One of my favorite pages in the magazine is our back page, “Post Con,” where we ask personal questions of some of the industry’s most well-known leaders (and characters). All of a sudden, they are transformed from someone you might see on stage at a Meeting Professionals International convention to someone you’d like to get to know better. (She wants to learn piano, too, or I can’t believe he admitted he hates exercise!)

There’s a kinship in this industry that’s inherent in what we do for a living: hospitality. Our suppliers are hoteliers and destination marketers who are expert at making new friends and effusive about their products (hard to be that way about a computer chip, not a problem you’re selling Hawaii!). Meeting managers are in the people-pleasing business, too, as there’s nothing harder to deal with than an irate exec or attendee when something goes wrong during a program.

So make the most of your time while you’re on this journey. Get involved in an association like MPI, the Professional Convention Management Association (which is launching its first-ever Global Corporate Summit next July in Glasgow, Scotland) or the Global Business Travel Association, which is focusing more on meeting management in ‘12. The payback is enormous.

Reach out to peers at evening regional chapter meetings, even if you’d rather be home watching TV. Offer yourself as a speaker or panelist—you’ll never find a more accepting audience. Join a couple of those industry LinkedIn groups or listservs and see what other people’s concerns are. Maybe you can help.

See the stories of our 2011 Changemakers on our web site, MeetingsNet.com. All of them have said the best thing they ever did was to look outside their four walls and get involved in the industry.

The same with your programs. Take the leap to include some element of giving back or going green at your meetings. We all do damage to the environment every time we send hundreds of people across this country—don’t lose sight of that. Whether it’s finally getting rid of those plastic water bottles or paper handouts, or taking the entire group to help out at a food pantry, you will get back far more than you give. Our Green Meetings/CSR One-Stop at MeetingsNet.com has all the resources you need to get started.

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