium.

OK, a real reason to meet in Winnipeg is to use the Convention Centre's Presentation Theatre. This 300-tiered-seat room comes with just about everything today's road warrior needs, including laptop connections (with Internet access) and generous work space at every seat. The room is set to handle live presentations, satellite downlinks, DVD, video, film, and a host of other multimedia configurations. A wireless audience polling system is in place, ideal for focus groups or votes on contentious issues. Three booths for simultaneous interpretation are available. Add a multipart configurable screen, and you've got a winner for tech presentations.

On the floor above the Presentation Room is an exhibition area with 78,000 square feet of pillarless space, capable of handling up to 425 10-by-10 booths, all with full services, including electrical, water, compressed air, gas, steam, drainage, sound, and telephone.

The main space can also be divided into two rooms, one 50,000 square feet, the other 28,000 square feet. A 30-foot open-grid ceiling has provisions for adding another 20 feet of vertical space. The Centre brags that it has accommodated sailboats with full masts raised.

On the floor below the Presentation Room is a 21,600-square-foot space that can be divided into 13 separate meeting rooms. On the same floor are some special-purpose rooms, including a VIP suite with its own bar and private restrooms.

The Centre has cold-weather operation all figured out, including a heated indoor loading dock with space for seven trailer trucks and heated indoor parking for drive-in attendees. As further protection from the elements, a second-floor skyway directly connects with the 389-room Crowne Plaza Winnipeg Downtown Hotel. Also conveniently located on the second floor of the building are the offices of convention services suppliers, including AV companies, independent event organizers, and a few retail shops and services.

Winnipeg is still a bit behind the big American speed demons when it comes to connectivity. The network is only a 10BaseT Ethernet, although it is built on a state-of-the-art fiber backbone that was installed last year. Local ISP service is available through the Centre, as is phone service, according to Harvey Cohen, manager of information systems. "When the technology changes, we'll have the backbone to accommodate it," he says. To learn more, visit the Web site at www.wpgconvctr.mb.ca.

Here is a selection of conference event services, organized by name, service, and phone number.

- Berkowitz Ltd., Trade Show Management, (204) 228-3193

- Bowering (Int'l) Group, Event Planners, (204) 958-7540

- Cedars Communications Services, Public Relations & Special Events Management, (204) 453-5770

- Conexsys Registration Systems, Computerized Registration System & Show Management Co., (204) 269-3543

- Corpav Presentation Group, Audio/Video Services (204) 989-2592

- Frontline Associates, Events Management, (204) 254-2293

- Northern Lights Meeting Planners Inc., Meeting & Conference Planning, (204) 925-3000