IN THE EARLY 1980s, a group of people realized the need for a magazine focused strictly on the needs of corporate meeting planners. Coming up with a concept is one thing; making it happen is another. That's where Connie Goldstein, CMI's founding editor, comes in: Here's a lady who knows how to make it happen. Editor Barbara Scofidio recently caught up with Connie, now in sunny Sarasota, Fla., to discuss how corporate meeting planning has evolved since she started CMI.
For starters, where did the idea for CMI come from? And why?
Our first publisher, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, had owned a meeting magazine called Worldwide Meetings & Incentives and a publication called the Directory of Incentive Travel, into which they had poured all this money, but still weren't successful. So they decided to start from scratch and create a whole new magazine. I had been the executive editor at Successful Meetings under Virginia Lofft, and I left there and went to work for an incentive house. After three or four months, they let me go. I had just started another job when Harcourt called me about CMI.
Our first publisher was Rich Fasano, and we had just two salespeople. The first person I hired was Paula Auman-Butler, who became my managing editor. Eventually, we hired other salespeople, and then Michael Leeds from Meetings & Conventions came on as publisher and brought more people with him.
It was hard selling a magazine that was a totally new concept. All of the other meeting magazines covered all kinds of meetings. People asked: Why do you need a magazine just for corporate meetings?
And what did you say?
We needed this magazine because corporate meetings are different: They're smaller; attendance is required, not optional; and the people who plan them might do so only 15 percent of the time.
We did very well with the magazine, and I heard that when we first came out, the president of one of our competitors flung our magazine down on their conference room table during a meeting and said, “Now that's a magazine!”
What major changes have you seen in the corporate market over the years?
When we started, a lot of fancy hotels didn't want meeting attendees in their lobbies. They said that they didn't need the meeting business. Eventually, they realized how lucrative it was.
Another was that the corporate market didn't know or understand CVBs — and vice versa. They needed to be introduced to each other, so we created special issues to inform people about convention bureaus.
It also took some time before the big convention hotels decided that they needed people on staff strictly to take care of the corporate market.
Another big change has been the recognition of convention services managers. Things changed when hotels learned to turn their sales over to the CSM, instead of directly from sales to catering, which is what used to happen.
In your first editorial, you wrote about how important it is that planners be recognized as professionals. Has that happened?
The corporate market still struggles to be professional. There was no such thing years ago as certification, and that has made a big difference. Meeting Professionals International has become more powerful, which has helped, too.
SITE [Society of Incentive & Travel Executives] has done the same with incentive travel. SITE has a huge impact on the destinations it visits — it brings professionalism to them.
You moved to Sarasota in 1996. What are you doing these days?
For the past two years, I have been the editor of Gold Book Publishing's Annual Directory of Corporate Meetings and Events, a once-a-year directory with write-ups of country members of the Caribbean Hotel Association.
I also teach a course at the “university” we have at the community where I live, Pelican Cove. Right now, I'm teaching play reading and we're working on A Raisin in the Sun.
I'm also the editor of the Sarasota County democratic newspaper, The Democratic Times, a member of the Democratic Executives Committee of Sarasota County, and the precinct committee woman in my precinct.
What do you see as the forces that will shape the future of meetings?
Corporate downsizing is having an effect on meetings. Companies are cutting meeting departments and dumping planning meetings on someone else. It's not good for the quality of the meetings. It's also very shortsighted because as companies merge, it all becomes impersonal. You lose the dedication of the employees, who care little about the company that cares little about them.
People said that technology would replace meetings, and that's just not going to happen. You have to develop relationships. Even with a dating service — sooner or later you have to meet!
Well, Connie, I'm so happy to have met you — and to have worked with you. All the best to you!