In my next life, I am going to be a media advocate for the meetings industry. I am going to travel to the city desk of every major newspaper (Of course, in my next life, there probably won't be any newspapers left!), and explain to the editor and staff of reporters just how important meetings are to their local economy. Do you know who is filling your local hotels on any given weeknight?, I'll ask. Do you know what goes on in those ballrooms besides weddings?

I would teach them the language of meetings (from RevPAR to room block to occupancy rates). How rare it is to see the mainstream media really get it when covering meetings, conventions, trade shows, or the group incentive business. Often when those reporters call me looking for a glib insight on a complex topic, I spend more than half the conversation educating them about the intricacies of the market, giving them tons of background that never makes it into the story. If it's frustrating for me to read these articles, I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you.

This was never more evident than during the so-called AIG effect of 2008 and the tailspin our industry endured for the ensuing two years. Lots of stupid reporting. If we'd had solid statistics then about the significance of meetings to the U.S. economy, perhaps the fall would not have been so hard.

But now we have it. The Convention Industry Council and many of its supporting member associations invested in a study that has defined just how large the meetings industry is — and what an incredible job they did! When you look at total economic impact, we're larger than the U.S. auto industry. Pretty powerful stuff.

But we can't let this study — all 90 pages of it — languish. Take the cover story in this issue of AM, downloadable as a PDF from our Web site, meetingsnet.com, or the two-page findings-at-a-glance PDF from www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com, and send it to your city editor, or your state rep. Let them know that meetings mean business to you, that your livelihood depends on it. On page 17 of this issue, Roger Rickard, partner, Revent LLC, a meetings industry advocacy consultant, gives you seven simple steps to get the message out.

Focus particularly on the importance of association meetings to the local economy where are you holding your meetings, not just in your community. Ask the CVB to invite a key legislator to a site inspection or other critical meeting. “My meeting helped contribute $11 billion in state and local tax income in 2009.” SRSLY?

SRSLY.