February 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)   SUPPLIERS SAY MEETING PLANNERS REMAIN WARY
Who Is Buying Tech Tools?Marlene Williamson
Marlene Williamson Predictions that organizations would rush to buy meetings technology to assuage travel-phobes and save money have been borne out, according to suppliers, but the buyers aren’t necessarily meeting planners.

“Our business has gone up 38 percent since Sept. 11, and we anticipate it will double this year,” said Marlene Williamson, vice president of marketing for PlaceWare, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Webcasting service. Buyers of the service, however, typically come from marketing, sales, training and public relations departments.

“We target customers who are already in the process of changing their behavior,” said Praful Shah, vice president of strategic marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based WebEx, a Webconferencing firm. “We look for the heads of sales, training and support.” WebEx has been adding about 800 new clients per quarter for the last 18 months.

Corbin Ball, a Bellingham, Wash.-based meetings technology consultant, still meets resistance when teaching planners about Webcasting and other tools. “You talk about technology, and people hold their fingers up in a cross and say, ‘No!,’” said Ball.

Similarly, PlaceWare’s biggest challenge is educating potential clients, said Williamson. “Technology is very scary for a lot of people,” she noted.

The hesitation still exists at Pfizer Inc., in New York City. “We’ll probably spend money on travel, not technology,” said Susan Pavone, manager of business administration, who works in Holbrook, N.Y. Each year, Pavone plans from 20 to 40 training meetings for clinical studies, events that would seem ideally suited to remote technology.

“I think executives are concerned about whether people can really grasp what’s being taught,” Pavone said. However, she added, “I definitely see technology as something in our future, just not for this year.”


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