Maritz has announced a partnership with a satellite broadcasting company, Velocity Broadcasting, as the first prong is a new suite of technology services called Maritz LIVE (Local Interactive Virtual Events).

Maritz is developing relationships with companies on three other e-meeting platforms—telepresence videoconferencing, Web collaboration, and what they term totally virtual environments. The latter refers to the online trade show and meeting environments created by companies such as Unisfair, ON24, InXpo, and 6Connex. Maritz expects to announce its TVE partner in the next week or two, according to Chris Gaia, vice president of marketing, Maritz Travel.

The new suite of e-meeting tools is a direct result of customer demand at the St. Louis–based meeting and incentive giant. Last month, 15 percent to 20 percent of all Maritz Travel proposals included some virtual element, compared to only about 5 percent in April 2008, Gaia said. And in a Maritz survey conducted in January, Maritz asked customers what they were doing “to replace the communication that would otherwise take place through meetings and events.” Respondents, who were allowed to select more than one answer, said they were replacing some meetings and events with e-mail (69 percent), webinars (61 percent), virtual meetings (60 percent), newsletters (33 percent), intranet postings (30 percent), and blogs/social networking (12 percent).

The first Maritz LIVE partner, Pittsburgh-based Velocity Broadcasting, produces custom television programs and broadcasts them to a network of more than 100 sites. These include 80 boardrooms at Morton’s The Steakhouse restaurants around the country, which can each host from 10 to 50 attendees. Gaia says that Maritz’s added-value will be to wrap its meeting services expertise—on issues such as attendee management, speaker training, and content delivery in a virtual environment—around the satellite broadcast event, or any kind of e-meeting.