ASAE POINTS TO THE FUTURE Usually, when someone gives you a single-finger gesture, it's not a good thing. But at this year's American Society of Association Executives Management & Technology Conference and Exposition (ASAE M&T) in December, the staff members waving oversized pointing fingers were a welcome sight to the 2,332 attendees who otherwise may have had a difficult time maneuvering their way through the myriad meeting rooms spread throughout the newly renovated Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Now Washington, D.C's largest hotel, it was a fitting host for ASAE's conference, and for the exposition, which with 190 exhibiting companies was the largest M&T expo yet.

A quick wander around the expo floor made it clear that, despite the daily death tolls for dot-coms like eSociety, the future still lies in cyberspace. Reps from companies offering everything from e-procurement to e-registration to e-verything you can imagine were tapping out demos on ubiquitous laptops, and the buzz was all about how to make these fast new tools work for bureaucracy-heavy associations, which prefer to study, research, and analyze before leaping into action at cyberspeed.

But it can be done, and meeting planners are at the forefront of the charge to the Internet, with 98 percent already using the Web, according to a recent ASAE/PlanSoft study. For example, Michele Fetsko, associate director, conventions and meetings with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, said in a panel discussion that her group streamlined the call for papers and abstract management aspect of her meetings by creating an abstract management administrator system that enables potential speakers to do it all quickly online. (See MM June 2000, page 10).

The most critical point emphasized in sessions, however, was that associations had to identify what they offer that no one else does - programs and services, political and lobbying savvy, an intense commitment to a common mission - and translate that into a Web site so strong that members will use it as their preferred portal.