PlanSoft's completely redesigned meeting planning Web site has a new address: The updated site is one of a host of products from Cleveland, Ohio-based PlanSoft Corp. that are in "advanced stages of development," says Ed Tromczynski, the company's president and chief operating officer. "We couldn't call them all 'PlanSoft,'" he quips. Hence the rebranding of the site, the first of many upcoming products to be "brought to you by PlanSoft."

The newest of those products is Meeting Management Solutions, a set of customized, online tools aimed at professional planners at large corporations and associations. The new tools will reside on customers' customized sites, which can be set up on an intranet, extranet, or the Internet. What's new here is the ability to track meeting management and spending throughout all divisions of a company. Meeting Management Solutions adds this functionality to the site selection/RFP capabilities users will still have access to via mpoint.

A fee structure for the customized sites is still being worked out, according to PlanSoft spokesman John Opdycke. There will be a setup fee, which will include the site customization and training of an organization's users. Ongoing support may be available for an additional fee. PlanSoft also is looking at charging a per-meeting fee to the customer rather than charging a commission to the hotel.

Easy Online Comparisons As for the redesigned site, one of the biggest changes is in the property search function. Instead of filling in numerous search criteria, you get instant results after just one field is filled in. You then continue to narrow your search with each new field you fill in. This "step search" method was designed to ensure that a user never gets a "zero" result. It is also meant to make it easier for less-experienced, occasional planners to use the search tool. Experienced searchers may find it exasperating to have the site go off and start searching when the only criterion entered is "Northeast"; however, you can eventually drill down to the list you want, and PlanSoft's individual property listings are still the best on the Net. And PlanSoft recently added the option of keyword searches, so you can search for a particular property from the get-go.

Another highlight of the new site is the comparison page: choose up to eight properties and have their vital stats displayed simultaneously in columns across your screen.

The site's other content also has been updated based on planner feedback, and includes a job board, five discussion forums each moderated by an expert, and lots of how-to articles. These elements are particularly important for developing an interactive community of planners at the site, Tromczynski says.

For more on PlanSoft and other meeting planning sites in cyberspace, check out "The Offline Guide to Online Tools" on page 55. You'll also find an expanded version of the guide at our Web site: