GETTHERE, B-THERE, ANYWHERE The latest dot-com pairing will have Westport, Conn.-based b-there.com (www.b-there.com) offering its meeting planner users the opportunity to add a direct link to the air-booking capabilities of Menlo Park, Calif.-based GetThere (www.getthere.com) at the event registration Web sites those users create through b-there.com.

GetThere, whose long-term goal is to offer travel reservations via direct connections with hotels and airlines, now offers most of those reservations through its connections with the major global distribution systems (GDSs) such as Apollo, Worldspan, and Sabre (which at press time was still in the process of finalizing its purchase of GetThere).

According to Jim Forberg, vice president of strategic marketing for b-there.com, the two companies have been working on the agreement for about six months, mostly negotiating a pricing plan for the service. "This completes our services with a travel function," he says.

A meeting planner user will pay a one-time setup fee of about $9,000 to incorporate the GetThere portal on the event registration Web site he or she would have created with b-there.com.

B-there.com will then charge a negotiated transaction fee for each air booking and pay a portion of it to GetThere.

Who pays that fee? "It depends on how the meeting planner wants to structure it," according to Forberg. Passing the fee on to the attendee is one option; including the transaction costs in the event budget is another. For more on these two companies and other players in the online meeting planning field, see "The Offline Guide to Online Tools".

Face the Camera Videoconferencing can't really substitute for face-to-face meetings, but it can help agents and employees feel connected to senior executives when the company is undergoing change - and these days, what company isn't?

"Whether you're starting to underwrite a new kind of business, or an acquisition is in the air, videoconferencing is an effective way to communicate subtleties and nuances," says Frank Carillo, president of Executive Communications Group in Englewood, N.J. (www.ecglink.com).

But communicating to an audience on camera requires a different set of skills, and a different wardrobe, than live presentations. Carillo, whose company teaches CEOs at Fortune 100 companies communication and presentation techniques, offers these tips:

- Don't wear black or white: White tends to glow too brightly while dark colors turn muddy. "You can't see the lapels of a black suit jacket, for instance," says Carillo. He recommends solid, toned-down colors like light blue, medium gray, tan, and cream that minimize the contrast between clothing items. "Sharply contrasting colors drive the camera crazy," Carillo advises.

- Look straight into the camera lens, speak slowly and deliberately, and don't let your eyes flicker. When your eyes move around, your brain processes what it sees and "ums and ahs" creep in to your speech. It takes practice to hold your eyes still. Do it when you're talking on the phone in your office by focusing on inanimate objects like doorknobs or light switches.

- Avoid reading from a teleprompter. Audiences don't feel special if they think they are being read to.

- Watch your gestures. Do spread out your arms to express a big idea. Don't make jerky body movements.

- Keep it short. One-way announcements from senior executives should last 20 minutes or less.

What makes a family-friendly company? Working Mother magazine bases its "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" list on five criteria: child care, leave for new parents, flexible work arrangements, work/life benefits such as elder care and adoption assistance, and opportunities for women. In addition to a good showing by financial companies on this year's list, Working Mother cited some specific examples from insurance giants such as Prudential, which saw a 20 percent decrease in employee absences after instituting job-sharing and flextime programs; and Allstate, which also offers job-sharing and telecommuting options. Prudential has even launched a program called "Daddy Stress," focused on balancing fatherhood and work.

Financial companies in the top 10 (in alphabetical order, followed by the number of years on the list):

- Allstate Insurance, Northbrook, Ill. - 10 years

- Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C. - 12 years

- Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C. - 7 years

- Lincoln Financial Group, Fort Wayne, Ind. - 14 years

- Merrill Lynch, New York - 5 years

- Prudential, Newark, N.J. - 11 years

Making the top 100 were 24 other financial firms.

When women make up the majority of membership in industry associations, it might seem redundant to create a separate advocacy group exclusively for women. Not true, says Christine Duffy, president of Philadelphia-based McGettigan Partners, one of the largest meeting management companies in the business.

"Women are not in the majority in holding senior level positions," says Duffy, who - taking a cue from other industries with similar groups such as Women in Film - recently established the Women's Meeting Industry Leaders Council. "There's a disproportionate number of men at the senior level," says Duffy, "and no one's disagreeing with me on that." One of her early conversations about the Council was with Meeting Professionals International's president and CEO Edwin L. Griffin Jr., CAE, who pledged his organization's support of Duffy's group.

Duffy launched the Council with some of her high-powered colleagues - including Charlotte St. Martin, executive vice president of Loews Hotels, and Dawn Penfold, president of executive search firm Meetings Candidate Network - during the MPI World Education Congress in Los Angeles this summer. The Council, which will include association and corporate meeting planners along with representatives from hotels, CVBs, airlines, and other meeting suppliers, established goals in five areas: education, recruitment, networking, promotion, and research.

"If you look at our industry," Duffy says, "there is no research on women, nothing to tell us what is the best segment for women, nothing on what are the best companies for women. And we want to recognize those companies that are walking their talk."

Jacklin Prerost, meeting planner at Zurich US in Schaumburg, Ill., recently won a free board meeting for her company at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World. Prerost's ballot was drawn at random from all of the Premium Circle ballots we received. A list of meeting hotels and resorts that earned the Premium Circle award by virtue of your votes appeared in the September/October 2000 issue of ICP.

Please watch for next year's ballot, which will appear in the March/April and May/June 2001 issues of ICP.

Jeffrey J. Maggerine, 32, sales manager for the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla., was killed in a car accident August 14 in Orlando in the midst of the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting and just hours before he was to participate in a press conference announcing the convention center's expansion plans.

Maggerine, who was the architect of a 25-year contract between the convention center and Reed Expositions representing about $2 billion in future business for the facility and the community, worked at OCCC for six years. Before that, he was director of sales and marketing for the Oncenter, Onon-daga County Convention Center, in Syracuse, N.Y.

For the 10th year, Anne Erickson, director of insurance sales for Boca Resorts, Inc., hosted her All Girls Meeting Planner Weekend at one of the Boca properties: the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla. Here, Anne and the group set sail for an evening of offshore networking.

MDRT Lists Top Companies - The Million Dollar Round Table has released its annual list of the insurance companies with the most MDRT members. Here are the top 10: New York Life, New York; Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, Milwaukee; Prudential Insurance Co. of America, Newark, N.J.; MetLife, New York; MassMutual, Springfield, Mass.; AXA Financial, New York; Sony Life Insurance, Tokyo; The MONY Group, New York; Prudential Life Insurance, Tokyo; and Lutheran Brotherhood, Minneapolis.

HelmsBriscoe, McGettigan Strike Alliance - Long-established meeting management company McGettigan Partners of Philadelphia recently announced an alliance with Resource One, the three-year-old meeting planning subsidiary of HelmsBriscoe, the fast-growing site-selection company. Christine Duffy, president and COO of McGettigan, says, "We have a sales force of 25, and HelmsBriscoe has 225, so this is great for us." Right now, McGettigan won't be adding any staff to accommodate the new business and instead will incorporate ResourceOne's clients into its existing structure, Duffy says. ResourceOne will remain headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The new Ritz-Carlton, Rose Hall is not only open but represents a renaissance for the island nation of Jamaica. While new to the island, the Ritz-Carlton, Rose Hall ownership is local to Jamaica and brings not only the distinctiveness of the Ritz-Carlton product, but also decor and appointments reflecting the beauty and zest for color of the destination.

This zest is also apparent in the service displayed by "ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." Staff smiles are contagious and genuine.

A three-day September program at the resort was a follow-up for some planners who had visited during a hard-hat trip last spring. Those returning were among 28 planners joined by a like number of Ritz-Carlton associates, along with representatives from the Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaican DMCs.

The business program included presentations by Jim Veil, Ritz-Carlton's regional vice president, and Jim Schultenover, vice president of sales and marketing, along with Doug Brooks, general manager of the new resort. Their combined message covered the growth of Ritz-Carlton organization, with a focus on the Caribbean and the specific mission of the Rose Hall in Jamaica. Along with the company's growth, they emphasized, is a continued focus on quality service.

Other highlights included bullet points on Project Ritz-Carlton, the company's 10-year plan, planner cellphones for on-site assistance, certification of local vendors in Ritz-Carlton locations, vendor training provided by Ritz-Carlton, and in-room motion sensors to determine occupancy. Theo Gilbert-Jamison, vice president of leadership development, shared insights into the Ritz-Carlton Learning Institute at the Leadership Center in Atlanta. Programs available to outside companies at the institute include Leadership, Legendary Service, and Executive Development.

Dennis Tucker, American Airlines, updated the group on new equipment coming online, expanded space in coach cabins, and more flights into both Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Bob Joselyn, Joselyn, Tepper & Associates, conducted an interactive session in which attendees produced, on paper and with local talent, video presentations selling the attributes of Jamaica's newest resort. The creativity and quality of the projects were a surprise to planners and partners alike - and to those recruited from the Rose Hall staff to assist.

Tracey Fentem, Rose Hall's director of marketing, kept the attendees and presenters in step with the agenda while allowing time for enjoyment of the facility and surrounding venues. Any great resort needs to be seen in relationship to its surroundings. The White Witch golf course, owned and operated by Ritz-Carlton; the Rose Hall Great House; Martha Brae River Rafting; Dunn's River Falls; and Rose Hall Beach Club all add to the impact of the Jamaican destination. The clubhouse at the White Witch course is a venue in itself. With Montego Bay airport less than a half-hour's drive away, duty-free shopping and Jamaican crafts abundantly available, the destination and the resort beg a virtual site visit at www.ritzcarlton.com.