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During the two years that the Inter-Pacific Bar Association had to prepare for its 18th annual conference, which came to Los Angeles for the first time in the organization’s history from April 27 to 30, the nonprofit faced some significant challenges. The tricky bits included producing a $2 million event with less than $100,000 in start-up capital and drawing international delegates to California.
“There was a marketing and promotional element to this event that was a major challenge because we didn’t have a captive audience,” said conference chair Gerold Libby, a full-time lawyer who was in charge of producing the event together with a volunteer committee of senior-level partners. “We had to put something together that would be attractive to lawyers around the world.”
In order to accomplish that goal, Libby, who had previous experience producing seminars and programs under the auspices of the American Bar Association but had never tackled an event quite as complicated and large as the conference, hired Pivotal Events’ Tracy Kwiker. Together, they worked to increase the quality of this year’s delegate educational program, adding 10 panels to the traditional 28 and limiting speakers to one panel each. That meant attendees dropping in on the panel sessions at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza had the option of hearing more than 225 speakers (last year the conference presented only 165), including delegates from more than 25 jurisdictions, including Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.
But the three-day conference wasn’t all business. Delegates gathered at the Getty Center on the second night for a dinner in the museum’s courtyard. Rather than funnel funds into decor, Kwiker went for a minimal look and instead splurged on the evening’s entertainment: String Theory’s troupe of musicians and performers. “A delegate from Japan isn’t going to remember the linens or wine glasses, but he is going to remember String Theory,” Kwiker said. A farewell gala at Sony Pictures Studios gave attendees the chance to experience a bit of Hollywood with a guided tour of the back lot, and they could also stick around Los Angeles for additional postconference programs, like a golf tournament at Trump National Golf Club and guided tours around the city.
So where did the funds for all of these programs come from? With more than a year to spare before the 2008 conference, Kwiker had secured the Getty, Sony Pictures Studio, and Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and gathered information on invited speakers, which meant she could create marketing material to hawk at the 2007 conference in Beijing, bringing in $183,000 from early registrants. Plus, she targeted global law firms with limited-offer sponsorship opportunities—to hasten partnership commitments—ranging from $10,000 to $25,000.