Off-the-Shelf Video What's as difficult as climbing Mount Everest? Making a generic videotape of opening and closing features for business meetings. Exhortations to excel, be part of a team, reach goals, and embrace change have little impact without a specific context. Yet CVC Communications of Fort Wayne, Ind., has actually produced a compelling generic sales meeting video--by recruiting the only amputee ever to climb Mount Everest as a spokesperson.

Tom Whittaker, a man who lost a foot in an automobile accident, believably makes the case for goal-setting, change, teamwork, and determination. The video cuts between a studio interview and film of Whittaker actually making the climb. It's packaged into seven modules sharing a theme, "Reaching New Heights." Individual module themes include goal-setting, teamwork, determination, and overcoming obstacles, as well as those for the general opening session and awards introduction.

The video can be rented from CVC Communications for $289, or purchased outright for $589. For a preview, contact Chari Norum at (877) 577-8333, ext. 10.

CVC also has four other stock meeting openers--videos to play while attendees find their seats--that are equally generic but not nearly as compelling as "Reaching New Heights." A fifth video, for annoucing breaks, is also available. It contains a series of inoffensive, mildly amusing comedy skits featuring a kind of Lieutenant Columbo knockoff.

You may have a stable of technical wizards in the home office to solve your computer woes, but once you're on the road managing a meeting, you're at the mercy of your PC manufacturer's technical support and the hotel's AV team. Now, there's a Web site that can help. At www.techpointer.com, you'll find an in-depth resource for technical support and trouble shooting.

While the site's forums aren't worth the trouble, the Frequently Asked Questions section is excellent. Users type in a key word or phrase and the site searches for FAQs related to the topic and also produces a clickable list from a database of tech tips. Enter the word PowerPoint, for example, and up comes a list of a couple dozen FAQs such as "Why is there a red X in place of graphics?" or "How do you convert files between PowerPoint 95 and PowerPoint 97?" or "What should I do if, after opening a presentation, the dimensions of the custom slides are incorrect?"

Perhaps the best part of the site is Ask Dr. Tech, a technical support feature that promises an answer from a certified computer technician within four hours--for free, 24 hours a day seven days a week. And it works! Users fill out a form that asks about their computer, the problem they're experiencing, and the solutions they've tried. There's even a pull-down menu that lets you rate your knowledge of basic computer concepts so Dr. Tech can respond at your level. We tested the system with a question about decompressing .ZIP files using a Macintosh computer. The clear and concise answer arrived in about two hours, including the URL of a Web site where we could download a needed piece of software. Two thumbs up for a Web site that works!

If you've been frustrated by convention and visitor bureau Web sites that are long on boosterism but short on information, you'll enjoy www.tourismcalgary.com, a Canadian site that delivers what tech event organizers want: clear information on hotels, venues, and meeting services in Calgary, Alberta. Click on the Meeting and Group Travel Planning button and you'll find a long list of service categories.

Under Special Events and Entertainment Planners, for example, we found 10 suppliers, including a fireworks production firm, with contact information and brief summaries of services available. Only one firm listed, however, provided a link to its own Web site for additional information.

There were eight telecommunications vendors listed when we checked the site in early June, including two phone companies, an Internet service provi-der, and a computer rental service.

Even the information you expect to find--like specifications for hotels--reflects careful design. Indicate the number of guest rooms, meeting rooms, and ballroom size you need, and you'll see results in a uniform format, with such thoughtful touches as room areas given in square meters and square feet.

Of course, it wouldn't be a real CVB site without some goofy promotional stuff. You can find out about planning a White Hat ceremony (buy cowboy hats and the Calgary CVB will arrange a free event to make your attendees Honorary Citizens) and read the usual breathless descriptions of the Canadian Rockies. You can also enter a drawing to win a denim shirt.