As we come to the end of another spring conference season, I can’t help but think that things are looking up. Sure, it could be blue skies and warm weather after the traditional 9-month Northeastern Pennsylvania winter, but I really think that the general attitude among industry players is improving. I’ll admit that the spring’s business meeting offerings were generally sparsely attended and that the news coming out of them was nothing that got me overly excited, but the way people were talking in the hallways was encouraging to me. For a long time, I’ve been a proponent of providing a virtual component that would get the conversations started early and keep them going after the event ends. I’m happy to say that conference planners are moving in this direction (though I’m sure it has nothing to do with me). A number of conferences now include a LinkedIn group that attendees can join prior to the show. While I haven’t seen a great deal of valuable content flowing through those channels, it does allow users to make valuable connections with other executives who have similar interests. I’m also seeing some innovative use of other new media tools by conference planners, and I may even have mentioned this topic in a previous column (if not, I’ll tell you all about it later). The important thing is that conversations started at these events continue. Now, more than ever. There are a couple of very serious risks the industry faces as it exits this downturn. Mishandled, these risks could lead to drastic changes in the way the industry operates, which could make it harder to make money here and drive good people from the business. The first of these risks is mortgage fraud and the second is new legislation. I’m very happy to see companies coming together to deal with mortgage fraud. It’s high time for the industry to begin treating fraud like the crime that it is and take responsibility for solving the problem. If we don’t, some legislator will come up with a fix that just seems perfect for lawyers everywhere and everyone will suffer (but the lawyers, of course). I think we’re making progress here. The other risk is that a regulatory infrastructure that moves like an aircraft carrier will continue to react to historic problems and slowly keep turning until this business bears no resemblance to anything that could contribute to homeownership. So what kind of legislation do we need? I’m not near smart enough for that, but I know a bunch of people who are. I’ve met with them at recent conferences. These are the people we have to empower to continue to work together on these industry problems. We’re deep in the middle of a time of serious change and we won’t escape that. Its how we mitigate the risks this environment is presenting that will determine our ultimate success or failure. The days of counting on a trade organization to solve the industry’s problems are over. But capitalizing on a trade group’s conference by continuing important conversations after the fact is a smart thing to do. We have the technologies to do it today. I’m interested to see if executives will embrace them.