Frustrated with the time you waste accessing information on the Web? You're not alone. "The Internet is painfully slow," acknowledged Arthur G. Esch, chief scientist, Professional Convention Management Association; and chairman, Executive Services, Ltd. in Leonardtown, Md. But the "world wide wait," as he phrased it, will soon be over.

During his keynote at the opening general session of METCON '98 (Meetings & Exhibitions Technology Conference), held April 1 to 3 at the Georgia International Conven- tion Center, College Park, Ga., Esch explained that technologies are not only emerging, but converging, and that associations must take advantage of new technological capabilities to remain competitive.

The meetings and hospitality industries, which have remained "print-centric," will have to catch up, he said, as more and more business is conducted electronically. Association Web sites of the future must move from boring "brochureware" to interactive sites that include audio,video, and data libraries.

Responding to an attendee from Alaska, who asked, "When will I be able to go to METCON without being here [physically]?" Esch stressed, "We will always have meetings in person. The challenge the industry faces is how to merge electronic and in-person meetings so that they appear seamless."

METCON drew 447 attendees, down from last year's 478 participants. Attendees included 122 planners and 198 suppliers, as well as 127 people who visited on day passes.