The technology industry may be in the dumper, but invention continues. Here's a roundup of five recent meeting technology announcements:
MeetingSmith — a new Web-based management tool for events that include extensive one-on-one meetings. The program allows planners to promote an event (via e-mail), register attendees, and follow up afterward, but the scheduling component is its real selling point. The system is among the very few for meetings in which attendees need to set up a series of individual meetings with exhibitors, executives, or other sellers. The software allows the user to request a meeting with any seller. When doing so, users view a personal calendar that shows their booked appointments as well as the time slots when the particular seller is available. The system was created by The Prism Partnership, Boston (www.theprismpartnership.com).
VIA3 — a webconferencing system specifically for small groups that need to collaborate on Word documents. While most e-meetings are focused on a PowerPoint presentation, a VIA3 e-meeting centers attendees on a Word document, layering on collaborative components, such as instant messaging, chat rooms, and white boards. The next upgrade is expected to add PowerPoint functionality, but initially the focus is on meetings of two to five people who need to work on a document. As such, this first product from Tempe, Ariz.-based Viack Corp. (www.viack.com) is being marketed initially to the legal profession. The PC-only system released in July includes a headset for Voice Over IP service and a small computer-top camera to add attendees' real-time images if desired. The pricing is affordable at 43 cents a minute for 500 minutes a month. (There are discounts for more minutes.) There is no monthly seat fee, although users pay a one-time $40 setup charge. Encryption is built in.
3M Digital Wall Display — a presentation tool that combines the features of an LCD projector, a digital white board, and a multimedia system in a 60-inch, hang-on-the-wall electronic display. Connect your presentation source — laptop computer, DVD player, videoconferencing equipment — to the unit, press power, and it's ready to go. 3M (www.3M.com) has introduced a “warp processing chip” that eliminates the “keystone” effect encountered with many projectors. Users can make notes — either electronically using a marker-shaped mouse tool or on the dry-erase board surface — and print the screen; share annotations and documents; and interact in real-time over the Internet with PC or Mac users — or other Digital Wall Displays. The flat screen provides glare-free viewing in a 170-degree field and includes built-in stereo speakers. And it allows presenters to move around the image without casting a shadow.
EZ Event — an online search engine and reverse auction site for group events at restaurants. Headquartered in Philadelphia, EZ Event launched last spring at www.ez-event.com, allowing users to select dinner meeting venues from a database of 5,000 restaurants nationwide, send banquet event orders, and get bids within 48 hours. Philadelphia-based McGettigan Partners has negotiated exclusive use of the system in the pharmaceutical industry through early 2003; however, EZ Event is looking at other markets that use dinner meetings regularly, particularly the financial services and technology industries. The system is not for the solo user. Companies pay a quarterly fee to access the database and its reporting functions.