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Click, Don't Call INTRANET SITES PROMOTE PLANNING DEPARTMENTS When Conseco Inc. launched a site for its Travel & Event Services division on the corporate intranet two years ago, it also started a new company policy: All requests for meetings at Conseco's in-house conference center in Carmel, Ind., had to be received online. During the first nine months of this year, about 2,000 meetings were held at the conference center, all resulting from intranet requests.

"I would need a staff of 20 people taking reservations all day long to handle that by phone," says Linda Bourbonnie, vice president, Conseco Travel & Event Services. The site has grown to include reservation forms for outside meetings as well. Although online requests are not mandatory, she notes, "we'd like to see as many outside meetings as possible booked through the intranet because of its efficiency."

Prudential's Minneapolis-based meeting department launched its intranet site as a way to introduce the department and its services to the company's far-flung employees, many of whom plan meetings at one time or another. "A lot of people don't know we exist, or if they do, they don't know how to find us," says Lisa Brighenti, associate manager, meeting management.

The site includes a history of the department, testimonials from executives, and a list of department services. Anyone with a meeting to plan fills out a meeting request form that includes, in addition to contact information, the purpose of the meeting, the budget, number of attendees, preferred dates and location, and what kind of communication has already gone out to attendees about the meeting. The site is promoted through internal communication vehicles - e-mail and print newsletters, and a "quick links" section of the intranet.

Similarly, Nationwide Insurance, Columbus, Ohio, put a link to a meeting request form on its intranet site in mid-1999. The form asks for all the details of an event, from billing information to food and beverage requirements. "It gives us everything we need to start a site selection," says Heidi Bails, marketing and contract administrator for Nationwide Meeting & Conference Services (which is set up like a vendor to the parent company). After people fill out the html-formatted form and click "send," it generates two automatic e-mails: a thank-you to the client and a copy of the completed form to Bails.

So far this year, Bails has received about 10 online meeting requests, and she expects more in the future. "We're just starting to heavily promote the site as a one-stop shop for our services," she says. "As more people see how user-friendly the process is, the more our intranet meeting requests should increase."