We’ve all managed or attended sessions that had
less-than-ideal seating arrangements. Fortunately, a number of
companies have created systems that allow planners to design their
own meeting room layouts, or enable them to download the actual
room plans of hundreds of properties to create specific seating
These event-design packages have come a long way from the
initial programs that only let planners manipulate tables and
chairs in rectangular room settings. Systems on the market today
are much more flexible and intuitive. Following is a rundown of the
best on the market.
Stalwarts such as Delphi Diagrams for Meeting Planners
(formerly Optimum Settings; www.newmarketinc.com/products/ddmp.html),
MeetingMatrix (www.meetingmatrix.com) and Room Viewer (www.timesaversoftware.com) now are joined by an
innovative three-dimensional product called Vivien (www.castgroupinc.com) from Cast Software.
All of these systems now provide interactive drawing
capabilities, and most have links to databases of actual rooms and
facilities. Prices range from free (MeetingMatrix and Delphi
Diagrams) to $1,600 for a downloadable version of Vivien.
MeetingMatrix’s ActiveMatrix is targeted to properties that
want to provide planners with a tool that works with their database
of rooms and layout options. Planners can use the system online, or
they can download a copy that lets them work off-line with the
specific property’s rooms.
Delphi Diagrams for Meeting Planners is provided to planners by
the 1,000-plus hotels and venues already in Delphi’s system.
Room Viewer has Shape Packages, a system that includes add-on
modules with predefined shapes for A/V, catering and banquets. A
new feature on its website, called Facility Schematics, allows
planners to download templates of meeting spaces in hotels and
convention centers to use in conjunction with Room Viewer.
Vivien’s playful, three-dimensional aspect lets planners place
figures that represent attendees and speakers in a variety of
actions: seated at a table, walking across a stage or giving a
presentation. Planners can view the stage or a table-seating
pattern from many different angles and see what the attendees would
In addition, through meetings industry initiatives, many
properties’ meeting facilities have been laser-sighted to determine
actual dimensions and, in some cases, to provide real line-of-sight
calculations. Planners have the options of accessing these
dimensions via the property’s website or downloading the room
layout and appropriate software to their own PCs. Typically, these
capabilities are free to members of the sponsoring associations,
including Meeting Professionals International, the American Society
of Association Executives and the Professional Convention
Planners now also have various booking/scheduling tools at their
disposal. Most are integrated with Microsoft Outlook, so planners
can reserve in-house meeting rooms, invite attendees and add
meetings to attendees’ Outlook calendars.
Meeting Room Manager (www.netsimplicity.com) from NetSimplicity is
designed to manage the in-house meetings of corporations and
organizations such as hospitals or universities. It is a shared
tool; by opening a window, users can view all of the meeting or
conference rooms, as well as what has been scheduled. With a couple
of clicks, users can reserve a room and a time slot, invite
participants and indicate meeting room setup, food and A/V