It was a kickoff that favored a show of friendship over high-tech glitz. Standing on a plain stage, R. William Taylor, CAE, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) president, and Roy B. Evans, JR., CAE, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) CEO, smiled, shook hands, and with much mutual ribbing, opened METCON (the Meetings and Exhibi-
tions Technology Conference)--the first joint meeting of ASAE and PCMA. Held at the Rosemont (IL) Convention Center from April 9 to 11, METCON's atmosphere got a lot more serious as planners expressed frustration and anger about the future of meeting technology. (See cover story, page 22.)
Confused by the proliferation of competing products that promise solutions to everything from site selection to convention housing, attendees and panelists at the second general session underscored the desperate need for industry standards. "Associations such as ASAE, PCMA, and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) have to provide leadership," declared panelist Ed Paradine, former brand vice president, Marriott Convention & Resort Hotels, and now general manager, market vice president with the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. "Those associations have to come in without a profit motive and decide on a common highway," he continued, drawing audience applause. "Roger Dow once said the toughest ship to sail is a partnership," Paradine went on. "We need to link these three associations and provide a common platform."
Taking up that theme, Taylor announced that the "Unity Team," composed of MPI, ASAE, PCMA, International Association of CVBs, and International Association for Exposition Management representatives, would meet to discuss standards May 29 during the Greater Washington (DC) Society of Association Executives Springtime in the Park.
METCON attracted 478 participants, including 206 planners/association executives, 224 suppliers, and 48 guests (Chicago-area PCMA and ASAE members invited to tour the exhibit area). Organizers were pleased with the turnout and will offer METCON again next year, April 1 to 3, at the Sheraton Gateway Atlanta Airport and Georgia International Convention Center. Changes will be made based on feedback. For example, 30 percent of audience members polled during the second general session felt that workshops were too basic. Next year's sessions will be tracked by level of difficulty.
ASAE's R. William Taylor, left, and PCMA's Roy B. Evans, right, share a historic handshake at METCON's opening session.Ajenis Delayed, Meetings Exchange
Set to Launch
A fitting symbol of the frustration displayed at METCON was the announcement of further delays in the release of PlanSoft's Ajenis software, with its promise of planners and suppliers electronically exchanging all their meeting information and requirements. Current prediction? Product modules of the software will become available this summer, according to PlanSoft's Ed Tromczynski, who characterizes the process as "evolutionary delivery."
Tromczynski expects software testing to continue into the summer, including a possible live test by Marriott.
Individual copies of the software for planners probably will be priced at under $500, according to Tromczynski, and substantially more for network versions for hotels. "But we're not in a selling mode yet," he cautions.
Meetings Exchange, now known as MXI.NET, a Web site where meeting planners can do in-depth site visits of cities, hotels, and other suppliers, was scheduled to be launched on the World Wide Web May 1 at http://www.mxi.net, according to Arthur Esch, chief scientist for Maryland-based Meetings Exchange, Inc. The site is to incorporate Optimum Settings, a combination computer-aided drawing and event scheduling/budgeting program created by CEO Software, Tucson, AZ, for planners to use in creating banquet event orders (BEOs); HotelView, a service providing full-motion video of hotel properties offered by HotelView Corporation, Boca Raton, FL; a custom meeting resume creation service; a site database; and a meeting industry news service called @MXI Tribune.
The site's software will work with standard Web browsers, standard communications protocols, and both PC and Mac platforms. Online, full-motion video will be available only to those planners using cable modems or those who are able to download files via satellite; for everyone else, video will be supplied via CD-ROM.
Passkey Promises to Ease Housing Woes
Passkey, a new system for automating housing, caused yet another stir at METCON, with planners questioning whether the product was being positioned as a competitor to the newly launched, and IACVB-endorsed, THISCO UltraRes.
The answer is "No, no, no," clarifies Robert W. Motley, president of the Cohasset, MA-based Passkey Systems, and a 25-year hotel industry veteran.
THISCO UltraRes is an automated data transfer system, which allows housing vendors to download rooming lists directly into participating hotels' databases. (See March/April News, "IACVB Endorses UltraRes Convention Housing System," page 16.)
Passkey, however, is an interactive, centralized data base, explains Motley, which will allow housing vendors, meeting organizers, and hotels access to a meeting's reservations information. All parties can share information past the troublesome cutoff date and until the day of arrival. Planners will be able to get pick-up reports any time they choose, and by checking an alphabetized list of attendees, will be able to catch those who are holding multiple reservations. And convention histories will be available the day a meeting leaves the hotel, not weeks later--and will be more accurate.
Delegates will benefit as well. Viewing a map, attendees can choose the hotel room of their choice by comparing rates, locations, and amenities. Another advantage, says Motley, is attendees can deposit their money directly into hotel accounts.
He plans to market the system to whomever is handling convention housing, whether the CVB, the meeting organizer, or a third-party vendor. The cost will range from $3 to $6 per consumed reservation, with no charge for cancellation. Front-end costs will depend on the systems the housing vendor has in place.
At press time, Passkey was preparing to start beta testing with 30 New Orleans hotels and three housing companies. Motley hoped to complete beta testing by the end of May.
As for THISCO UltraRes, Motley says he can download housing data to the hotel through UltraRes, if that is the data transfer system the hotel is using. Will he go after endorsements like the IACVB endorsement of UltraRes? He is presenting his product to industry associations in the hope they will endorse it as "a good way, but not the way," he says.
Meetings Industry and BMI Forge New Music Licensing Agreement
A new music licensing agreement has been reached between the music and meetings industries, simplifying the reporting process and reducing costs for associations. Industry organizations--Meeting Professionals International (MPI), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Professional Conference Management Association (PCMA), and the Religious Conference Management Asso-
ciation (RCMA)--all collaborated in negotiations with Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI). Retroactive to January 1, 1997, the new agreement halves the rate for live performances at meetings and conventions: Where live or recorded music is played, rates will be five cents per attendee, with a cap not to exceed the event's total registration. Those rates are set through the year 2000; after that there may be increases based on a Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment. The minimum rate for a licensinghas been decreased from $175 to $100. The annual reporting and payment form has been simplified and fits on a postcard.
Planners will no longer have to worry about what music they can use and when they need additional licenses. Every licensee will receive a CD-ROM catalog listing all BMI-licensed music. The CD-ROM will be updated quarterly; for weekly updates planners can check BMI's Web site at http://bmi.com.
This agreement is separate from the 1990 meetings industry agreement with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). No negotiations are planned for a new agreement.
Destination Orlando: Radiological Society Breaks 82-Year Tradition
Since its founding in 1915, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Oak Brook, IL, has held the majority of its meetings in Chicago. Now, it is leaving home. RSNA has booked Orlando as its convention site for 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007. The reason is simple--the organization has outgrown Chicago's room capacity. "We need 22,000 rooms," says RSNA's Michael P. O'Connell, director of meetings and convention services. "Chicago has about 25,000. Orlando has a pool of 81,000 hotel rooms." And Orlando anticipates adding 3,000 to 4,000 more rooms in time for the convention.
The RSNA convention, the world's largest medical meeting, draws more than 65,000 delegates from more than 100 countries.
First-Time Event Draws
Some 75 people attended the first Beyond Borders Conference, an educational forum for planners and suppliers of international meetings, incentives, and events, held at the New York Hilton in March.
Co-sponsored by Adams/Laux Publishing Company, publisher ofand four other meetings magazines; and PGI, a , entertainment, exhibitions, and business communications company headquartered in Arlington, VA, the conference was a spin-off of Adams/Laux's popular Beyond Borders magazine supplement on how to plan international meetings and incentive travel, published annually in June.
Meeting planners, who represented at least 50 percent of the attendance, came from as far as Michigan and Ontario, Canada and from a cross-section of Adams/Laux's readership, including, on the medical side, Cambridge Healthtech Institute, McGettigan Partners, and the American Chemical Society. Virginia Lofft, vice president/publishing director of Adams/Laux, and C.B. Weismar, senior vice president, corporate marketing and communications, PGI, opened the conference with congratulations for attendees on their forethought in entering the international meetings arena.
A dozen topics were covered in the day-and-a-half seminar, presented by experts in the field, including Anne Boehme, CMP, president of Meetings & Management Plus and conference chair, who spoke on preparing yourself and your attendees; Jonathan Howe, Howe & Hutton Ltd., who spoke on currency management and negotiations overseas; and Kathleen Papadimitriou, president, Safaris/PGI, who spoke on coordinating transportation overseas.
Another conference sponsor, Shangri-La Hotels, with deluxe properties throughout Asia, provided registration materials, including a bound workbook and a copy of Axtell's Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World.
Based on attendee reaction and comprehensive evaluations, Adams/Laux plans to hold the Beyond Borders Conference annually. --Betsy Bair
IACVB Prepares for First
Industry Conference in
China-Controlled Hong Kong
Embracing Change," the theme of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus' (IACVB) upcoming annual convention scheduled for July 19 to 23, is particularly appropriate, say organizers, as the conference will be the first hospitality industry meeting to be held in Hong Kong following its reunification with the People's Republic of China.
While there is no doubt that the timing is fascinating, IACVB's choice of Hong Kong as a destination has caused controversy because of the expense entailed in attending. IACVB's 1993 convention in Nice, France failed to attract enough members to hold a quorum. The bylaw requirement has been eliminated, but the contention continues.
"We went into this knowing not everybody can travel to Hong Kong, for a lot of reasons," acknowledges Michael J. Wilson, IACVB board chair and president of the Greater Cincinnati CVB. "But as an international association we have a commitment to take our meeting offshore every four years. Hong Kong will reinforce dramatically the fact we are indeed a global marketplace. People must be thinking and acting globally in order to compete. I would envision in ten years that meetings in Hong Kong and other similar destinations will be quite commonplace."
The convention will also make history because it is IACVB's first formal joint meeting with the Asian Association of CVBs (AACVB). AACVB changed the dates of its meeting to forge the partnership.
At press time, IACVB had not yet sent out registration packets, but word-of-mouth response has been positive, asserts Karen Jordan, IACVB president and CEO. "About 225 people have said they are absolutely, positively interested," she says, adding that both smaller bureaus
and larger ones have expressed interest.
Two smaller bureaus that are not attending are Wichita, KS, and Oklahoma City. "Anytime a bureau in our budget category leaves the country, it's got to be for a really great reason," says Don Jaeger, director of marketing with the Oklahoma City CVB. Even some larger bureaus that are attending are sending fewer people. The Greater New Orleans Tourist & Convention Commission usually sends six sales managers in addition to sales execs, but will be sending only three executives. William C. Peeper, CEO and executive vice president, Orlando/Orange County CVB, usually takes one staff person with him; he will attend alone.
Another roadblock to attendance is the conflict with ASAE, scheduled for July 26 to 29 in Chicago. "A couple of our key members are going to be unable to attend both," says Jordan. "I hate that. I really hate that."
Conference sessions at IACVB will follow the theme of globalization, focusing on international marketing. At the Asia Pacific Destinations Showcase, a "tabletop", bureaus will have the opportunity to display light exhibits and meet about 100 prospective buyers from the Pacific Rim.
NEMICE: Biggest Ever
The 1997 New England Meetings Industry Conference & Exposition (NEMICE) drew more than 1,200 attendees to the World Trade Center Boston in April--the biggest NEMICE ever.
Among the highlights attracting more than 500 meeting planners: a lively, informative keynote from Richard Whiteley of The Forum Corporation, a Boston-based consultancy; several educational sessions on legal issues, planning basics, and small-meeting tips; some 350 exhibiting companies; a live and a silent auction; and, last but not least, a free lunch.
Whiteley spoke on customer-centered growth, highlighting the performance of such customer-focused and employee-
focused companies as Saturn, Southwest Airlines, and New England's own Malden Mills. "We're in a period of massive change," he said. "And it's not going to go back to calm." The challenge for organizations is to maintain their "laser focus" throughout the turmoil.
Following the keynote, Scott Corey, past president of the New England chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and director of marketing for the Sonesta Beach Resort Bermuda, presented the first-ever NEMICE Founders Award to Michael J.C. Neagle, vice president, The Bay Tower Room & Club in Boston. Corey thanked Neagle for his efforts to get NEMICE off the ground and build it into the nationally known trade show it is today.
Hilton Launches Hot Dates and Group Reservations on the Web
Planners booking one-hotel meetings at Hilton properties will soon be able to use the chain's Web site for registration. Currently in a soft launch, the service is slated to be up and running by the end of July, allowing attendees to make online reservations using their conference code and receive immediate confirmations. Hilton, which plans to have the service available at all its facilities, will assign a specific place on its Web site for each group.
Another new service on the Web site, just launched, lists value dates available at all Hilton properties. Currently, only dates are listed, not rates, and dates are posted 30 to 45 days out. The service will probably evolve to include percentage discounts, and dates a year out.
Both services are in the section of Hilton's Web site dedicated to groups, at http://www.hilton.com.
Conferon Offers Reservations
on the Web
Now, Conferon clients can offer their attendees an extra perk--the option to register for meetings via the Web. Since December, Conferon, an association and meeting management firm based in Twinsburg, OH, has provided groups with Web sites tailored to their meeting needs. Attendees can register, select sessions, and reserve rooms on the secured site. The site can be expanded, if the client wishes, incorporating brochure pages, for example. The cost of the service varies, and is figured into the overall bid.
Cancellations are handled via phone or mail. However, the site does process reservations booked after the cutoff date, automatically adjusting prices. There is also a place on the site for registrants to enter special requests, such as early arri-
vals or late departures.
The service, at http://www.signupcenter. com, has been used by the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the National League for Nursing.
IACC Keynote: Conference Centers Must Stay Connected
Meetings will continue to fill conference centers in the coming years, but meeting participants will demand continuous contact with headquarters and affiliates all over the world by e-mail.
So said technological guru Elliot Masie of The MASIE Center think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY, who held the nearly 500 attendees at the 16th annual meeting of the International Association of Con-
ference Centers (IACC) rapt with his
Masie urged conference centers to add Internet access with enough bandwidth to handle users in guest rooms, meeting rooms, the lobby, and on golf carts.
The IACC meeting, held at The Woodlands (TX) Executive Conference Center and Resort in April, also featured David Arnold of PKF Consulting in Philadelphia, IACC's financial consultant, who recommended that conference centers expand their business by offering Complete Meeting Packages (CMPs) priced for meetings that don't need "Ritz-Carlton buffets." He observed that conference centers are obvious targets for purchase. "There are discussions going on as we speak about the acquisition of most major conference centers," he said, predicting that by next year's IACC meeting, many centers will be consolidated under other ownership.
Andy Dolce, president and chief executive officer of Dolce International, received IACC's 1997 Mel Hosansky Award, which recognizes an individual who has played an exceptional role in advancing awareness of IACC and the
An IACC scholarship fund was set up to honor Doris Sklar, the longtime General Electric meeting professional who died in an accident last October. The scholarship will be awarded to a student in New York University's Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Travel Administration, where Sklar was an instructor.
Healthcare Industry News and Ideas for Medical Conference Organizers
What was that about "the money stick?" In the ongoing debate over whether CME can be used to change physician behavior, one commonly heard bromide is that all it takes to get physicians to change the way they do things is to reimburse them differently. Well, maybe. In a study of physicians who received reimbursement for delivering babies, those who were paid the same amount whether they presided over vaginal delivery or cesarean sec-
tion did not decrease the
rate at which they performed c-sections. According to a report in Research Activities, the newsletter of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the lower pay was apparently not enough to offset "the opportunity costs of waiting out a difficult labor, the fear of malpractice suits, and the impact of a bad outcome on self-respect, reputation, and long-term profits." The question for CME professionals: Had continuing education been thrown into the mix, might the results have been any different?
o Postgraduate Institute for Medicine has been reaccredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to sponsor CME for physicians for four years. The Institute, based in Englewood, CO, is also approved by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education as a provider of continuing pharmaceutical education for pharmacists.
Show me the money: The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing and the American Nurses Association have released a study that describes the role of nurses in ambulatory care, as opposed to hospital care. Nursing in Ambulatory Care: The Future is Here discusses the skills nurses need to participate in ambulatory care, and makes pointed reference to the use of "unlicensed assistive personnel" in ambulatory care settings. You have to admire associations that go after their members' pocketbook issues this way.
Responding to treatment: The American Academy of Psychoanalysis (AAP) has created a new
category of membership, allowing psychiatrists who are not active psychoanal-
ysts but have a strong inter-
est in the field to join the organization. Advances in antidepressants and related medications may lead psychiatrists to discount the
benefits of psychoanalysis, according to Douglas H. Ingram, MD, AAP's president-elect. AAP doesn't believe it is a good idea to abandon the field to drugs, no matter how efficacious. Realizing that psycho-
analysis is a difficult discipline, AAP wants at least
to get the message of the benefits of psychoanalysis
in front of the psychiatric community.
Next Boomer trend? By 2020, according to a study by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education, the number of people with paralysis, deformity, or orthopedic impairments will increase by 25 percent from present levels. Problem: Orthotists and prosthetists, the therapists who work with people who wear braces, artificial limbs, and other such devices, aren't licensed anywhere except New Jersey. If this is going to be a growth business, however, expect practitioners to seek legitimizing credentials. Could this be an opportunity for medical conference organizers? The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA), a trade organization, has 1,600 member companies--each one a potential underwriter for an educational course. AOPA and INTERBOR, its international counterpart, will hold the XIV INTERBOR World Congress in Boston, July 14 to 17, 1999.
Congratulations to the American College of Cardiology (ACC), winner of the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association Best Prospectus Award for 1996. Sue Sears, ACC's director of meeting services, accepted the award at the Professional Convention Management Association meeting in San Antonio earlier this year.
Abstracts on the Web: The International Society of Refractive Surgery (ISRS) claims to be the first association to allow its members to submit abstracts via the Inter-
net. In addition to simplifying the submission procedure, ISRS says using the Net to submit abstracts is "a tremendous asset to our global members who experience extreme difficulties from the length of time involved in overseas mailing." Visit the ISRS site at http://www. isris.org.
o A model for a practical CME Web page: Visit the home page of the Univer- sity of Florida CME Depart-ment at http://www.med. ufl.edu/cme. There are no fancy graphics, but there is a lot more than just a meetings calendar: The best part may be the page of approval forms and documents, where course directors can download disclosure forms, a standard letter of agreement, and a program approval checklist that asks for information about needs assessment, educational objectives, proposed evaluation methods--in short, the Accreditation Council for CME's seven Essentials.
Nelson Mandela will head a list of luminaries participating in Empowerment of Health, a medical conference put on by the International Medical Exchange, in cooperation with the National Medical Association from October 5 to 11 at Sun City, South Africa. The conference will bring together private and public sector officials, including senior health officials from 14 Southern African countries and the United States, to discuss salient issues and solutions related to quality healthcare delivery in the Southern African region. For information call (804) 644-7756 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
o Economics and ethics: The Seventh World Congress of Intensive & Critical Care Medicine begins on June 29 at the Ottawa Congress Center in Canada. While
this quadrennial meeting's formal program is still called "Scientific," and there will
still be research and clinical programs, the conference's theme has to do with economic and ethical issues of intensive care. Among the featured speakers: Daniel Callahan, PhD, a medical ethicist and author of the recently published The Troubled Dream of Life:
Living with Mortality (Simon & Schuster). As part of the conference, the American Association of Critical-
Care Nurses will host an international summit of critical-care nurse association leaders.
o Looking for a European medical education and communications partner? Blackwell Healthcare Communications in London offers assistance in medical conference educational design and implementation for pharmaceutical firms and medical associations; they can also help with conference promotion to European audiences and logistics. One notable current project is the Tricontinental Investigative Dermatology Congress, to be held in Cologne next year. For information, call David Williams or Clare Carolan in London at 011-44 (0) 181-840-1115.
o Guess it really isn't that far away: Brisbane, Australia, will host the Society of International Oncology Paediatric Conference in 2001. Approximately 1,500 delegates are expected for the five-day meeting. The Aussies are proud to have overcome concerns about distance, beating a bid from a North American city.
VOLTS Launches Virtual Medtrade
VOLTS (Virtual Online Trade Show Company), which began operation last May, launched its first virtual show recently, an online version of Medtrade, the largest healthcare products trade show in North America.
The site, at www.medtrade.com, allows attendees to access product information (including pictures) and place orders year-round. Visitors also can register for next year's show, and get information on travel and hotel reservations. During its first quarter, Medtrade received 8,500 hits, says Tom Mitchell, managing partner of the
Show producers can pass on the costs to exhibitors, who pay less than $2,000 for the first year, and $1,000 a year thereafter, or they can pay some of the upfront costs and receive a commission back from VOLTS, according to Mitchell. Show organizers and exhibitors do not need any specific technology, although e-mail capability speeds inquiries and orders from attendees, Mitchell explains.