Most planners have become proficient at using the Internet for hotel and destination searches. The Web also can be a useful tool when you need information on AV-related services or products. Here are some useful Web sites I have found.

Product or Manufacturer Sites Almost every manufacturer of AV equipment has a Web site that provides model descriptions, pricing, dealer locations, etc. Usually you can find it by simply typing the manufacturer's name followed by ".com". Examples: www.sony. com and www.kodak.com. Don't forget that some equipment manufacturers have consumer as well as professional brand names. Ramsa is the professional brand of audio equipment made by Panasonic. Tascam is the professional brand for Teac.

The following are corporate sites that offer tips or information above and beyond the usual product facts:

www.presentersuniversity.com--Sponsored by Proxima (it also can be reached through the Proxima homepage), this site offers courses, a multimedia center, a campus store, and road tour and international sections. The multimedia center has free presentation files you can download, including PowerPoint templates, Lotus Freelance graphics files, clip art, and sound files.

www.presentersonline.com--This is Epson's version of the above, offering tips, tools, and techniques for successful presentations. There are tips on inserting digital images in PowerPoint 97; information on how to test your presentation to see that you've selected colors, fonts, and graphics that work; presentation fundamentals; and resources for presentations.

www.presentations.com--This is a good site for presentation solutions and is maintained by Lakewood Publications, publishers of Presentations magazine. It offers online seminars on presentation techniques, technology, and other related topics by respected professionals in the industry.

www.thepic.com--Minnesota Western's information center for presenters includes a glossary of terminology; AV FAQs; and information on choosing and using the right media for your presentation, and on narrowing your projector selection with interactive comparison charts.

www.navitar.com--Here you'll find a projection calculator for 35mm slide format so you can select the slide projector lens you'll need for the screen size and distance from the screen. There is also an image shift calculator for using perspective control lenses.

www.stewartfilm.com--Stewart Filmscreen's site has useful information on screen formats as well as on front- and rear-projection surfaces. Da-Lite (www.da-lite.com) also provides similar information. Screenworks (www.thescreenworks.com) provides information for portable screens.

AV-related Organizations www.itva.org--The International TV Association's members are corporate and freelance media producers. This is a good way to find freelance talent at your conference sites. ITVA chapters are also helpful in researching staging or production companies in an area you are not familiar with.

www.icia.org--The International Communications Industries Association's site offers information about its education and training programs, and is a good source for buying or selling used AV equipment. ICIA puts on the annual INFOCOMM exhibitions (www.infocomm.org), considered among the top trade shows for AV professionals. The site often provides video and audio clips from trade shows.

Other Good Stuff www.avvideo.com--AV Video Multimedia Producer is an excellent magazine for AV-related topics.

www.designer.com--Sponsored by Corel, this site has articles on both print and Web design (though with emphasis on Corel products). There is free clip art via www.clipartdownload.com, where you'll find 10,000 clip art images and 100,000 Web images.

All major staging companies have Web sites and often offer online RFPs. Two of the larger ones are AVHQ (www.avhq.com) and Staging Techniques (www.stagingtechniques.com). AV Images has a nice comparison chart on video and data applications and specifications (www.avimages.com).