The partnership of site selection firm HelmsBriscoe and online meeting management firm StarCite pairs two fast companies to create a new business model--"bricks and clicks," in the words of Roger Helms, HelmsBriscoe president and CEO.

StarCite (www.starcite.com), launched late last November, features a searchable database of hotels and meeting suppliers, electronic RFPs, access to a management application that allows a company to consolidate meetings data, a meeting auction function, and other services. The partnership with HelmsBriscoe, which last year booked groups into 4,300 hotels, is like working with a giant company that has 209 meeting planners--a ready-made group of users and eyes for the site's advertisers.

For HelmsBriscoe, StarCite offers sophisticated "back-end" technology to track client activity, store RFPs, create reports, and do budgeting at a private, customized site. StarCite makes this data easily shared among HB associates.

HelmsBriscoe is now the preferred site selection resource at the StarCite site. For HB, that means exposure to potential new clients. For StarCite, it's a way to offer users access to HB's expertise and buying power. Hotel commissions generated from meetings booked by HB associates through StarCite leads will be shared by StarCite and HB.

HB associates may also use StarCite's online auction capability. When a meeting is booked that way for an existing HB client, HB receives its full 10 percent commission. StarCite, which usually receives up to $3.90 per room night from the "winning" hotel, will waive that fee for hotels with which it has a marketing agreement when those hotels are paying a 10 percent commission, according to Tom Flanagan, vice president of marketing.

The way Helms sees it, the proliferation of online site search options strengthens the position of third-party companies. Rather than try to keep up with it all, he says, planners can make one call--to an HB associate. "The choices are getting confusing," he says. "Outsourcing is growing by leaps and bounds."

fast facts Online Technology ... * ... has had no effect on the event planner's job 4%

* ... has helped in submitting Requests for Proposals 60%

* ... makes finding room rates and airfare deals easier 60%

* ... makes booking rooms and flights easier 42%

* ... has had no effect on negotiating contracts 75%

* ... has helped to locate new vendors 70%

Source: An anonymous survey of 200 meeting and event planners conducted by NetReflector and sponsored by the Plansoft Corp.