The Hickey Auditorium at the new Conference Center at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston is as slick a meeting room as you will ever see, with just about every high-tech presentation device known to man, and a few that are probably known only to the center's proprietors. So it seemed a bit ironic that the first images the center presented to the world at its grand opening on December 10 were definitely at the home-video level of production. They were powerful, though: a half dozen talking heads, all meeting planners and course directors, talking about what a great city Houston is for holding medical conferences.

In addition to watching endorsements of their home city, the audience of about 100 medical meeting planners, hoteliers, and physicians in attendance at the opening ceremonies heard from Eddie Webster, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and from Roy B. Evans, Jr., CAE, executive vice president of the Professional Convention Management Association. Master of ceremonies for the event was Debra Hall, convention sales manager for the Greater Houston CVB and spark plug for the Greater Houston Healthcare Congress, which helps Houston physicians promote their hometown as a medical meeting destination.

The opening of the conference center makes Houston an even more meeting-friendly destination for medical conference organizers. A 5,400-square-foot auditorium with tiered seating for 265 persons; a 3,600-square-foot ballroom that can be split into eight seminar rooms; and two additional meeting rooms, one with 520 square feet, the other with 800 square feet of space, join the original 300-seat Anderson Auditorium. All this is within walking distance of six hotels.

A description of the center's audiovisual and videoconferencing capabilities could probably fill this magazine. Suffice to say that first-time visitors are impressed and even made a bit nervous when they discover that those eight black rectangles hung from the ceiling of the ballroom are not radar detectors but video cameras that can be remotely operated to lower and swivel, the better to follow a speaker participating in a videoconference. The center's capabilities reflect the interest and influence of Jeff Rasco, CMP, marketing director for faculty educational resources at M. D. Anderson. Rasco's technological enthusiasms obviously carried a lot of weight during the center's planning cycle.

Impressive though the physical plant may be-not to mention its location in the middle of the Texas Medical Center-it is the services that come with the conference center that set it apart. Complete general conference management services-from putting together a budget to negotiating hotel room blocks to preparing advertising for a program-are all available, according to Chree Boydstun, CMP, director, office of conference services/faculty educational resources at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. For information about the center, call Boydstun at (713) 745-0433.