Meeting Professionals International's Professional Education Conference (PEC), held in late January in Vancouver, is a perfect example of how in-person meetings can never be replaced by technology. A technology education track and a live Webcast of the opening and closing sessions were evidence of how important technology has become to the meetings industry, but the experience of the record-breaking 2,185 attendees networking, learning, and being inspired--not only by dozens of excellent presenters but by the awesome beauty of the British Columbian coastline--could hardly be replicated online.

At the meeting, MPI announced new business alliances with several technology partners: PlanSoft Corp., Fusion Productions, broadcast.com, and Eastman Kodak Company.

PlanSoft, creators of the PlanSoft Network (an online database of 5,000 hotels, convention bureaus, and related services) and Ajenis (software that provides a direct link between planners and hotels for communicating every phase of planning), has developed a private labeling agreement with MPI, called TechEdge. Visitors to MPI's Web site now have immediate access to the PlanSoft database. Hotels that are members of MPI and purchase the enhanced PlanSoft service (online floor plans, pictures, etc.) receive a discount, as well as an icon designating MPI membership. Using PlanSoft's electronic ROI service, plan- ners can also send specs to hotels on the database and receive responses by e-mail, fax, or phone.

Fusion Productions, the Webster, NY-based production/event company and creator of MPI's Web site (www.mpi.org), is offering MPI members discounts on Web-related services, including Web site development.

MPI also announced that Eastman Kodak Company has become "an affinity partner," introducing MPI's 16,000-plus members worldwide to its digital imaging technologies, products, and services. Kodak will use MPI members as a focus group to develop new presentation products.

Finally, MPI has an exclusive partnership with broadcast.com, the company that broadcast highlights of the Vancouver conference live on the Internet. MPI members now get a 10 percent discount on a variety of the company's Webcasting services.

MPI announced the winners of its Global Paragon Awards, which recognize innovation and creativity in meetings: The 1997 Apollo Travel and Technology Conference held in Chica-go won for meetings with expenditures of more than $1,000 per attendee. (Expenditures do not include transportation costs.) And, for meetings of $1,000 or less per attendee, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions and L&M Production Design won for its 30th Annual Convention & Trade Show held in Vancouver, in 1997. Chapter of the Year awards went to the Sacramento chapter and the Southern California chapter. --Betsy Bair

Last issue we reported on the Computer Event Management Assocation's new executive director, and we need to do it again. Trin-ette Cunningham has been named to replace Leigh Walker, who left CEMA for personal reasons after a brief term. Cunningham most recently served with the Pennsylvania Municipal Authority Association as director of member services. She will use that experience to work on membership and member services at CEMA, as well as overseeing the association Web site, the CEMA Communicator newsletter, and event planning. In her previous job, Cunningham counted planning of a three-day trade show among her responsibilities. She can be reached at (978) 443-3330, ext. 1228; cema@ndegree.com. In April, look for registration materials to arrive for CEMA Summit '99. The annual meeting will be July 27 to 30 at Chateau Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

Tired of searching for a quality DMC every time you take a conference to a new destination? Chris White, founder, chairman, and CEO of the recently launched Global Events Partners (www.globaleventspartners.com) in Washington, D.C., says he has a solution. Twenty-four years ago, White founded the Krisam Group, a hotel rep firm, and now he's applying that concept to DMCs.

White has formed a consortium of 24 (eventually 50) independently owned DMCs from around the world, and plans to promote the GEP brand as a place to find a consistent level of high-quality service. "We all recognize the power of global branding to reach corporate America," White says. "It's kind of like McDonald's."

Why a DMC consortium? Planners today want tailor-made events, but they way they organize them is backward, White says. Planners tell him, "We want to spend $3 million to bring our best clients to London." Wrong approach, says White. "Start with, 'We want to entertain our best clients.'" Once objectives are set, GEP comes back with proposals from sites that fit the bill.

The service is free to planners. Member DMCs pay a monthly marketing fee, plus an incentive based on the value of the business GEP refers to them. White would not reveal exact figures. GEP also has vendors as allied partners. Caribiner (event production), Coach USA (bus transportation), Carey International (limousines), Keith Prowse Americas (a ticketing agency), and Advantage International (which books athletes), have all signed on. GEP is also negotiating with GES Exposition Services. Extending the one-stop-shop, White has hired Krisam's sales force to represent GEP. (Krisam is now managed by White's son.) White allied with Conference Direct, the Los Angeles- based site selection firm formed by ex-Hilton exec Brian D. Stevens.

The one-stop-shop trend is growing. Production Group International, an Arlington, Va., conglomerate of production companies, DMCs, and trade show organizers, has taken the same approach. Will GEP compete with PGI? Says White, "There's no question we will." --Tamar Hosansky

Need to brush up on your meeting management skills, but don't have time to leave the office? No problem. The American Society of Association Executives just launched its newest DesktopASAE course--Effective Meeting Skills. The three-hour program, which you can take in increments to suit your schedule, covers basic conference planning techniques plus tips for improving the quality of your programs.

The course costs $10 and is open to members and non-members. To register, visit ASAE's virtual campus at www.asaenet.org/Education/Desktop/index.html. Internet Explorer users need to download Microsoft's JavasScript and make some setting changes explained at the site.