Imagine more than 200 event management and business templates available at the click of a mouse — everything from meeting checklists and event specification guides to housing forms and name badge templates — all capable of interfacing with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and incorporating the meeting industry's best practices.

You're not dreaming: On June 29, the Convention Industry Council released APEX OfficeReady, an application that brings to fruition the hours of labor industry volunteers have put into the Accepted Practices Exchange over the past four years to standardize meeting planning practices, processes, and forms.

At the heart of the tool are the customizable event-specification guide templates, consisting of the narrative, schedule, and function orders of an event. While both the ESG and the post-event report templates are already available in Word and can be downloaded for free from the CIC Web site, they are incorporated into OfficeReady, which automatically generates files as you enter an event's information, which can then be e-mailed to a hotel. The APEX Glossary is also part of the tool set.

The program has been developed in partnership with KMT Software of Cambridge, Mass., which offers templates for a variety of office uses through its Web site, TemplateZone.com. Once a user registers for the program, he or she will receive updates — including templates and RFPs for working with any service provider, and accepted practices in contract language — as each APEX council completes its work.

Hotels and suppliers in the industry are also recognizing the efficiencies that OfficeReady's uniform documents can bring to the table. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has purchased 4,000 copies to distribute to its clients, and many other vendors have agreed to make large purchases, according to Mary E. Power, CAE, president and CEO of CIC.

Technology experts from the major meeting hotel chains, convention and visitor bureaus, facilities, and meeting management and hotel management software companies all sit on the APEX Technology Advisory Council, headed by E.J. Siwek, president, FlashPoint Technologies. They meet regularly, says Siwek, and are the driving force behind the OfficeReady product. The council is developing a comprehensive data map and associated XML language for use by industry developers that will parallel the forms contained in the tool set.

That means that within two years, all the meeting data that a hotel or facility must now re-key when a planner sends it will be seamlessly communicated between the two parties.

“It may seem a little bumpy right now,” says Mickey Schaefer, CAE, chairman of the APEX commission and president of Mickey Schaefer & Associates, LLC, Tucson, Ariz. “But it will transform the industry.”

For more information or to order a copy for $99.99, visit www.conventionindustry.org.