I hope you joined me in signing your organization’s name to an open letter from ASAE to Congress on May 7. More than 2,100 of us asked lawmakers to consider revisions to amendments passed in two separate bills in April placing severe restrictions on government employees’ attendance at meetings and conferences.

The letter was in response to the General Services Administration’s Office of the Inspector General’s report on excessive spending at the now infamous Western Regions Conference near Las Vegas in 2010. Proposed legislation could further prohibit federal employees from attending nongovernment meetings, especially those held by associations. I guess it’s true what they say about one bad apple.

We get that, in some cases, technology can save time, money, and, frankly, general wear and tear on ourselves by replacing live events. But what we haven’t been able to do is convince politicians and the media that it cannot replace the true value of the act of going to a meeting. Face-to face networking is simply not replaced by online convening.

Jim Clarke, CAE, senior vice president, public policy, ASAE, who has been meeting with the staff of Sen. Tom Coborn, R., Okla., sponsor of the amendments, told me just as we were going to press, “Several offices don’t get the importance of face-to-face meetings. They think technology can do too much, as if Skype and conference calls are enough. We are constantly touting the value of face-to-face meetings and that dialogue is so important for federal employees and private organizations to meet over critical issues.” Clarke calls for redoubling our efforts to educate congressional leaders.

At IMEX in Frankfurt, which I attended in May, I bonded with several other attendees from the U.S. staying in my hotel, many whom I’ve long known and respected but never had the opportunity to “hang” with and share multiple cabs. I also learned, firsthand, what it’s like living in Greece nowadays, first from a journalist I met at a press conference, then from a friend at a Cyprus destination management company at the International Congress and Convention Association reception. I discovered cool, new technologies at the Fresh Dinner, an annual tradition that brings inquisitive minds together around new ideas for meeting design.

None of this could have happened online.

So join me in helping educate our politicians and policymakers. ASAE and the Professional Convention Management Association have launched a second letter-writing campaign aimed at protecting the meetings and events industry from unintended consequences as well as preparing positioning papers for you to use. Tell Congress at www.capwiz.com/asae/issues/alert/?alertid=61339221 or e-mail publicpolicy@asaenet.org.