Meetings will continue to fill conference centers in the coming years, but meeting participants will demand continuous contact with headquarters and affiliates all over the the world by e-mail.

So said technological guru Elliot Masie of The MASIE Center think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY, who held the nearly 500 attendees at the 16th annual meeting of the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) rapt with his predictions. Most learning will occur on the Internet, he said, allowing participation by those who can't attend meetings in person. Masie urged conference centers to add Internet access with enough bandwidth to handle users in guest rooms, meeting rooms, the lobby, and on golf carts.

The IACC meeting, held at The Woodlands (TX) Executive Conference Center and Resort in April, also featured David Arnold of PKF Consulting in Philadelphia, who told attendees that a "real" conference center must provide the kind of service and attitude that hotels, which try to satisfy many markets, can never provide.

Arnold, IACC's financial consultant, recommended, however, that conference centers expand their business by offering Complete Meeting Packages at a different price-value level for meetings that don't need "Ritz-Carlton buffets." Arnold also observed that conference centers are obvious targets for purchase by large chains and/or publicly held companies. "There are discussions going on as we speak about the acquisition of most major conference centers," he said, predicting that by next year's IACC meeting, many centers will be under new ownership.

IACC's 1997 Mel Hosansky Award, which recognizes an individual who has played an exceptional role in advancing awareness of IACC and the industry, went to Andy Dolce, president and CEO of Dolce International.