Remember not so long ago--a year or two--when people were talking about how the Internet could make person-to-person meetings obsolete? That fear, as we all know, turned out to be ungrounded. Meeting and trade show attendance is stronger than ever, according to most industry surveys, including our own. (See the June issue's "1999 Trend Report," page 42.) The Internet will not kill your trade show or convention, but it may make your association an artifact.

If your organization is not functioning as the center for information exchange, problem solving, and career services for your industry or profession, look out. Especially if you are an organization that doesn't have a Web site doing any of these things either. Why?

Because for-profit companies are building Web sites for narrowly defined business and professional fields that do all these things, plus provide e-commerce opportunities for buyers and sellers in each niche market. And some of them are doing it very well, most notably, VerticalNet.com, which has so-called "vertical portals" on the Internet for more than 40 business communities. Each portal aims to provide strong editorial content, an online community, and electronic commerce opportunities for targeted market segments. Companies like VerticalNet could put some associations out of business.

What is the purpose of an association if not to function as the portal of information exchange and problem solving for members? While nonprofits aren't in the business of commerce per se, many do provide major marketing opportunities for vendors and members through their meetings and trade shows. If an association loses these functions to a Web company, it loses its reason for being.

For a look at what's ahead for associations and their meetings when it comes to e-commerce and Internet portals, dive into our cover story, starting on page 32. After that, be sure to visit verticalnet.com. Then ask yourself, "Is our association the best place for members and vendors to come to for the three c's--content, community, and commerce? If not, why not?" Don't take your constituency for granted!