The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) will hold its 2014 Annual Conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center on July 19-22. NCLR describes itself as “the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States,” and its annual meeting casts a wide net, encompassing a four-day conference and a three-day expo.
The 5,000-attendee conference is “the nation's largest gathering of change makers and influencers in the Latino community,” said Jessica Mayorga, NCLR's director of marketing, while the expo, free and open to the public, has drawn upwards of 40,000 people with health screenings, entertainment, and education. In L.A., with its vibrant Latino population, NCLR is shooting for expo attendance of 50,000. “It's our way to give back to the local community,” Mayorga said, “and also our way to match our corporate sponsors and exhibitors to the local consumer base.”
There are so many issues to cover and so many issues that are of interest to our attendees,” Mayorga said, “how do we best provide insights in these areas so each attendee walks away with the information, the empowerment, that they need to take that information back to their community, their corporation, to implement and make a difference?”
NCLR's approach is to flood the zone with programming, including town-hall general sessions and more than 50 workshops in nine different tracks, including community empowerment, education, policy, and “the Latina perspective.” Indeed, it's not unusual for attendees to wonder aloud how they're going to be able to take it all in. “It's making sure that we provide that great, well-rounded experience for our attendees,” Mayorga said, “so that they walk away with everything they're interested in.”
One way that NCLR does that is by integrating the conference and the expo whenever possible. Two years ago, for example, the Annual Conference was in Las Vegas, an area that's been hit hard by foreclosures, so the conference included town-hall and workshop programs for people who work and practice in that area — and who then applied that knowledge to helping educate people in the expo. “The same conversation is often happening on both sides [of the meeting],” Mayorga said, “but they're taking a different approach.”
Taking advantage of Los Angeles’ local resources, NCLR is emphasizing innovation, technology, and entertainment at this year's Annual Conference, including expanding its workshop track on STEM topics. It will also be beefing up its app, use of which has doubled each year for the last three years. “We're starting to use the app much more this year,” Mayorga said, “in terms of providing information, updates, and special opportunities to our registrants.”
NCLR's Health Summit, a two-day event for health-policy and healthcare professionals that formerly preceded the conference, this year will begin on the final day of the program — “to more incorporate that audience that typically attends our Health Summit into the conference,” Mayorga said. Likewise, the Líderes Summit for students and youth leaders will be incorporated into the conference programming, so its participants can better experience the La Raza community. “At the end of the day,” Mayorga said, “we want to create opportunities for Hispanic Americans.”