Just a few weeks ago, our company held an editorial retreat at a conference center in the metro Boston area. Our mission was to come up with a visioning statement and to chart a course of action over the next year for our group of six meetings magazines. The retreat was fun and productive, and it also reminded me of a fundamental truth about meetings--one that, in all the brouhaha over the rise of new electronic media, is easy to lose sight of.

Simply, using electronic media is an excellent choice when the goal is information exchange, research, or a straightforward transaction: for example, booking a hotel room and paying for it, or ordering 1,000 widgets from an exhibitor, or mastering technical knowledge of some subject matter. But if the goal is to inspire, to build relationships, or to encourage creativity, no form of electronic communication can hold a candle to the in-person gathering.

Led by a professional facilitator, our group of 13 participants did a visioning exercise, we broke up into teams several times, we sat around in a circle and put ideas up on a blackboard. These kinds of group activities can be accomplished in some form or another on the Internet, to be sure. But without the energy and the chemistry of a live group interaction, the results would be far less satisfying and the follow-through much more problematic, I believe.

Moreover, I found the opportunity to have dinner with some colleagues and to meander with others through the gardens afterward to be equally important in contributing to an end result that left us not only with a rough outline of where we were going as a group, but with a new feeling about our journey.

All of which is to say: The Internet presents exciting new possibilities for association event organizers. But for some purposes, there is still nothing better than an old-fashioned meeting of minds--and bodies.

For more on this theme, see this month's cover story, page 36, in which the CEO of the country's largest association of associations talks about the middle path associations must walk between adapting new technologies and continuing to embrace what has worked best over the last 200 years.

Enjoy the issue!