GIFTS TO GO CNET.COM Sorting the hip from the hype in new CD-ROMs, Web sites, and books Last-Minute Stuff Site Some genius product manager has just come to you with a request, since you're the kind of person who "knows where to find these things." He's holding a focus group with 15 people tomorrow and has just realized that he needs a nice thank-you gift for everyone. Nice, but not too expensive. Tomorrow. You look up from your pile of RFPs, say "www.epromos.com," and tell him to have a nice day. On such minor victories are good days built.
Epromos.com is a Web site where you can search for promotional items, gifts, and giveaways by key word, price range, and turnaround time. It is meant for people who need stuff at the last minute. It has a screen button for rush items, which leads to a list of 100 gifts that can be ordered with 24-hour turnaround time. The most expensive is an art deco-style alarm clock for $42.75; the most common (these guys know their audience) is the stress ball, available in 18 different guises including a heart, a dollar sign, and a cartoon character.
For those who plan ahead, hundreds of items ranging from hats and badges to toolkits and T-shirts are available within 72 hours. Since it is well known that the tech industry lives and dies with logowear ("It's not a career, it's a wardrobe"), the T-shirt selection is worth a look. Epromos.com offers not just shirts, but shirts compressed into such novel shapes as a race car, a dollar bill, a heart, or a compact disc.
A nice touch at the Epromos.com site is a screen button that says "learn." Click on it, and you're taken to a page of links to short essays on advertising, branding, and many other marketing subjects. Remarkably, these include links and phone numbers so you can contact the authors for additional advice.
Another nice touch is a toll-free telephone number on the home page, which you can call between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST to speak to an actual person about your rush order. There is also an instant-messaging feature that is supposed to connect you in chat mode with an operator, but when the site was reviewed, there was no one available with whom to chat. To learn more, visit www.epromos.com.
An Old Friend Gets Even Better Do you know who Douglas Englebart is? Your reviewer did not, to his everlasting shame. Englebart invented the device we know as the mouse. When he introduced the little gizmo at a demo in San Francisco in 1968, he also presided over a videoconference between San Francisco and Stanford University. Englebart's story, as well as a whole slew of links to information about him, are all available at www.cnet.com/techtrends/(click on digital culture).
Cnet.com has long been known for its impartial reviews and pricing of computers, peripherals, and related devices. Yet its Tech Trends site is a gold mine of ideas. A recent visit yielded thoughtful discussions of the ethics of Internet bulletin-board communities and pirating and copyright issues. It's not a bad place to troll for keynote speakers, either, with its Five Most Influential People In Computing (where Douglas Englebart popped up) and another feature called "The Decade In Computing."
Of course, Cnet.com is still tops at its original mission of providing information about new devices - and their prices. For example, if you're in the market for the NEC MultiSync XG85RP, at 72 inches also known as the Mother of All Video Display Screens, you'll find the specifications, the price, and a way to purchase one, all at one spot.
Geek-Free Web Site Advice Who is in charge of your organization's Web site? Who puts together the pages where attendees find out about your meeting, register for it, select sessions to attend, link to hotels and airlines, etc.? At last year's CEMA Summit, many marketing communications executives said these responsibilities would migrate out of MIS or IT and into their departments. Doubtless, one or two readers out there with event and meeting responsibilities are trying to duck the issue because they don't know beans about the way Web sites work. Fortunately, a new book will relieve them of their ignorance without making their eyes glaze over with page after page of HTML instruction. It's called Poor Richard's Web Site, by Peter Kent (2nd edition, Top Floor Publishing, Lakewood, Colo., $29.95), and it belongs on every Web-illiterate planner's bookshelf.
Kent, whose previous work includes the best-selling Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet, has set out to create a plain-English guide to creating a functioning Web site for people who don't know anything about how to go about it. In the process, he has created a valuable 448-page manual that will help event and meetings managers avoid being flim-flammed by people who would otherwise sell them the digital equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge.
For example, Kent discusses the eight options for placement of a Web site and describes how to choose the best one. He also shows how to go about choosing a Web-hosting service, and in the process shows the rather dramatic spread in prices charged. He shows how to conduct credit-card transactions over the Web without spending oodles of cash on specialized card processing services. He also takes the reader step-by-step through the options for registering a domain name (more nontrivial savings here), getting search engines to pick up your site, and helpful hints about figuring out how a visitor got to your site in the first place.
The best thing about this book is not that it will teach you how to build your own, functioning Web site - although it will do that - but that it will give you the wherewithal to ask intelligent questions and even argue with the folks who run the Web site in your company. For more, visit http://PoorRichard.com.
An old company (Baudville Inc., a 17-year veteran of the recognition products business) with a new Web site, www.baudville.com, makes sending thank-you and congratulatory notes as easy as following an impulse. Two things distinguish Baudville from other Web-based greeting card services. The first is that it sends cards directly through e-mail; recipients are not directed to a Web site to view the card. In fact, recipient Internet access is unnecessary. The second is that Baudville is dedicated to the recognition business. Its card designs aren't jokey; they're meant for business-to-business or employer-to-employee communication. Versions are available that arrive as reward coupons.
Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Baudville also markets a software product called Award Maker 2000 from its site. It comes with a selection of border graphics, seal graphics, and fonts for printing award certificates. Another package, Recognition FUNdamentals, provides certificate layouts, coupon graphics, and fonts. An online catalog offers a multitude of printed forms and such meeting necessities as tent cards, badge holders, badge stock, folders, frames, snap-together buttons, and stock for printing event tickets.
To learn more, visit www.baudville.com.