All manner of “tech solutions” cross my desk, so it's getting hard to surprise me. But believe me, my socks flew off when I heard about Anna Morris, the concierge at the Westin Santa Clara. Ms. Morris is a telecommuter. That's right, a hotel concierge who works out of a home office. You can read about this unlikely arrangement on page 96, but before you flip ahead, I have to warn you: This story will make you sit down and think about whether you're really doing everything you can to retain your key assets — your employees. Are you thinking creatively about what it takes to motivate, reward, and keep them? Is your company doing everything possible to invest in its future?

It leads me to think about the meeting cancellations that have become commonplace in the face of the bumpy and tumbling Nasdaq. While I'll grant you a company does need to be able to pay its hotel bill, how forward-thinking is it to drop a strategic tool when it's most needed? Companies may think they're doing themselves a favor financially, but they're also missing an opportunity. For many attendees, meetings are their retreat, their incentive, their creative time, their education. For company leadership, meetings are their time to, well, lead.

It seems to me that if you can cut a meeting in troubled times, you probably shouldn't have bothered in the first place. Because if you're doing them well, corporate events are an investment in your brand and in your people.

Before you send out that meeting cancellation e-mail, consider all your options. Are there other ways to bring your people together? This is the time to get creative, like the people supporting Anna Morris. If you've ever considered a videoconference, maybe now's the time to give it a try. If a “webinar” will work, do it. Or how about a road show: If you can't bring your employees and customers together, take your executives to them.

Gone are the days when two guys and a napkin are a billion-dollar business. Today it's about sustainable growth, and, meeting by meeting, events play a central role in building companies and engaging employees in the corporate vision. Think twice before you cancel.