The setting: some like it chic

Can truly "cost effective" meetings take place in a setting as drab as the old conference room, or do they require props like closed-circuit TV studios and tennis courts?

This is the question being asked in board rooms as employee education becomes increasingly popular and training budgets increasingly generous. Corporations are expected to spend $3 billion on training and educational programs in 1981, and conference centers across the country are watching with delight as their reservation books grow fat.

Some of the nation's corporate biggies -- IBM, Xerox, Eastman Kodak -- have built their own conference facilities.

Among those that haven't, however, the scramble for conference space is on, and the nation's 50-some conference centers are not enough to meet the demand. Kenneth Dettelbach, director of Centre One, a conference facility in a suburb of Cleveland, reports that business is very, very good.

Corporate budget managers with a Spartan streak may not cotton to a setup like Mr. Dettelbach's. Centre One offers sophisticated audiovisual equipment, a five-story hotel, a private luncheon club, evening entertainment, indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, tennis and racquetball courts, and a game room. Centre One will also arrange golf, skiing, and bowling for its guests, in addition to handling all travel arrangements.

Executives made hungry by rigorous training sessions by day can have room service refresh them at night with everything from a 100-piece shrimp boat to a dozen cookies.

The idea must appeal to at least a fair number of corporate decisionmakers, because Centre One i s full to overflowing, and Mr. Dettelbach plans to open eight more such centers.

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