METCON (the Meetings and Exhibitions Technology Conference)--the first joint meeting of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)--provided a forum for meeting planners frustrated with the future of meeting technology. A fitting symbol of that frustration was the announcement during METCON, held April 9 to 11 at the Rosemont (IL) Convention Center, of more delays in the release of PlanSoft's

Ajenis software for the electronic exchange of meeting information between planners and hotels, now planned for a summer release.

Meanwhile, after a breakup with the PlanSoft Ajenis Limited Partnership, Arthur Esch, chief scientist for Maryland-based Meetings Exchange, Inc., announced that Meetings Exchange, a Web site where planners can connect with convention and visitor bureaus, hotels, and suppliers of all kinds of meeting-related services, was to go online May 1 at http://www.mxi.net.

Sounding off at Friday's general session, attendees and panelists 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, marketing 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. "We need to link these three associations and provide a common platform."

Taking up that theme, Taylor announced that the Unity Team, composed of representatives of several meeting industry associations, would meet to discuss standards May 29, during the Greater Washington (DC) Society of Association Executives Springtime in the Park trade show.

METCON drew nearly 500 participants, including 206 meeting planners/association executives and 224 suppliers. Next year's METCON is set for April 1 to 3 at the Sheraton Gateway Atlanta Airport and the Georgia International Convention Center.