DOT-COM TARGETS SMALL MEETINGS MeetingXpress aims to distinguish itself in the crowded online meeting planning space by narrowing its focus. Its concept is the same as many other dot-coms - a Web site where planners can search a database of meeting properties and send RFPs. However, MeetingXpress (www.meetingxpress.com), which will begin beta testing in January, bills itself as the "small meeting solution," to be used for meetings of 100 rooms or fewer.
The MeetingXpress database will not be populated with every meeting property it can find, but rather with select properties from 50 U.S. cities. Each city will be represented by several hotels in each of three tiers (three-, four-, and five-star), for a maximum of 30 properties per city. The properties will pay for their listings, but the site's main source of revenue will be from commissions on the business it books. For the moment, that commission will be set at 5 percent, according to Eric Rosenberg, director of business development-technology for the Southfield, Mich.-based company.
Finally, the company will work with its "preferred network" of hotels to create Complete Meeting Packages for small meetings, similar to the all-inclusive pricing available at conference centers. The site's general release date is set for March.
Cooperative Philanthropy On October 30, a philanthropic experiment begins at SD 2000 East, the Software Development Conference & Expo (www.sdexpo.com). Taking advantage of the huge pool of talent among its 1,000 or so attendees, volunteers have been recruited to design - while the conference is going on around them - new software applications for a needy nonprofit. Before the meeting wraps up four days later, organizers plan to unveil a radically upgraded Web site for the San Francisco-based Hydrocephalus Association.
The undertaking, called the SD Project, evolved from a casual conversation at the speaker dinner during the last SD Conference. What if, asked speaker Ken Pugh, attendees' skills could be focused toward a charitable end? What if a "design clinic" had real life objectives?
Pugh's conjecturing got the idea off the ground, and SD 2000's program manager, Shabnam Malek, kept it moving. She began by finding a nonprofit in need of computer experts. While the search started on her conference Web site, in the end, she found the Hydrocephalus Association internally: The daughter of an employee at the San Francisco office of CMP Media, which runs SD 2000, is stricken with the condition.
Meetings with the Hydrocephalus Association identified the goals of the project: Among other improvements, visitors to the new Web site will be able to make donations online, request brochures, register with the organization, and visit a chat room. And an enhanced visitor database will be searchable and comprehensive.
Malek has reserved an extra room at the meeting site, the Washington, D.C., Convention Center, and outfitted it with five networked computers. While only eight or 10 developers will be hands-on for this first design effort, the room will be open to anyone who wants to watch the process unfold. Pugh will serve as a team leader and technical consultant.
Is all that work too much to ask from volunteers at an industry meeting? Malek hopes not. "It's going to be difficult. We're winging it this first year."