Meetings on the Edge

Remember when bioterrorism sessions were the lowest priority on most agendas? When having a meeting perceived as being a junket was one of the biggest concerns? When the snouts of the twin towers still poked the skyline and New Yorkers were still surly and proud of it?

It's different now. We've seen that the unimaginable can happen. Today. To us. Here. I can't imagine the possibility of September 11 entered the minds of anyone who drew up contingency plans for meetings held during that awful time. We were caught off guard.

The amazing thing to me is that while I could barely function, you shifted into high gear. As the horrors of September 11 unfolded, you didn't crumble. You didn't crawl to a safe place and hide. Story after story shows you taking charge of your attendees, your exhibitors, your speakers, and your staff. You found ways to bring people to safety, then get them safely home. You scrambled to get accurate information, to calm people in crisis, and to reassure all that the show would go on if at all possible. Then you went to work to shore up future meetings, to ensure that our constitutional right to assemble won't — can't — be denied by terrorist-inspired fear.

Maybe it's because you're accustomed to handling emergencies, from a misplaced banquet table to hotel fires and attendee heart attacks. Maybe it's just the nature of people drawn to planning meetings for a living. I don't know. What I do know is that, should we ever find ourselves facing the unfaceable again, I want to have you by my side.

Sue Pelletier, executive editor, spelletier@primediabusiness.com