The World Wide Web is like a huge reference library that's always open. The only problem is, someone has taken all the books and thrown them on the floor. Plug into your favorite search engine and type the words "meeting planning." Our editors did, and they ended up with 271,843 Web addresses that contained these words. A search with the word "hotels" yielded even more: 292,009.
If you're looking for meeting-planning information on the Web, using a search engine can be little more than an exercise in frustration. As the Internet is "organized" now, anyone coming upon a useful Web site for meeting planning is probably finding it by chance.
But no longer. Here you'll find 50 sites, selected for their meeting planning information. Note: Some of these sites are here by virtue of their unrealized potential. The Web is changing daily, and while we stand by our recommendations, we realize that our picks will be out of date in six months.
Don't like to type in Web addresses? Neither do we. Go straight to http://www.meetingsnet.com, where you'll find all these URLs at Insurance Conference Planner's own Web site. One click, and you're there. We are constantly searching for new links, so check in often!
General Meetings Industry 1. Meeting Guide (http://www.mmaweb.com/meetings/) The Workshop page at this site has a downloadable agenda form and a room size calculator that will estimate the square footage needed based on your number of attendees or exhibitors. The Guide has elementary information about planning a meeting. There is also a supplier directory and a chat area.
2. International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) (http://www.iacvb.org) This is the online version of IACVB's printed directory listing convention and visitor bureaus in more than 48 countries. Links to those bureaus that have home pages are incorporated as well.
3. International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) (http://www.iacconline.com) A complete directory of IACC-approved conference centers worldwide, searchable by map, meeting criteria (geography and size of group), or keyword, plus a member directory and a little soft-sell on the virtues of conference centers.
4. International Congresses Sites (http://www.congresses.com) This site lists more than 3,000 international congresses and almost 500 congress venues located worldwide. There is also a listing of professional congress organizers (PCOs) and other congress-related organizations.
5. American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) (http://www. asaenet.org) More than 1,300 member associations are linked to this site. The ASAE Marketplace includes a convention center and bureau directory, plus the Who's Who in Association Management Buying Guide, the Technology Solutions Directory, and a guide/directory to association management companies.
6. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) (http://www.mpiweb.org) This site offers industry news and a Resource Center (including a calendar of MPI events); a useful list of all MPI chapters, with contact name, phone, fax, and, in some cases, e-mail address; and a membership application that you can fill out and submit online. There's also a searchable database of MPI supplier members. Click on the Legislative Issues icon for links to home pages for the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the White House, and the Library of Congress.
7. Meetings Industry Mall (http://www.mim.com/) This is a site still waiting for its content to catch up with its excellent concept: a one-stop site for finding hotels, resorts, CVBs, convention centers, and a wide range of services from audiovisual suppliers to packing and mailing houses and tradeshow management firms. When we clicked on convention centers, though, only 19 showed up, and the bulk of the hotel listings are for site sponsor Doubletree's properties.
8. DMCNet (http://www.dmc-net.com/) A list of destination management companies in the U.S. and 70 other locations around the world, this is the most comprehensive list of DMCs and ground operators on the Web (there are 145 U.S. entries). There are also links to CVB sites. A site search engine seeks information by country, city, or keyword.
Trade Shows 9. http://www.tscentral.com/) This site's Trade Show Directory is comprehensive and detailed. Search by tradeshow name, category, or date to get summary information on more than 30,000 shows, seminars, and conferences. Web page creation service is offered, too.Central (
10. Cyber-Centre.com (http://cyber-centre.com) Companies that have exhibits at their meetings can add online value by creating a virtual exhibit hall at this site. When we visited, there were only six meetings posted on the site, but they were all interesting, and their on-screen presentations were all decidedly different.
General Travel Information 11. Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com/) While there is no detailed information about meeting facilities here, this site is a must for the sheer volume of information about destinations, ranging from the usual hotel listings to a list of special events--and contact phone numbers--for major U.S. cities.
12. TravelWeb (http://www.travelweb.com/) Here you'll find information on meeting facilities at hotels, including the number of meeting rooms and the size of the ballroom. Best of all, you can search hotels in a city by room rate. A flight search service lists available flights and offers the chance to make reservations online.
13. City.Net (http://www.city.net) Detailed city maps showing hotel
and restaurant locations are the main attractions at this subset of the Excite! search engine. There is also a "concierge" service that links to other sites by category, e.g., food and drink directs you to the Zagat Web site (see site 25).
14. Hotel Anywhere! (http://websites.earthlink.net/~hotelanywhere/) A huge grab bag of more than 27,000 links to travel-related home pages, including hotels, car rental companies, airlines, cruises, travel specialists, travel publications, and travel news groups. It's not slick, not well maintained (many links don't work), but as the slogan says, if it's out there, it's in here.
15. Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com) Mapquest's Interactive Atlas allows you to find any place in the world while TripQuest provides city-to-city driving directions for the U.S. and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Hotel Chains 16. Doubletree Hotels (http://www.doubletree. com) In addition to an easy-to-use directory, there is a group meetings icon. Click on it to get to a meeting specification form. The directory is organized by state and city. Each property has detailed meeting room information, including a schematic. Driving directions to the hotels and a link to a weather service are nice touches.
17. Hilton Hotels Corporation (http://www.hilton.com) There's a meeting planning page with a very short form asking Web surfers about their meeting needs, along with a toll-free number to call for meeting planning service. A nice touch: The Web site has a virtual concierge. Click on his picture and a search engine pops up, allowing you to more easily navigate the site.
18. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts (http://www.hyatt.com) Reservations and property search for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts worldwide. Meeting space information is very detailed, offered through a link to TravelWeb (see site 12).
19. Marriott Hotels and Resorts (http://www.marriott.com) Search the directory listing for Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inns, Fairfield Inns, The Ritz-Carlton, Conference Centers, and Vacation Clubs. The Conference Center page offers a search engine for finding the combination of facilities and amenities you want.
20. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (http://www.shangri-la.com) Go to the directory to find properties by country and city. Meeting information is found at each hotel. Meeting space descriptions range from lists of rooms with dimensions to more elaborate presentations. Some, like the Kowloon Shangri-La, let you look around inside the ballroom, lobby, and a guest room. Caution: This virtual site inspection feature takes a few minutes to download and requires special software (downloadable from the ballroom page).
21. Holiday Inn Select (http://www.hiselect. com) Only a handful of Holiday Inns have opted to participate in this site, which is too bad: It has detailed meeting room information and a virtual site inspection feature that gives you a 360-degree view of a Holiday Inn conference room. Again, the virtual feature takes a while to download.
22. Crowne Plaza Hotels (http://www.crowneplaza.com) This site's meetings area has an RFP (request for proposal) form. For details on meeting rooms, visitors must go to the individual hotel sites, which are geographically searchable. A few of the hotels will eventually have downloadable brochures.
23. Sheraton Hotels (http://www.sheraton.com) Sheraton Hotels, The Luxury Collection, and Four Points Hotels by ITT Sheraton have listings that are searchable by location or hotel brand. View property photos, maps and directions, and very basic meeting room specifications online.
24. Westin Hotels & Resorts (http://www.westin.com) An attractively designed site, but not a lot here specifically for meeting planners. Listings for Westin properties are organized by location. Special features of the site include news about the company and a couples-oriented page of special offers organized by property. There's a link for Westin's One-Stop small meetings service, but it only guides visitors to an 800 number.
Food and Beverage 25. Zagat Dining Guide (http://pathfinder.com/@@vfBExAYApUOb4xTm/Travel/Zagat/Dine/index.html) This site lists restaurants in the Zagat Survey of America's Top Restaurants. Includes famously reliable information on restaurants in 30 U.S. cities, plus the Zagat Survey of America's Best Meal Deals.
Airline Companies 26. American Airlines (http://www.americanair.com) This is the most densely packed of the airline sites, offering a list of cities served, flight schedules, fare quotes, up-to-the-minute arrival/departure times and gate information, cargo information, reservations phone numbers, and ticket office locations.
27. Continental Airlines (http://www.flycontinental. com) Continental's Online Travel Planner directs planners to the MeetingWorks and GroupWorks pages, flight schedules and fares, and a list of domestic and international destinations.
28. Delta Air Lines (http://www.delta-air.com) Flight schedules, reservations, cargo information are available. Click on "for businesswomen" for a link to the Executive Woman's Travel Network, a joint venture with American Express.
29. Northwest Airlines (http://www.nwa.com) Check flight schedules and availability, arrival/departure times, and weather at your destination (with links to The Weather Channel and other weather sites).
30. Southwest Airlines (http://www.iflyswa.com) Southwest's table of contents makes it easy to locate the site's group travel information, meeting program page, and links to hotels in all cities served by Southwest.
331. United Airlines (http://www.ual.com) United Airines' site has nifty graphics, but no clear path to the listing of group travel information. At the search engine, enter key word "group rates" to locate meetings information.
32. USAirways (http://www.usair.com) The meetings and conventions page lists ten reasons for traveling on USAirways, including special rates, bonus tickets, and customized promotional material.
Travel Services 33. Foreign Languages for Travelers (http://www.travlang.com/languages/) This site provides translations of basic words, numbers, times, dates, and travel phrases into 34 languages. There are also numerous links to foreign language dictionaries, general travel information, and pages about language courses.
34. Global Emergency Medical Services (http://www.globalmed.com) Enroll here for MEDPASS, a program that provides access to a help desk that assists travelers by phone with medical problems and refers emergencies to doctors and facilities in more than 180 countries. Fees start at $75 a year.
35. Travel Warnings and Consular Information (http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html) The U.S. State Department issues warnings for international destinations that they recommend American travelers avoid. Also useful: Consular Information Sheets, available for every country, with information on the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, health conditions, political disturbances, and unusual currency and entry regulations.
36. U.S. Passport Service (http://travel.state.gov/passport_services.html) Lists of local passport agencies, downloadable forms, and information on documenting citizenship or getting certified birth certificates are located here.
37. VISA Expo ATM Locator (http://visa.infonow.net/usa.html) Someone always needs to know where the closest ATM machine is. Find out before you go to your meeting. Enter your location (street address) and the site will tell you the address of the nearest ATM.
38. MSNBC Weather (http://www.intellicast. com) This is the most user-friendly weather site we found. Enter a state and city, and get a four-day forecast.
39. Xenon Currency Converter (http://www.xe.net/currency/) This easy-to-use Universal Currency Converter allows you to perform foreign exchange rate conversions online.
Products and Services 40. FedEx (http://www.fedex.com) Track your FedEx packages (just type in the tracking number) or open a FedEx account online. Especially useful: If you need to find a FedEx box, type in a city name or zip code and the system gives you the addresses for the closest drop-off locations.
41. United States Postal Service (USPS) (http://www.usps.gov) A post-office locator (enter an address and the system reports the post office that delivers its mail) and express-mail tracking (just enter the tracking number) are nice to have, but the postage calculator and Zip+4 lookup are essential.
42. InFocus (http://www.infocus.com) Rent overhead projectors, computer screens, or more sophisticated multimedia meeting equipment at this site. You can complete entire transactions online if you can tell what you're ordering by looking at pictures or if you know the model number of the device you want.
43. PC/Nametag (http://www.pcnametag.com) A leading source of meeting supplies in North America, this electronic catalog features a wide selection of name tags, badge stock, meeting management software, and various other meeting materials. One nice feature: Place your order online, and PC/Nametag will ship your materials directly to your meeting site.
444. Promotional Products Online (http://www. promomart. com) Need some inspiration for the next promotional campaign? This site has an "Idea Store," a database of case studies searchable by the type of promotion (product introduction, recognition, etc.), by the target audience, or by industry (insurance, advertising, healthcare). In another database, search for the promotional products themselves alphabetically (bathrobes, blankets, bookmarks. . .) or by category.
45. PCR Personal Computer Rentals (http://www.pcrrent.com) Need ten personal computers for a meeting in Sacramento and don't know whom to call? This national rental company will handle the entire transaction from the Web or with a call to a toll-free number. They also operate local franchises around the country.
46. 1-800-Flowers (http://www.800flowers.co) Search for florists by occasion, price, or product category (flowers, roses, plants, gift baskets, balloons, etc.), and then view the item that will be sent on your behalf.
Speakers 47. Greater Talent Network (http://www. greatertalent.com) The GTN Online search feature lets you browse a catalog of speakers by topic. There are six topic areas. GTN has fewer speakers than other speaker sites, but there are some big names.
48. National Speakers Association (NSA) (http://www.nsaspeaker.org) The NSA's Directory of Professional Speakers is searchable by topic, state, and city. Nice feature: The Web site offers a directory for meeting planners--it can be ordered by calling a toll-free number.
And You'll Also Want to Check Out . . . 49. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm) The official U.S. Department of Justice's home page on the Americans with Disabilities Act. The site features state and local build codes, and new and proposed regulations.
50. golfcourse.com (http://www.golfcourse.com)