• High-Tech Center in Australia's Outback

    About 130 delegates and journalists from all over the world attended the Australian Tourist Commission's Dreamtime trade event from September 14 to 18 at the newly opened Alice Springs Convention Centre in Australia's Red Centre. And more than 40 incentive and meeting firms in Paris previewed the event remotely, through a video link that demonstrated the center's high-tech capabilities.

    The Northern Territory's first purpose-built convention center is sited at the foot of the dramatic MacDonnell Range. Virtually in the shadow of these ancient mountains, the largest conference room accommodates 1,200 people theater-style and 780 banquet-style, with room for another 500 in an adjacent space. Designed on a grid system for maximum versatility, the conference rooms can be rapidly reconfigured for different sized events. For more information, visit www.alicespringsconventioncentre.com.au.

  • Tech+Talk $9.95

    Marriott International, Inc. announced a new service in September called “Wired for Business,” which gives guests high-speed Internet access and unlimited local and long distance phone calls within the U.S. for $9.95 per day. The program is only being offered at the company's 30 Washington, D.C., properties, including Marriott and Renaissance hotels and select Courtyard, Residence Inn, and SpringHill Suites hotels. However, Marriott says it is considering expanding the program to other markets.

  • HB/StarCite Tool

    HelmBriscoe, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based site selection and meeting planning firm, has teamed up with StarCite to create a customized online site search tool for its 400-plus sales associates. Philadelphia-based StarCite (www.starcite.com) has tailored its Online Marketplace, which allows users to search for sites and send electronic RFPs, to allow Helms Briscoe's preferred suppliers and contacts to come up first, enabling sales associates to take advantage of those relationships to find the best deals for their clients. With the custom system, HelmsBriscoe associates will also have access to reporting tools that detail the company's spending by meeting, supplier, or chain — again, strengthening their negotiating position.

  • Global Cellutions

    Will your cell phone work in Geneva? Singapore? Buenos Aires? Maybe, maybe, and maybe. Is it a tri-band or a dual-band phone? Is your service provider working on the GSM standard? Is this way more than you want to think about?

    If you need to stay connected during international meetings, a London-based company called Hirefone rents cell phones on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis for just about any corner of the globe. If your own handset is compatible, Hirefone also sells SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) cards, which are a little like prepaid calling cards but they also identify you to a particular country's telephone network.

    Hirefone's handset rentals start at $39.95 a week, according to Maria Granata, operations manager North America, based at the company's U.S. operations in New York City. Inquiries can be sent to the company from www.hirefone.com.

  • MeetingSmith

    This new Web-based management tool for events that include extensive one-on-one meetings allows planners to promote an event (via e-mail), register attendees, and follow-up afterwards, 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 all the time slots when the particular seller is available. The system was created by The Prism Partnership, Boston (www.theprismpartnership.com).

  • Deciphering Your Technology Options

    EventCom Technologies, a division of Marriott launched in April 2001, recently published a 51-page handbook, Meeting Professional's Guide to Technology. Filled with tips, checklists, and easy-to-digest advice, the guide serves as a solid introduction to a variety of meeting technologies, including chapters on videoconferencing, audioconferencing, satellite broadcasting, Internet meeting options, and wireless technologies.

    While the primer, in general, avoids discussing the downside of any technology, it is noteworthy for its clarity. The guide is written entirely in laymen's terms, but includes a glossary of 136 technical phrases that are likely to come up in the planning process, everything from “active satellite” to “white boarding.” A chapter on planning strategy supports the technology chapters with a look at production issues such as timelines, lighting, projection, and other challenges of a technically enhanced meeting.

    EventCom, which serves as a tech consultancy for Marriott meeting clients as well as a single point of contact for multi-property technical events, is providing the guide for free. Order it at www.eventcominternational.com.

  • 3M Digital Wall Display

    This presentation tool combines the features of an LCD projector, digital white board, and multimedia system in one 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.

  • Selecting Dining Events Online

    EZ Event is 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 back 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 actively looking at other markets that use dinner meetings on a regular basis, including financial services. Companies pay a quarterly fee to have access to the database and its reporting functions.

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