Lauren Ryan is the program manager for conferences with the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C.
Briefly state what your job at the National League of Cities entails.
I am the program manager for conferences at the National League of Cities (NLC). In addition to working on our two large annual conferences (spring and fall), I plan and execute the summer board and leadership meeting.
What type of meeting did you hold in Cleveland?
The summer board and leadership meeting is an annual gathering of approximately 250 local elected leaders that make up our board of directors, our seven federal advocacy committees and our membership councils.
Was anyone particularly helpful in executing your event?
This particular meeting is always hosted in the hometown of our current NLC president, who we are proud to say this year is Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone. Thanks to his leadership, and generous support from the City of Cleveland, Destination Cleveland and local community partners, we enjoyed an extremely successful conference and a spectacular set of off-site events.
What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about Cleveland?
It was the first time to Cleveland for many of our guests, and for some, the first time in a while. They were blown away by the lake views and impeccable service from our host hotel, the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. Attendees spent hours exploring the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Cleveland’s distinctive neighborhoods, which are full of public art and theaters, family-owned and eclectic eateries, craft breweries and boutiques.
Are there any experiences that you would recommend for groups meeting there?
A huge part of NLC event culture is getting groups out of meeting space (however lovely), and getting to know the host community. We accomplished this, with tremendous support from the local team, through three distinct mobile workshop opportunities. We meandered the Cuyahoga River by boat while learning about its fiery past and promising future; we beheld greenhouses and urban farms sitting in the shadows of world-renowned healthcare institutions; and we learned how Cleveland is preserving affordable housing in one of its hottest real estate markets.
Please share some details about your off-site event.
Cleveland has successfully used arts as a catalyst for community and economic development, and our closing event venue, Cleveland Public Theatre, is a perfect example of that.
The theater, an institution in the Gordon Square Arts District and Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, engages urban youth and under-served communities and incubates innovative works by local artists. It is also famous for its annual fundraiser, Pandemonium, which transforms its campus into a labyrinth of theater, dance, visual art and performance.
When Councilman Zone came to us with the idea of re-creating this beloved event on a smaller scale–just for our attendees–-we were floored. The result was a truly unique experience for our members.
How does Cleveland compare to other cities where you have hosted meetings?
I was most impressed by the sense of pride and community that Clevelanders share. It is contagious. It was wonderful to work with local government and thought leaders who are equally passionate about their city’s past, present and future. And Destination Cleveland was with us every step of the way, supporting our basic needs and encouraging our big ideas.
Would you return, and would you recommend Cleveland to other meeting planners?
We had a wonderful and unique experience in Cleveland and highly recommend it to our conference and meeting industry peers.