The event had a layered structure: While academics, policymakers, businesspeople, educators, and others came together for the four-day conference, a concurrent, three-day National Latino Family Expo offered free entertainment, health screenings, and children’s activities to the general public.
Planning and executing two parallel events presents a unique set of challenges, according to Jessica Mayorga, NCLR’s director of marketing. (Read our Pre Con profile at convn.org/pre-con-raza.) While La Raza’s Washington, D.C.–based staff puts together programming on business, health, education, technology, and innovation for conference attendees, they also assemble medical providers, entertainers, retailers, and educators for the tens of thousands of people who show up for the expo. “The expo is really meant for the community, and it’s always interesting to learn what are their needs are,” Mayorga said. “In L.A., it was a very different approach than [at the 2013 conference] in New Orleans. It’s a lot larger [of a city], and is home to more multiple generations of Latinos. It’s much more vast.”
This year’s expo, which took place in the convention center’s 147,000-square-foot West Hall A, had a strong CSR component. The public could watch cooking demos, meet with bank representatives, or visit a Health Pavilion for free screenings for such disorders as kidney disease and diabetes; the pavilion also included dental and vision clinics. “The Health Pavilion was one of the things that got the most response,” Mayorga said, “especially as there are many families that are uninsured or underinsured.” Roughly 600 children were given new eyeglasses — although some of them probably had more fun taking part in a soccer clinic with members of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The conference itself encompassed mini-summits on health-care policy and youth leadership, and offered a forum for impactful commentary on the heated national debate on immigration. Programming spanned 50 workshops across nine different tracks, as well as speeches from politicians such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “There are so many topics we want to cover,” Mayorga said, “and we want to make sure we’re balancing the most pressing issues as well as providing popular topics and diving into best practices.”
La Raza’s programming had a particular focus on technology this year, with workshops on subjects such as “Latina Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age” and “Empowering Social Change With Technology: Tools & Tactics.” That dovetailed with La Raza’s increasing focus on its event app. “We’ve been growing the app each year,” Mayorga said. “We started in 2012 with our conference in Las Vegas, and the numbers doubled between 2012 and 2013. Now they’ve more than tripled between 2013 and 2014.” The app logged 5,000 total uses. “People were really turning to [it] as their guide on site,” Mayorga said, “and it was the best way for us to provide information about room changes as well as for people to provide feedback.”
In an interview barely a week after the 2014 conference had wrapped, Mayorga sounded fired up about next year’s meeting — in Kansas City, hometown of NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía. “It will be her tenth anniversary [with NCLR],” Mayorga said, “and a great homecoming.”
National Council of La Raza Annual Conference
2013 New Orleans
2014 Los Angeles
Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.