The Best Damn Guide To Meetings Technology, Period

When it comes to technology, a meeting planner must make order out of chaos. The evolutionary arc of technology -- from pipe dream, to prototype, to cutting edge, to indispensable, to obsolete -- is alarmingly swift. That's why this snapshot of the chaotic world of meetings technology is valuable; it imposes order on a messy situation, and gives you a map so you can get where you're going. The last thing a planner needs is to have the success of a meeting riding on technology that is in the wrong part of the developmental pipeline.

This guide offers a selection of a few dozen of the top meetings technology tools, across five different categories, from plasma monitors, to hotel purchasing programs, to customized event guides for handheld computers and much more. It illuminates each product in terms of features, notable users, and pricing, and even provides expert analysis and contact information for sales. All you have to do is make the call (or visit the Web site). These tools could save you money, or improve the quality of your next event.

Meetings Management and Consolidation

In the old days, technology used to manage meetings, which meant it helped out with any number of the tasks meeting planners do every day: submitting RFPs, making budgets, diagramming rooms -- the list goes on and on. Nowadays, everybody wants to talk about meetings consolidation. Most products here both manage and consolidate meetings.



The Gold System by Isis

Features: Covers almost every aspect of meetings management, from site selection to budgeting to online registration. It's software based, so most of it sits on your own server. Clients: New York Life Insurance, Pepsi-Cola, and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
SM says: Isis is one of the oldest, most highly respected names in meetings technology. Since it's software, you must pay extra attention to maintenance. Pricing: The software starts at $12,000. There are other fees for reporting, maintenance, etc. Contact: www.isisgold.com, (201) 337-8115.

Meeting Management Solution by PlanSoft

Features: All-in-one online approach includes sourcing, budgeting, planning, attendee management, and reporting on customized Web sites. Clients: Allstate Financial, American Heart Association, Anheuser-Busch
SM says: PlanSoft is a survivor of the dot-com bust and a veteran in the ever-changing meetings business. You can count on their widely adopted tools to be around for a while. Pricing: Ranges from $25,000 to $500,000. Contact: www.plansoft.com, (877) 405-5553.

Meeting Planner Plus by Certain Software

Features: This desktop application includes attendee registration and management, sourcing, calendars, room diagramming, and reporting. Clients: American Advertising Federation, FILA USA
SM says: This software-based application has a nice range of features, including seating charts and timelines. Pretty cool. Pricing: List price is $3,995, plus $750 for additional users. Contact: www.certain.com, (888) 237-8246.

OneForm by B-there

Features: All-in-one online package covers sourcing, meetings policies, meetings calendars, budgeting, and customized Web sites. Linked to the popular B-there online registration tool. Clients: Nortel, Procter and Gamble, Aetna
SM says: OneForm was just launched in the last quarter of 2002, but the buzz in the industry is that B-there's bid for planners' meetings management dollars is hard to beat. Pricing: Licensing starts at $10,000 and implementation costs at least $10,000, plus other fees. Contact: www.b-there.com, (877) 828-4373.

Procurepoint Enterprise Meetings

Features: Specializes in procurement of housing and event space from a database of 37,000 hotels, using electronic RFPs and online reverse auctions where suppliers bid for your business. Clients: Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Newell Rubbermaid
SM says: Procurement and commodification are concepts senior management can relate to, and ProcurePoints' strength is that it facilitates this kind of purchasing. Pricing: Annual licensing fees start at around $20,000, in addition to bundled transaction fees. Contact: www.procurepoint.com, (877) 492-9100.

SeeUThere MeetingView

Features: One-stop Web-based enterprise solution includes tools for consolidating meetings, meetings management, attendee management, and data analysis. Clients: Caterpillar, NCR Corporation, Seagate Technology
SM says: Like its competitor B-there, savvy seeUthere is a highly respected registration company with ambitions to meetings management. Pricing: Setup and subscription starts at $20,000. Contact: www.seeuthere.com, (408) 562-1090.

Starcite Integrated Meetings Platform

Features: Web-based system consolidates and manages meetings with tools for online procurement and RegWeb attendee management. Clients: Campbell's Soup, MasterCard, HelmsBriscoe
SM says: Coming from StarCite, this product covers a lot of bases and allows for customization, Web fares, reverse auctions -- the works. Pricing: Starts at $25,000, including licenses and transactions. Contact: www.starcite.com, (888) 354-4689.



Online Registration and Attendee Management

In the early days of online registration, vendors simply made it possible for attendees to register for events online. Now they've branched out into attendee management, offering more services than ever.

ARM by B-There

Features: Online registration for meeting sessions, housing, and travel. ARM also features reporting and e-marketing capabilities. Clients: Nortel Networks, the American Cancer Society
SM says: These trusted registration stalwarts say ARM helps minimize the risk of attrition by keeping meeting-goers in the block -- the only suppliers who mentioned the "A word" to this reporter. Pricing: Setup fee that includes training is around $10,000, plus $2 to $7 per transaction. Contact: www.b-there.com, (877) 828-4373.

CVent Online Registration

Features: Online registration, e-marketing, sales, and reporting. Clients: Meeting Professionals International, McDonald's, Hilton, NASDAQ
SM says: Cvent handles online registration for almost every major industry association and some corporate heavy hitters as well. The company also helped pioneer pre-event e-mail marketing. Pricing: $2,500 annual fee, plus $5 to $15 per registrant. Contact: www.cvent.com, (703) 226-3660.

Isis GoldReg

Features: Web-based event registration, registration for individual sessions, e-mail communications, room-block management, standard and customized reporting. Clients: Starbucks, Pepsi-Cola, Carlson Wagonlit Travel
SM says: Isis GoldReg is a newer addition to Isis' highly successful Gold System, which was first introduced in 1996. It's a very solid product. Pricing: $4 transaction fee. Contact: www.goldreg.com, (866) 752-6684.

Register123 V.3.0

Features: Web-based system handles registration, fee processing, reporting, data management, e-mail marketing, and housing. Clients: Pizza Hut, Accenture, George Little Management
SM says: Register 123's affiliations with its sister company Certain Software and housing gurus Passkey make it an attractive choice. Pricing: Up to $10 per registration. Contact: www.certain.com, (888) 237-8246.

SeeUthere Enterprise

Features: Registration, housing, travel, and marketing. Clients: Prudential Financial, HSBC
SM says: This mature offering from the survivors at seeUthere is loved by many in the industry. Pricing: Typical implementation with 100 meetings would range from $60,000 to $80,000. Contact: www.seeuthere.com, (408) 562-1090.

StarCite RegWeb

Features: Web-based registration, e-invitations, reporting, housing, travel, and payment. Clients: Cisco, KPMG, Motorola, Bristol-Myers Squibb
SM says: RegWeb, which was acquired by Starcite in June of 2002, is a venerable name in online registration. Its remarkable list of clients shows that you could do worse. Pricing: Implementation starts at $10,000, plus additional fees. Contact: www.starcite.com, (888) 354-4689.



Virtual Meetings

"Virtual meetings" is a general phrase that encompasses all kinds of remote conferencing, from teleconferencing, to satellite videoconferencing, to Web conferencing. This type of meetings technology has experienced a lot of growth recently. The tools now are much better, and cheaper, than they were a year ago.

Conference Center 5.0 by Placeware

Features: Windows interface, application sharing, full-screen slides, scheduling capabilities, address book, live polling. Clients: Hewlett-Packard, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Deloitte and Touche
SM says: Placeware, already an established Web conferencing provider, got serious backup when it was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year. That's good news for its clients. Pricing: $3,000 setup fee, plus per-minute costs starting at 55 cents per seat per minute with audio. Contact: www.placeware.com, (888) 526-6170.

INVISION Videoconferencing Network Appliance by RADVISION

Features: IP/ISDN videoconferencing. Preconfigured, scalable, and designed to be plugged into a network for easy deployment and management. Clients: WireOne Technologies, ReView Video, VSGi
SM says: Ideally, plug-and-play videoconferencing could save a lot of hassle and expense associated with complicated installations. We'll see if that's so. Pricing: Starts at $39,900. Contact: www.radvision.com, (636) 922-3755.

Tandberg 6000

Features: This completely integrated Internet videoconferencing solution includes one or two monitors, a roll-about stand, camera, remote control, microphone, and cable. Clients: Credit Suisse First Boston, Harrah's, GMAC
SM says: Tandberg is one of the top names in remote conferencing, with a reputation for quality hardware, great flexibility, and high fidelity. Insiders say the 6000 will deliver the goods. Pricing: Starts at $27,890. Contact: www.tandbergusa.com, (800) 538-2884.

SoundStation VTX 1000 by Polycom

Features: Conference phone's wideband voice technology ensures good sound quality from speakers from 2 to 20 feet away. Filtering technology helps eliminate background noise. Clients: Bear Stearns, W.R. Grace, U.S. Small Business Administration
SM says: Polycom conferencing equipment is some of the best in the business. And don't get sticker shock: This is a really nice phone. Pricing: List price is $1,799 for hardware. Additional fees for maintenance and upgrades. Contact: www.polycom.com, (800) 765-9266.

Web Conferencing Pro Web Meeting by Raindance

Features: Audioconferencing, Web conferencing, document sharing, and audience participation. Clients: Wells Fargo, Trusted Advisors, Black and Veatch
SM says: Pro Web Meeting is a painless solution to the tricky problem of how to hold an event on the Internet. It is simple, effective, and easy to use. Pricing: Per-minute rate is 39 cents per user, plus 24 cents for audio. Contact: www.raindance.com, (866) 374-9268.

WebEx Meeting Center Service

Features: Supports seamless data, video, voice, and telephone communication over the WebEx MediaTone Network, a global network specifically designed for real-time Web communications. Clients: Boeing, Johnson and Johnson, Oracle, Nestle
SM says: Web conferencing progenitors WebEx are a company to do business with. This vendor has a jaw-dropping roster of clients and an extensive product line. Pricing: Subscription-based pricing starts at $100 per port per month. Contact: www.webex.com, (877) 509-3239.



Wireless Connectivity

Wireless technology is growing in leaps and bounds. "Hot spots" that offer Wi-Fi (or 802.11b) wireless networking and Internet access are proliferating at hotels, airports, coffee shops, and convention centers. Wireless cards that plug into laptops to access these networks are cheap and widely available, and the next generation of PCs will include wireless capabilities as a standard feature, even on low-end models. It's a good time to be in the wireless business.

Intel Centrino

Features: This new generation of microprocessors for mobile PCs comes equipped for 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, and has all the functionality expected in personal computers. Clients: Soon IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony will include the new processors in their computers.
SM says: Intel is calling Centrino the biggest thing to hit computing since the introduction of the Pentium processor 10 years ago -- and maybe they're right. Pricing: Laptops start at $1,399. Contact: www.intel.com, (800) 538-3373.

Linksys Instant Wireless Network Adapter (WPC11)

Features: When plugged into almost any PC, this card will connect to wireless networks and the Internet. It's 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, compliant, which means it works nearly everywhere. Clients: Sold to consumers at major retail outlets including Amazon.com and Radio Shack.
SM says: Linksys is one of dozens of providers that offer wireless networking cards built on the 802.11b standard. It's an established company and its prices are competitive. Pricing: List price is $69. Contact: www.linksys.com, (800) 546-5797.

NearSpace Meeting Guides

Features: Event guides are delivered to attendees' handheld computers via kiosks with infrared beams or downloading docks. Compatible with Palm and PocketPC platforms. Clients: Meeting Professionals International, Microsoft, Cisco
SM says: NearSpace's impressive list of clients shows that maps and schedules are popping up with increasing frequency on handheld computers. Give it some thought. Pricing: Prices for full-service packages start around $5,000. Contact: www.nearspace.com, (707) 795-1784.

Wayport eMeeting

Features: Permanent wireless Internet in over 500 hotels nationwide. Wired for 802.11b Wi-Fi connectivity, so all attendees need are wireless networking cards or wireless-enabled laptops. Clients: Conference Services Inc., Bridge21 Inc., ALLTEL
SM says: Wayport is a top provider of wireless networking and Internet access in hotels, airports, and meeting venues. If you're thinking of going wireless, this is a great place to start. Pricing: Around $9.95 per user for wireless Internet access, valid until next day's check-in time. Contact: www.wayport.net, (972) 791-3900.

Motorola XU1100

Features: This one-watt, one-channel UHF business radio has a range of up to two miles in residential areas, and five miles in more unobstructed areas. Clients: The City of San Francisco, AAA Communications for the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards
SM says: This is a fairly basic two-way radio that will get the job done right. Pretty sturdy, too. Pricing:: Suggested list price is $269. Contact: www.motorola.com, (866) 289-6686.



Presentation Tools

The watchwords for the state of the art in presentation technology are: brighter, smaller, louder, smarter. In a word, better. Unfortunately, cutting-edge prices are often associated with cutting-edge products. You be the judge as to whether it's worth it.

Ensemble 60-3 by Mediaphile AV

Features: A small, one-pound speaker that allows sound to be heard anywhere in the room. Compatible with consumer electronic products. Built-in mixer allows up to three input sources. Clients: Disney, Pfizer, The Capital Group
SM says: This would be great for boosting the weak sound produced by most projectors. Very portable, too. Pricing: List price for the sound system is $230. Contact: www.mediaphile.com, (800) 556-1922.

EON15 G2 by JBL Professional

Features: Compact, lightweight,15-inch powered speaker system that delivers 300 watts of sound. Clients: JBL clients include General Motors and Disney
SM says: These portable powerhouses should give you all the sound support you need. Pricing: Retail price is $869. Contact: www. jblpro.com, (818) 894-8850.

Toshiba TLP T720 Projectors

Features: This new digital projector provides 2,400-lumen images in a small package that weighs only 7.5 pounds. Clients: Toshiba has relationships with General Electric, Sony, and IBM
SM says: Toshiba's line of projectors performs well. They're portable and very bright. Pricing: Suggested list price is $3,199. Contact: www.shoptoshiba.com, (800) 316-0920.

LP500 by InFocus

Features: Weighing in at around six pounds, this textbook-sized projector accepts both analog and digital signals for 2,000-lumen, three-watt presentations. Remote controlled. Clients: U.S. government, Shanghai General Electronics Group
SM says: A portable projector from market leader InFocus that's light, bright, and small. It's quiet, too. Pricing: $2,099 at InFocus.com. Contact: www.infocus.com, 800-294-6400.

Rear Projection SMART Board 3000I Interactive Whiteboard

Features: This new interactive whiteboard features a touch-control screen in a fully integrated cabinet. Connects to your computer network and will run a variety of common programs. Clients: Eastman Chemical, NASA, Procter and Gamble
SM says: Interactive whiteboards are earning rave reviews from presenters and audiences alike, and SMART Technologies Inc. is an industry leader associated with a lot of big names. Pricing: Suggested list price is $16,999. Contact: www. smarttech.com, (888) 427-6278.

Sony PFM-50C1

Features: This plasma monitor has a 50-inch viewable area, is less than four inches thick, and features a high-resolution panel with 1,365 by 768 pixels. Accepts digital signals from a variety of sources. Clients: None; product becomes available this June
SM says: It's expensive, but this big monitor has a dynamite picture and it's extremely portable compared to traditional tubes. Be careful in transport because plasma screens are delicate. Pricing: Suggested list price is $12,499. Contact: www.sony.com, (800) 686-7669.