NICHED SITE SEARCH PHOTOZONE Sorting the hip from the hype in new CD-ROMs, Web sites, and books The Search Is Over Seems like there are search engines for just about anything these days. The problem with some of them, though, is that they are just a little too comprehensive. Say you're looking for a neat little teambuilding experience or a museum setting for a cocktail party. Do you really want to wade through 15,000 hotel listings to find to what you're looking for? Fortunately, you don't have to. Here are two nicely niched Web sites that cut to the chase.

Want adventure? Gorpgroups.com is a well-organized site, with 4,000 adventure travel listings and lots of ways to search through them to find the right dude ranch, wilderness lodge, or just about anything else that doesn't fall under the usual chicken-dinner-in-a-boardroom category. A search for horseback riding trips in the Rockies, for example, brought up 69 possibilities, all of which made this reviewer want to saddle up. The site allows you to search by a number of different parameters, from location to activity to type of facility, and includes an electronic RFP option. One other nice touch: A button on the index page enables you to have a live or e-mail chat with a travel expert.

Another niched search engine is brought to you by The Guide to Unique Meeting & Event Facilities, an annually updated directory of unusual venues. The 6,000 listings in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom range from castles to museums to mansions, with an emphasis on college meeting facilities. Its Web site, www.theguide.com, isn't flashy, but the info is laid out in an easy-to-use format. You also can post an RFP online and search through a hot rates/cool dates page for the latest deals. The site includes a Marketplace area where you can browse for products and services such as AV, entertainment, ground transportation, and even speakers.

This Clicks Photozone.com, a Seattle-based online event photography company, launched its Web site this summer. The site allows planners to request a photographer for an event, but more importantly, to have a password-protected area where attendees can view pictures and order prints.

Photozone has been shooting corporate events since December 1998, (the first was Amazon.com) but the online service was only officially launched in June. The site is easy to navigate and, except for pricing information, is a comprehensive look at the company's services.

The online demo does a good job of explaining the photo viewing and ordering process, but here are the basics: Your attendees log onto the Photozone.com Web site, enter an event-specific password, navigate through the categories of thumbnail photos, and click on a thumbnail to see an enlarged view.

If they want to order, visitors choose from three print sizes and specify whether they want color or black & white shots. They can pay by credit card or check; if the event planner wants to give photos as gifts, Photozone.com can distribute "electronic coupons" redeemable online.

The company says proof sheets are posted within 48 hours of an event, and orders are processed and mailed within one business day. For more information, visit www.photozone.com or call (877) 839-8900.

See Before You Buy Log on to branders.com, select one of 4,000 products, drag and drop your company or meeting logo onto it, and see what it looks like. That's what makes the site unusual in the world of online promotional products purchasing, says Dale Veno, vice president, sales and marketing.

Thinking of choosing a T-shirt? Drag your corporate logo over (as an .eps or .jpg file) and you can even check out the different looks offered by silk-screening vs. embroidery.

The site (www.branders.com) went live early this year and now has 10,000 registered users, Veno says. All items you find on the site are in stock and available. You can get a quote and place an order online.

If 4,000 products seems like too much to choose from, you can search the catalog by price range, type of meeting, or keyword.

And if you find yourself forgetting to order those logoed items before your user conference every year, that's where the company's recent partnership with EventSource (www.eventsource.com) comes in.

If you plan your meeting through EventSource, a site selection and RFP Web site, EventSource will help jog your memory. It will send you an e-mail reminder about your promotional items about 60 days before the meeting-with a link to branders.com.

We first reviewed www.meetingjobs.com - a site that specializes in employment offerings in the meetings and events business - in the July/August 1998 issue (that was our first issue, by the way) and at the time were impressed with its simplicity. Employers could post jobs and look at resumes. Job candidates could post resumes and look at jobs. The site was recently redesigned, and we're happy to report that the ease-of-use remains, even with the addition of some nifty features.

Job candidates can develop an online resume in different ways. They can use a resume-building feature or simply cut and paste from an existing resume into one of the online forms. Usefully, candidates have the option of masking their identities. Candidates can even chose what color background they want for their resume's screen display.

Employers, when they post jobs, now also get an in-box they can check for resumes. They can also conduct searches by keyword - selecting by title, geographic area, salary range, or just about any other criterion - and search a database of nearly 1,000 resumes. They can then send an e-mail message to the owners of the resumes that match the criteria. There is also a place for company profiles so employers can sell the benefits of working for their firms.

In addition to the basics of matching up job applicants and jobs, the site features links to existing online employment resources, including advice about negotiating salaries and writing resumes, relocation services, employment classifieds at major newspapers, and a cost-of-living calculator for figuring out how far your salary will go in, say, San Jose compared to Cincinnati (not very far!). One down-to-earth link is to a site that shows you how to keep your resume legible even when converted to ASCII format.

The site is getting about 9,000 hits a day, according to Dawn Penfold, CMP, president of the site's operator, The Meeting Candidate Network.