THE WORD FROM METCON: BECOME "E-CENTRIC" "The Internet is painfully slow," acknowledged Arthur G. Esch, chief scientist, Professional Convention Management Association and chairman, Executive Services, Ltd. in Leonardtown, Md. But the "world wide wait," as he phrased it, will soon be over.

During his keynote address at the opening session of METCON '98 (Meetings & Exhibitions Technology Conference), held in Atlanta in the spring, Esch explained that technologies are not only emerging, but converging, and that organizations must take advantage of new technological capabilities in order to remain competitive. The change will be radical. One big, speedy, interactive digital network, Esch predicted, will replace televisions, radios, and computers as we know them today. The meeting and hospitality industries, which have remained "print-centric," will have to catch up, he said, as more and more business is conducted electronically.

But no matter how fast or stimulating, technology will never supplant face-face meetings, Esch reiterated. Responding to an attendee from Alaska, who asked, "When will I be able to go to METCON without being here [physically]?" Esch stressed, "We will always have meetings in person. The challenge the industry faces is how to merge electronic and in-person meetings so that they appear seamless."

METCON '98 drew 447 attendees to the Georgia International Convention Center, College Park, Ga.Metcon '99 is scheduled for March 23-25 at the Wyndam Anatole Hotel in Dallas.

EIBTM CONVENES IN GENEVA The largest-ever European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition took place in Geneva, Switzerland May 12-14, with 2,400 exhibitors and 7,500 attendees from 108 countries.

In the opening session, Piergiorgio Togni, general manager of the Italian State Tourist Board, called for more accurate data representing the size of the international meeting market. Recent statistics from the World Tourism Organization cited an annual growth rate of 2.7 percent, larger than that of the general tourism market. But the only organization that tracks international tourism is the Brussels-based Union of International Associations, and it tracks only a few thousand events--"a small part of a far greater phenomenon," said Togni.

New this year at EIBTM was a security clinic, where attendees could speak with security experts about protecting attendees from theft (93 percent of visitors to the booth had attendees who had been pickpocketed, or had their laptops or other personal effects stolen). Other topics covered at the clinic included how to protect a high-profile event from demonstrations or terrorism, how to protect a company from industrial espionage, and how to combat vandalism.

According to a survey of EIBTM attendees, the "hottest" destinations right now are Central and North Africa, Southeast Asia (despite recent economic troubles), Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Monte Carlo, Scandinavia, Turkey, and South Africa.

Once again, EITBM announced its "Greening of Tourism" award winners, with The Algarve Tourist Office taking the top prize for its extensive environmental enhancement campaigns of the past 18 months. Other winners: Silja Cruise Line, Grecotel Hotel Group, ICC Durban Conference Center, Curacao Convention Bureau, and Northwest Airlines.

A new green award was announced this year--"Innovative use of Technology for Protecting the Environment"--and the winner was Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra, Australia.

FYI * Brand new:www.SupplierFinder.com is being billed as the world's largest database of incentive, meeting, and promotion marketing suppliers. The site includes the e-mail addresses of more than 2,000 suppliers sorted by roughly 700 merchandise and 30 travel or meeting services categories.

* Looking for a technology speaker? A new videotape showcasing eight speakers, all members of the National Speakers Association, as they presented live at METCON (the recent Meetings and Exhibition Technology Conference), is available free by contacting Marlene Brown at (315) 853-1318 or at marlene@technotouch.com

* Looking for a site for a business meeting? Another online option is http://NOWWWBusinessMeetings.com, which lists information on more than 34,000 hotels and venues worldwide. A highlight: Detailed data on 2,000 of these--with everything from size of rooms, to in-room facilities and access, to info on climate, currency, local airports--is available.

CORRECTION In the May issue's Tech Talk column, we incorrectly listed the address of a Web site. It is http://everythingemail.net/ also accessible as: http://www.everythingemail.net/

Corporate Meetings & Incentives! Once again, Corporate Meetings & Incentives is the winner of an Editorial Excellence Award from the American Society of Business Press Editors. The honor went to one of our long-time contributing editors, Roberta Reynes, for a profile she wrote in May 1997 on an employee empowerment program at Ericsson. The ASBPE awards ceremony was held in early June in Washington, D.C.