Meetings & Conventions - Where On the Web? - April
Where On the Web?
A side-by-side comparison of Internet sites for meeting
By Sarah J.F. BraleyEver type
in a Web address, hit “return” and
find yourself in Internet limbo? Many a site has debuted and
withered in the time it takes to say “Web revolution,” but in the
ever-expanding cyberworld, the original tenet still stands: The
information on a site is only as reliable as the person who posted
For instance, a visit to a site called the Meeting Guide
(www.mmaweb.com/meetings) opened with promise. There seemed to be a
lot of useful information in store with just a click of a button.
But visits through the pages proved parts of it were alive and well
and other areas were more like a ghost town. Messages on its boards
were current, but options on its trade show search page only went
up to 1998. This phenomenon prompted M&C to take a closer look
at the meetings sites and report on our findings.
AllMeetings.com’s claim to fame is a meeting-expense calculator
that helps planners compare costs. The patent-pending technology
factors in airfare, hotel rates and more to give planners an idea
of where they will get the most for their meeting. The comparison
search can be done nationwide, by region, by state or by
metropolitan area. Planners choose criteria for the ideal property,
and AllMeetings.com returns a list of qualified hotels ranked by
total meeting cost, including air, room rate and other expenses for
Once the list is generated, the planner can send a request for
proposal to one or many properties. The site monitors the process
and compels hotels, using e-mail, faxes and phone calls, to respond
to the RFP within 48 hours.
AllMeetings.com generates its revenue through final
transactions. If the planner books with one of the hotels revealed
in the search, the site gets a 10 percent commission. At press
time, there were about 5,000 participating hotels; that number was
expected to reach more than 9,000 by this month.
The site also has a budget estimator, which prepares a budget
based on the estimated meeting costs and allows the planner to
input actual costs once the event is over to track its history.
Online checklists are available, where planners indicate what day
they want to be reminded to fulfill tasks, and an e-mail tickler
will be sent out. AllMeetings.com can be customized to adapt to a
corporation’s travel policy and to the needs of corporate
This site, which is partnered with travel giant Rosenbluth
International, is primarily a search engine, holding 55,293 venue
and supplier listings at press time. BusinessMeetings.com has a
decidedly international flavor; for instance, in February its
database offered 8,350 U.S. locations and 24,137 in Europe.
Registered users’ search results come up in either green or red.
Green venues list all pertinent details, including some meeting
room specifications; red means the listing only has the name,
address, and phone and fax numbers of the property. When viewing
details about a hotel or convention center, users can add it to a
“wish list” of properties they might want to look at again; the
list is saved for a month.
The simple search uses such criteria as country, city, hotel
category (luxury, first class, midprice and economy) and number of
meeting rooms. The advanced search enables planners to specify
amenities the property should have. Users also can look for
suppliers, and a general-information section links to related Web
sites for the chosen destination. BusinessMeetings. com offers an
online RFP, but the form is very simple, asking only for meeting
dates; whether breakfast, lunch and/or dinner will be served, and
A content-heavy planner source, this site opens with a quick search
of a 9,000-facility database, links to information on more than
1,000 cities, and a hot-dates listing for the upcoming six months
or so (although, when we visited in February, January’s hot dates
still were listed). Links to hot dates are featured on the
destination pages, and the dates are on individual venue pages. The
site also sends out an e-newsletter.
After narrowing the property search, planners can use
EventSource’s RFP process, which is called BookIt! The site
promises a response in less than 48 hours.
The Resources page offers a group air calculator that looks up
fares for American Airlines flights within the 48 contiguous states
and Canada. Other services include a calendar, links to industry
associations, tips on becoming a planner, and descriptions, key
contacts and e-mail links to 2,000 suppliers. The Resources page’s
“invitations” and “RSVPs” buttons are links to services at
SeeUThere.com (see page 66).
EventSource.com will begin offering The Auction this month,
where planners can get hotels to bid on their meetings (see “Web Sites for
Meeting Auctions Proliferate,” Newsline).
Hot Dates Hot Rates
This site lists value dates at more than 1,500 properties around
the world. It also sends out an e-newsletter of hot dates. Planners
can search the database five ways: by city, by
state/region/country, by individual property, by destination and by
hotel chain. In 1999, HDHR reported individual searches conducted
at the site represented potential group revenue of more than $125
If the quick search does not produce results, a service called
Tracker hunts down space that matches the criteria. Tracker works
two ways, depending whether the planner is an independent. The
self-employed fill out a form, and the information is listed for
subscribing hotels to see. Every evening, the site automatically
looks for matches to these Tracker listings. If a match is found,
the planner receives an e-mail. Corporate and association planners
fill out the same form, then someone from HDHR’s sister company,
Helms Briscoe Performance Group, does the legwork, getting paid
through a hotel commission.
Meetings and Destination Search
This site’s facility database can be searched simply or through a
MADSuperSearch, which enables planners to narrow the process.
MADSearch is crammed with information, which is apparent in the
navigation of the site; even using a T-1 connection, the pages take
a while to load. About 150 of the nearly 4,600 facilities in the
database have pages called MADSites, and some of those online
brochures offer 360-degree views of a meeting room or hotel areas.
(A special plug-in is needed to view them.) Other properties have
video tours provided by HotelView (www.hotelview.com).
The MADJobs section lets planners and hoteliers post or search
for résumés and positions. There were 17 jobs in the planners’
database at press time.
MADSearch also has Front Desk area where users can post
questions or comments, some of which appear on the page. All
questions are answered by e-mail. a weekly newsletter is available
featuring hot dates and industry news.
The database of suppliers is limited; searching under
entertainment in Los Angeles and New York City turned up the same
single supplier, a magician.
This portal sends visitors to other sites to fulfill their needs.
For instance, its database of 60,000 hotels comes from
Hotelguide.com. A site search was not very helpful; when looking
for properties in Grapevine, Texas, the engine returned 890 hotels
from Abilene to Waco (none in Grapevine), from the
meetings-friendly Wyndham Anatole in Dallas to the
meeting-room-less Econo Lodge in Waco, which is actually a Comfort
Inn. MeetingCity also offers an online RFP, promising a response
within 24 hours.
The site has articles and a supplier showcase, which has some
good listings but can be misleading. The ground transportation
section returned four listings, but two of them were solicitations
to “link your site to MeetingCity.com.” Windsor Consultants of
Tucson, Ariz., which runs MeetingCity, plans to offer online
auctions at www.meetingauctions.com (see “Web Sites
for Meeting Auctions Proliferate,” Newsline).
The Meeting Guide
The Meeting Guide does not have the most comprehensive list of
suppliers and venues there were only 155 hotels in its database at
press time and some of its information obviously has not been
updated in a while (as mentioned, at press time, its Search for
Trade Shows Worldwide page only listed events through 1998). But it
does have helpful tools, like an agenda worksheet and a calculator
that figures out an approximate room size depending on setup and
number of attendees or booths. A bulletin board lets those in the
industry post questions and answers.
The Meetings Industry Mall
Launched in early 1996, the Mall was one of the first meetings
industry Web sites. This portal continues to offer a number of
services to planners. One of the two most popular at the moment is
the MIMList, an e-mail community of about 600 industry members
talking about everything from stress reduction to the finer points
of contracts. The other is the MIM Job Board, run in conjunction
with the Meeting Candidate Network, which listed 90 positions in
February and was getting about 2,000 page views a day.
Also on the site are links to tools like currency converters and
area code lists; meeting-support services listings; links to such
travel sites as airlines, airports, bus companies and travel
guides, and venue and product listings.
This Web site of an independent planning company, West Palm Beach,
Fla.-based Designs Event Consulting, is a good place for planners
who are new to the business, especially those who have decided to
become independents. Articles cover such areas as information
management, promoting yourself and getting started in the business.
The meeting planning FAQ (frequently asked questions) section
answers concerns of many neophyte planners, such as “How do I know
where to hold my event?” and “What is negotiable?”
The Lobby at PerfectMeeting.com is a new bulletin board with
sections on the hospitality industry and career strategies. The
Lobby also holds a job and advertising board where positions are
listed and suppliers hawk their services. At press time, the Lobby
did not show much activity.
Here is the place to find the perfect property for a meeting. The
database of 14,000 locations can be searched by just about as many
criteria as a planner can dream up. The simple search results
supply the square footage of the two largest meeting rooms, symbols
for all the amenities at the property (pool, golf, ratings) and a
box to check if you want to add it to the list of properties that
will receive your electronic RFP. Some listings include facility
specs, corporate profiles, photos, 360-degree images and scalable
floor plans. Other details include contact names, numbers and
e-mail addresses, and a full rundown of the meeting rooms and their
capacities. An average of 750 facility searches are executed per
business day on the site, which has 13,000 registered members.
The online RFP from PlanSoft is a full service unto itself. This
section transmits meeting specs to selected facilities, saves
planner profiles and meeting requests, and enables planners to call
up old RFPs and reformat them for a new request. PlanSoft also has
an RFP team that makes sure hotels follow up on each request and
facilitates the communication between planners and properties.
The site lets users search for convention and visitor bureaus
and access a 20,000-entry database of industry suppliers. The
resources in the Planning Guide address destinations, facilities,
suppliers, contracts and negotiations. A job board is hosted in the
Marketplace section. New to the site is a community area, where
users can sign up for an e-mail address and mailbox, and a
discussion section. (There were about 21 messages on the board at
PlanSoft recently teamed up with SeeUThere.com (see page 66).
Users can access PlanSoft’s supplier search tools and online
meeting planning products, as well as SeeUThere’s guest
communication, registration and ticketing capabilities, from either
Managing communications with attendees is this site’s forte. There
are two ways to create an event. The express setup asks for quick
logistics details, a description of the event and e-mail addresses
for the invitees. Just click “send out my invitations,” and the
planning process is begun. Using the standard setup, invitations
can be sent out by e-mail, fax or regular mail; RSVPs are gathered
by e-mail or an automated phone-response system. Planners start by
choosing the type of event (e.g. convention, association meeting,
fund-raiser, awards dinner), then go through a series of steps to
set up the invitation and response process. Many of the Web-based
services are free; fees for credit card transactions are $1 plus
4.5 percent and are either charged to the event planner or charged
to the participant’s credit card; and fees for offline services are
20 cents for faxes, 45 cents for postcards and 75 cents for
The customer service for this site is excellent; when M&C
tested it, filling out the form to create a fake event and running
through some of the options, a representative called about our
incomplete process to make sure we understood how the site
Upon returning to the site, planners can review events, print
reports and more. SeeUThere can import databases for use in the
process, and the information is stored on a secure server. ces and
Laser Registration handle it for them, offering all the luxuries
the do-it-yourself products have.
The Event Marketplace is a resource area offering links for
planners (to sites like PlanSoft, AirCharter.com and
GiftRegistry.com) and attendees (Priceline.com and
Launched on Nov. 30, 1999, this young site has a lot of promise.
Aside from the usual facility and supplier search capabilities of a
50,000-entry database, StarCite has full meetings management
functionality. Areas include Create a Meeting, Update a Meeting,
Reports, Sleeping Room Budget, Agenda/Budget, Meeting Notebook and
Attendee Management. A fee-based option is online registration for
meetings, which costs $5 per registration.
Special to this site is the canceled space manager. Planners can
view bookings that others have canceled, post canceled space and
broker it within their organization (a free service), post canceled
space and broker it to all StarCite users (also free), or have
StarCite broker the space for $2.90 per room night.
The online RFPs featured at StarCite can be sent either to a
facility or to nonfacility suppliers. Planners fill out detailed
templates that ask for general meeting information, sleeping room
needs and agenda specifics. When sending the RFP to a property,
users can choose to contact the national sales office or the
hotel’s individual sales office. Suppliers respond by fax or
e-mail, depending on which format the user prefers. The responses
can be entered into StarCite’s RFP Management Center, where
planners can compare the results either online or in a printed
The site, which had 1,000 registered users at press time, is
introducing auctions of meeting space and meetings themselves this
month (see “Web Sites for Meeting Auctions Proliferate,”
Which is your favorite meetings Web site?
“I think PlanSoft (planner.plansoft.com) is comprehensive, up-to-date and
provides multimedia functionality. I don’t have to waste time going
to individual hotel Web sites. It’s easy to use.”
Director of Corporate
“I like the Meetings Industry Mall (www.mim.com). The
Listserv is great. I’m learning a lot from it, and I contribute to
Industrial Research Institute
Professional Development Services
“EventSource is my favorite. I like
the quick responses I receive when I request information. I also
use CVB Web sites for cities I’m interested in.”
Sharon Foster, CMP
From Boardrooms to Ballrooms
Building your bookmark file from scratch? Borrow from industry
technology consultant Corbin Ball. About 1,200 of his favorite Web
sites (including meetings sites) are listed at www.corbinball.com/favorites.htm.
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