Last fall, EventSource.com became the first site to host a live, online meeting auction, where a meeting manager acted as the "seller" and hotels were "buyers."

The process is "a real-time bidding war driven by dynamic pricing that lets market forces take their course," says Ed Sarraille, the company's president and CEO.

EventSource makes its money on the auctions by charging a standard 10 percent commission to the winning hotel.

Certain criteria qualify an auction candidate: the meeting must be fewer than 180 days out, it must involve only one city, and it must use a minimum of 50 room nights on its peak night. When the meeting planner gives the go-ahead for the auction, EventSource distributes the specs to properties whose location, facilities, and general rate structure could meet those specs.

"Hotels look at the criteria and then RSVP to us," Sarraille explains, characterizing his company as the go-between. The EventSource database lists more than 11,000 properties, each of which has paid a one-time membership fee.

Also before the auction, the planner decides whether to designate the low bidder as the "winner" or to select the winning hotel based on factors other than price alone.

EventSource assigns each hotel a paddle number, just as the big auction houses do, but in the EventSource version, hotels don't know whose paddle belongs to whom, although they do know who is participating.

Pam Taylor, meetings and training director for Colorspot Nursery in Pleasant Hills, Calif., recently put a training meeting up for bid on Event- Source. "It was a little hectic, but the [EventSource] staff was very helpful. The whole thing was done in 15 minutes and I didn't have to get in contact with all those different hotels," says Taylor, who plans to use the EventSource auction again.

EventSource.com also has recently launched Event Tracker, offering planners personalized Web pages that continuously update the status of their open RFPs. Event Tracker also sends an e-mail alert when a new bid is posted, and saves RFPs to be used as templates for future events. The service is free to Event- Source customers.