From Web Surfing to Instant RFPs: The Next Wave You have less than 30 days to organize a sales meeting, but just don't have the time to call your national sales contacts at the hotel chains or surf the Web. Smart RFP was created for last-minute meetings like this (and most of yours are).
When you register at www.smartrfp.com, you'll fill out a request for proposal, detailing your meeting's specifications. What's different from other sites is that you don't select the hotels to approach. When you submit the RFP, it goes to staffers who evaluate your needs, distribute your proposal to venues they think would be a good match, and come back to you within 48 hours with recommendations. Once you make your decision, the staff can help you negotiate your .
Smart RFP is really like a site-selection company with a Web interface, says Rodman Marymor, CMP, managing partner of Cardinal Communications, Berkeley, Calif., which recently launched the site. Like other site selection firms, Smart RFP's services are free to companies.
Also on the Web * Learn meeting planning skills online--The American Society of Association Executives recently launched a three-hour online course called "Effective Meeting Skills," covering basic conference planning techniques plus tips for improving program quality. Participants can take the $10 course all at once or in increments. To register, visit ASAE's virtual campus at www.asaenet.org/Education/Desktop/index.html.
* Conduct live interactive meetings on the Internet--Need to communicate information to disparate customers, buyers, or distributors? The Education News & Entertainment Network, which has been used by companies such as Texas Instruments and Toshiba, conducts live online business meetings, training sessions, sales presentations, and product announcements via the Web. Check out ENEN.com.
* Online reviews of properties--The buzz these days is all about "creating communities" on the Internet, and www.eventsource.com has just done exactly this with its new online review service. People planning meetings can now submit or access reviews on 9,000 properties that include insider information like "not enough parking for attendees" or "rooms need updating." Users can also e-mail the reviewers for more details.
* Get currency rates--and currency--fast--At www.foreignmoney.com, you'll find up-to-date rates for 22 currencies. You can't actually buy currency online, but there is an e-mail form to place your order; a customer service rep follows up. Users pay a flat fee of $12 for shipping and service. The site is run by International Currency Express, Inc.
* Fight for your rights as a passenger--Started in late April, www.passengerrights.com has already seen more than 300 complaints from travel industry members. The site was founded "to bring accountability back into the travel business." Consumers can log complaints and choose to send them to a variety of organizations, from the Department of Transportation to specific suppliers.
* A world of venues online--Launched at the EIBTM show in May, www.eventcafe.de is a comprehensive new search site for planning meetings and incentives. Included are venues, transportation suppliers, tech suppliers, tourist boards, PCOs, and more from countries around the world.
* A Web site about Web sites--Why bother with Yahoo when you can use www.expoworld.net, a search engine (known as a "metasite") that looks for meeting- industry-specific sites. It has country and industry-specific search tools, general and specific event suppliers (DMCs, airlines, rental car companies), and search tools for finding conventions and exhibitions.
* Multimedia training comes of age--Go to www.aavln.com for Arthur Andersen's Virtual Learning Network, a Web-based library of more than 400 courses that can be delivered via the Web (including intranet and extranet), or CD-Rom. Topics cover four areas: finance and accounting; IT skills for professionals and end users; management, supervisory, and employee development; and sales and marketing. Each topic is tied to a specific learning objective and takes about 20 minutes to complete.