The mood at the opening ceremonies was jubilant as EIBTM (the European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition) celebrated its tenth anniversary in Geneva in May. From 3,000 attendees ten years ago to 7,000 today, from 360 exhibitors to 2,250, the growth of EIBTM is nothing less than impressive.

Making news at the show was the kickoff of a marketing alliance of conference centers known as the Historic Conference Centres of Europe. Members are at least 100 years old; promise superior service, management standards, and state-of-the-art technology; and are located in cities known for their rich cultural heritage. The 11 founding members are Grazer Congress; Vienna's Hofburg Congress Center; Beurs von Berlage in Amsterdam; Flanders Congress & Concert Centre in Antwerp, Belgium; Palais des Papes in Avignon, France; Dublin Castle Conference Centre; CCM Congress Centre Rosengarten in Mannheim, Germany; Palazzo del Polpolo in Orvieto, Italy; Palacio da Bolsa in Porto, Portugal; Norra Latin in Stockholm; and Das Kurhaus in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Also big news at the show was the new alliance between five major air carriers--United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, and Thai Airways--known as the Star Alliance. The agreement gives frequent flyers mileage in each partner's program and qualified passengers privileges at alliance airport lounges worldwide.

EIBTM launched a new campaign this year, Youth in Business Tourism, to encourage young people to build careers in the meeting industry. Fifteen participants attended a three-day forum in Geneva.

The Ministry of Tourism in Nassau, the Bahamas took the top prize in EIBTM's annual Greening of Business Tourism awards for its sustainable tourism efforts and the initiation of ecotourism awareness months. Other winners: Princess Cruise Lines; Swissair; ANA Hotels International; Honey Island Swamp Tours, New Orleans; Cairns Convention Center, Australia; Discovery Ecotourism, Jordan; Tourism Vancouver, Canada; Green City Denmark; and Tropical Nature and Cultural Safaris, Kenya.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives cohosted a group of readers at the show, as well as during a pre-show site inspection trip to Vienna. There, they toured palaces and hotels that were palaces, including the 245-room Radisson SAS Palais and the top-of-the-line Imperial, with 130 luxurious guest rooms.

Other stops included the 460-room Inter-Continental, with the city's largest ballroom; the 313-room Marriott; and the 309-room Renaissance. On the sightseeing list: 1,441-room Schonbrunn, the Hapsburgs' summer palace, with its butter-yellow exterior; the mammoth St. Stephen's Cathedral, with its unusual patterned roof; and the Belvedere Palace, now an art gallery but once home of Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination in 1914 sparked World War II.

EIBTM 1998 is set for May 12 to 14 at the Palexpo Exhibition Center in Geneva.

NEW SURVEY: GOURMET READERS PICK HOTEL FAVES Ten U.S. properties won a place in Gourmet magazine's first Rooms at the Top Awards, selected by 7,000 readers.

The winners, by region:

New England--The Mayflower, Washington, CT

Mid-Atlantic--The St. Regis, New York, NY

The South--The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV

Midwest (tie)--American Club, Kohler, WI and The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI

Mountain States--Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, UT

Pacific Northwest--The Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, Seattle, WA

California--The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point

Southwest--The Phoenician, Scottsdale, AZ

Hawaii--Manele Bay Hotel, Lanai

AAA AWARDS FIVE DIAMONDS TO FIVE NEWCOMERS Five deluxe U.S. hotels captured a AAA Five Diamond Award for the first time this year: The Mayflower Inn, Washington, CT; the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, Manalapan, FL; The Breakers and the Four Seasons Resort, both in Palm Beach, FL; and the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, HI. They join 47 other hotels and resorts and 39 restaurants receiving the Five Diamond designation this year.

A non-profit federation of 102 motor clubs, AAA has been rating U.S. hotels and restaurants since 1963.

ROOM WITH A VIEW Try keeping your mind on business with this view from the meeting room.

A little-known meeting venue with a fabulous view of Manhattan is the Con Edison Learning Center, located across from New York City on the East River in Long Island City, Queens.

The facility, which was recently opened to the public, has 20,000 square feet of meeting space, seven conference rooms, 25 breakout areas, and 18 classrooms. The Center also offers conference planning services plus audiovisual support, computer hook-ups, dining, shuttle bus service, and free parking.

Call (718) 472-6012.

INDEPENDENT MEETING PLANNERS FORM ALLIANCE The newly formed Alliance for Meeting Management Consultants (AMMC) was not planning to solicit membership until this summer, but the interest has been so great, membership information is being sent out right away, reports Toni Sylvester, CMP, AMMC secretary- treasurer and president of Sylvester Management Corporation in Irmo, SC.

One of AMMC's first goals is to create a financial pool to enable members to launch joint marketing efforts. Other plans: to establish an identity for the meeting management consultant industry; to provide networking/education opportunities for members; and to promote high standards and ethics among consultants. Sylvester created AMMC along with Lynne K. Tiras, CMP, president of International Meeting Managers in Houston, and Earlene J. Hill, CMP, of Hill Management Concepts, Inc. in St. Louis.

AMMC holds its first meeting July 24 in Washington, DC. The one-day session will be led by Hugh K. Lee, president of the center for Organization Development. Membership dues are $250. In addition, members must contribute a minimum of $500 to the marketing pool. (The minimum fee is set annually by members.) Contact Toni Sylvester at Sylvester Management Corporation, P.O. Box 986, Irmo, SC, 29063; (800) 200-2774; fax (803) 732-0135.--Tamar Hosansky

COMING UP * July 19 to 23, International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus Annual Convention and Trade Mission, Hong Kong. Call (202) 296-7888.

* August 3 to 5, Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress, Baltimore, MD. Call (972) 702-3000.

* September 3 to 4, Affordable Meetings, sponsored by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, Washington, DC. Call (914) 421-3274.*

How to Make Your Presentations More Compelling. . . . the Plot Thickens Once upon a time there was a communications consultant who believed that storytelling was a powerful and memorable way for his clients to get their message across. He still does.

Peter Giuliano, chairman of the Ridgewood, NJbased Executive Communications Group, says storytelling provides the kind of imagery, drama, and emotion that brings a message home to listeners. "With the glut of information today, everyone is fighting for attention," says Giuliano. "What passes for presentations are really briefings or information off-loads. These deliver reams of data, but hold little to capture the imagination."

Giuliano's firm trains clients in preparing presentations not by actually writing a story for them, but by helping them to identify the elements of a good story and the characteristics of a good storyteller.

Typically the "story," which will embody the theme of the speaker's presentation, will set the stage for the remarks that follow. The speaker may want to refer back to the story during the presentation and recap it at the end, says Giuliano.

The result? Listeners are not only informed, he says, but enlightened.

Briefings Beat Gossip Look at the bulletin board. There's nothing here. No announcements, no statements. It's your worst nightmare. Classic management technique."

Those were the comments of one employee in a scene from The Grapevine, the newest video from c omedian John Cleese's Video Arts training company.

Believing that he and his department are about to lose their jobs, this employee spreads his panic to his coworkers and, eventually, throughout the company. The video (which comes with a discussion booklet and guide) shows what can happen when a company doesn't communicate. It's worth a look. Call Video Arts at (800) 553-0091.

Incentive Possibilities You're All in the Same Boat--Lite rally There's nothing like running the rapids with a few colleagues to put things in perspective. White-water rafting trips take incentive winners far from the world of office politics and turn them into a team, according to Outdoor Adventures (OA), Point Reyes Station, CA.

OA offers one- to six-day rafting trips on the Kern, Tuolumne, and American rivers in California; the Rogue River in Oregon; and the Salmon River in Idaho. OA can accommodate groups of up to 25 on its own or team up with another outfitter to host larger groups. The rafting experience itself ranges from the placid floats to an adrenaline-pumping rides.

Either way, the trips present opportunities for team building, says OA spokeswoman Sue Cawdrey. On-river exercises like scouting rapids, practicing safety procedures, and rotating paddle captains--from senior executives to middle managers to secretaries--teach valuable skills employees can take home and apply to their business.

OA's 60 river guides have their own set of special skills, in addition to rafting. Cawdrey says OA's guides include teachers, biologists, naturalists, and nurses. All guides are also trained as chefs to prepare the on-site gourmet meals that are part of the rafting trips. For more information call Outdoor Adventures at (800) 323-4234.

TRY THIS Make a Rehearsal Part of Your Speaker's Contract

Coleman Lee Finkel believes few activities, short of war, are fraught with more perils than managing a conference.

He's got the stories to prove it. In his book "War Stories" From the Meeting Front, Finkel relates what 19 meeting planners learned on the front lines.

One planner, for example, had booked a well-known motivational speaker for a conference. Repeated requests for a run-through of the program, with its elaborate audiovisuals, drew a firm refusal. "Don't tell him how to do his job," the speaker's assistant said. The speaker's "smashing close" called for dimmed lights, rising music, and slides flashing on-screen, as a small fan sent Old Glory fluttering to the stirring music.

The reality wasn't quite so inspiring. On cue the speaker's assistant pressed the buttons, only to throw the room into total darkness, with music groaning unintelligibly, and Old Glory remaining limp. More frantic button-pushing produced blazing lights, blaring music, and a blast so strong it nearly leveled the flag. The speaker never recovered; the planner learned to insist on a rehearsal and get it in writing.