As the newly installed president of the Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals, it is my pleasure to share my thoughts and insights with you in this column. One issue that has been on my mind lately concerns the changing ways that corporate meeting executives are operating in today's marketplace.

When I first started with the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau 14 years ago, corporate meetings came and went without much fanfare. Oftentimes, we at the bureau didn't even know they were in town. The entourage was huge, the budget even larger, and the events spectacular, but there were no partnerships or local assistance.

That situation has changed. The large in-house staffs once employed by many corporations have shrunk due to re-engineering, and budgets have also tightened considerably. Corporate events still have a spectacular feel, however, and that is due in part to new partnerships with organizations such as local convention and visitors bureaus. In addition, many meeting executives who lost in-house support are outsourcing various aspects of the overall meeting.

These changes have caused SCMP to re-examine its definition of the "corporate meeting executive." In the summer of 1997, the SCMP bylaws were changed to admit independent corporate planners as members. And we've designed the educational sessions of our next SCMP meeting to address the challenges faced by both the in-house meeting executive and the independent planner. From May 20 to 23, the SCMP Spring Idea Faire will cover how we can better meet our mutual needs, how we can use new technology to our advantage, and how corporate meeting executives, independents, and convention services managers can grow professionally through excellent interaction with each other.