AS I WRITE THIS, the staff of Special Events Magazine is back in the office after The Special Event 2001 in New Orleans.

We include highlights from all the events and seminars, starting on page 26. And we're proud to throw the spotlight on the winners of the Gala Awards; turn to page 48.

It was great to visit the seminars and spectacular events. But so much of what makes The Special Event valuable is the chance to listen as the industry pros say what's on their minds.

At the Leadership Luncheon, Special Events Magazine publisher Lisa Vested and I sat in as 150 industry business leaders voted on major issues.

The greatest challenge to their individual businesses in 2001 and beyond? An uncertain economy, 42 percent of respondents said. The greatest challenge to the special event industry as a whole? Although 38 percent said it was the economy, another 34 percent pointed to the perception that special events are nonessential.

However, these business leaders agreed that the possibilities far outstrip the pitfalls. When we asked for the leaders' forecasts for company revenue in 2001, 35 percent expected their revenue to rise by 20 percent or more. Another 20 percent forecast a 15 percent increase, and 20 percent a 10 percent increase. When we asked what the leaders saw as the industry's greatest strength going into 2001, the No. 1 answer—given by 55 percent of our respondents—was the growing acceptance of special events as important social and corporate tools.

What you and I know is true is winning more converts: Special events are growing in stature and acceptance.

During the ISES/L.A. Chapter meeting four days after The Special Event, chapter president Marty McGowan (McGowan Productions, La Canada, Calif.) told me a story about his recent conversation with a former salesperson for a Marriott property in Los Angeles:

“She told me she had moved over to conference services and that her new title was ‘director of event management.' My heart stopped. I asked, ‘Is that title used just at your property?' She said no, it was systemwide.

“If you had told me that even five years ago this would happen, I'd have said, ‘Not a chance.' It just adds so much credibility to our industry.”

That sounds great.