In the very near future, meeting attendees at conference centers will demand continuous contact with headquarters and affiliates all over the world by e-mail. So said technological guru Elliot Masie of The MASIE Center think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY, advising nearly 500 attendees at the 16th annual meeting of the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) to keep their centers connected. Most learning will occur on the Internet, he said, allowing participation by those who can't or won't attend meetings in person. He urged conference centers to add Internet access with enough bandwidth to handle users in guest rooms, in meeting rooms, in the lobby, and on golf carts.

The IACC meeting, held at The Woodlands (TX) Executive Conference Center and Resort in April also featured David Arnold of PKF Consulting in Philadelphia, who told attendees that conference centers should expand their business by offering Complete Meeting Packages (CMPs) at a different price-value level for meetings that don't need "Ritz-Carlton buffets."

Arnold, IACC's financial consultant, also observed that conference centers are obvious targets for purchase by large chains and/or publicly held companies. "There are discussions going on as we speak about the acquisition of most major conference centers, " he said, predicting that by next year's IACC meeting, many centers will be consolidated under other ownership.

Andy Dolce, president and chief executive officer of Dolce International, was the recipient of IACC's 1997 Mel Hosansky Award, recognizing an individual who has played an exceptional role in advancing awareness of IACC and the industry.

Also announced during the meeting was an IACC scholarship fund set up in the name of Doris Sklar, the longtime General Electric meeting professional who passed away suddenly last October. The scholarship will be awarded to an NYU student in the school's Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Travel Administration, where Sklar had been an instructor. The fund, which started with an initial contribution of $5,000, grew to a $25,000 endowment by conference end.