Planning an Event: the 2016 National Governors Association Summer Meeting

Aug 17

LS2group Event Planning at NGA

Written by LS2group

LS2group was proud to be a part of the event planning process for the 2016 National Governors Association (NGA) Summer Meeting. The event was a wonderful opportunity to show governors from around the country some of the venues, foods, industries, music, and scenery that make Iowa unique! LS2group worked in conjunction with the National Governors Association and Governor Branstad’s office to plan many aspects of the four-day summer meeting that was held in Des Moines July 14-17. The events were the perfect opportunity for our teams to come together to use many of our skills to create remarkable and memorable events for the governors and their families. Want to know what goes into event planning for an event of this magnitude? Read on to find out!

Event Planning

LS2group began the event planning process long before the event actually occurred. More than a year ago, LS2group helped establish a non-profit organization, complete with a board of directors, to gain oversight and provide input into the event planning. This also helped ensure the summer meeting was well rounded and incorporated many organizations and showcased a wide variety of features we have in Iowa.

Once the non-profit was formed, LS2group’s marketing department worked with the National Governors Association to create a unique logo, brand, and tagline for the Iowa summer meeting. The tagline “Uniquely Iowa” was created to showcase the many unique companies, industries, and traditions we have in Iowa that may not be obvious to those who don’t call the state home. 

As we planned to bring many high profile people together at these meetings and social events, security was a top priority. LS2group worked closely with the Iowa State Patrol, Des Moines Police Department, and Des Moines Fire Department to ensure the safety of all of our guests throughout the 2016 NGA Summer Meeting. Careful coordination and contingency plans at each social event venue, the Iowa Events Center, and designated hotels were key. Security details included the presence of uniformed and non-uniformed officers, venue sweeps, road closures, transportation for elected officials, and intelligence monitoring. The dedicated security personnel working with the planning team offered a fundamental perspective and were crucial to the planning process and overall execution of successful events for everyone.

With more than one thousand guests and multiple event locations for the four-day summer meeting, transportation was an essential component to keeping each day’s agenda running smoothly. LS2group coordinated closely with a nationwide transportation vendor to contract shuttles to and from hotels, the Iowa Events Center, social event venues, and various other stops necessary for the governors. We also coordinated with General Motors, which generously donated a fleet of over 50 vehicles to utilize for governor and first family transportation throughout the summer meeting. Pick-up and drop-off locations, bus routes, shuttle schedules, and more were vital to keeping guests on time each day. 

With guests traveling to Iowa from all over the country, and in some cases, from across the world, offering excellent hospitality was a key priority of the 2016 NGA Summer Meeting Committee. LS2group worked closely with several local hotels, along with the Iowa Events Center, to ensure the NGA meeting attendees were well taken care of during their stay. Hospitality details included coordinating and staffing hospitality desks at the hotels and meeting spaces as a “one-stop-shop” for guests to inquire about details ranging from transportation, social events, and local restaurants and attractions. Our team also ensured well-positioned and recognizable signage was utilized in each of the venues to ensure ease of navigation for attendees.

In addition to hospitality, volunteers were a key component of the success and efficiency of the 2016 NGA Summer Meeting. LS2group created a volunteer strategy to guide recruitment and training. Our team recruited more than 100 volunteers, coordinated volunteer shifts, communicated with volunteers, planned and led a training with special attendance from the Governor and Mrs. Branstad, and managed volunteers on-site throughout the meetings

Social Events

After months of event planning, our team was excited to share each detail of the social events with the governors who had traveled to Iowa. In planning for the events, our teams managed the invites, RSVPs, and credentialing in order to create a hard count of attendees to plan for catering, parking, and other details related to the events. Additionally, each event had a variety of branded items, signage to get governors where they needed to be, and unique touches developed by the marketing and NGA teams.

Opening night was hosted at the beautiful Iowa State Capitol Building – “Under the Golden Dome.” Governors and their spouses, Iowa sponsors, NGA Corporate Fellows, and others joined together in the heart of Des Moines’ East Village for a night of delicious food and entertainment by local artists – including harpist Laura Erickson, Tim Stop, and a special quartet performance by the Des Moines Symphony. The night wrapped up with a beautiful fireworks display and a feature performance by the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corp.

On the second evening, we hosted guests at two receptions – including one at the Governor’s residence, Terrace Hill. This reception featured “A Taste of Des Moines,” with chefs from some of Des Moines’ top restaurants joining together to present the governors and other attendees with delicious cuisine. Chef Enosh Kelley of Bistro Montage curated the evening’s menu. The residence and grounds were open for guests to stroll through during the evening, and entertainment was featured both indoors and outdoors from The Two Davids and The Fiddle Chics.

Guests also enjoyed an evening at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. Located on the Des Moines River and accompanied by beautiful gardens, the World Food Prize building serves as a historical, educational, and inspirational venue for local and international visitors alike, and honors native Iowan and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Norman Borlaug. The evening featured a live painting experience by artist William Butler, an extraordinary performance by the Des Moines Metro Opera, and roaming melodies by the dazzling Brazilian 2wins.

On the final evening of the meeting, guests gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for a “mini” Iowa State Fair that featured plenty of sweet indulgences, fair activities, agriculture and farm equipment displays, and a special performance by Three Dog Night, known for hits such as “Joy to the World,” “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” and “One (Is the Loneliest Number).” Iowa’s commodity groups and other agriculture entities were featured throughout the grounds with interactive exhibits and delicious foods. The event included Sky Glider rides and several hot air balloons – a preview of the National Balloon Classic held in Iowa each summer. A miniature butter cow was also commissioned for the event to make it a truly authentic Iowa State Fair experience!

Spouse and Family Events

Many governors brought their whole families to enjoy the long weekend in Des Moines. In addition to the daily business meetings and evening social events that LS2group assisted in planning, we were also responsible for scheduling unique, fun events for governors’ spouses and families. Our goal in programming, which we did in collaboration with First Lady Chris Branstad and the Terrace Hill staff, was to feature the unique and surprising gems that Des Moines has to offer.

Governors’ spouses and guests were treated to an incredible, behind-the-scenes tour of Meredith Corporation, where they learned about the Showcase Kitchen, the Meredith Test Gardens, Meredith Corporation’s history, and all of the brands under Meredith’s umbrella. Specialists in home décor, gardening, magazine production, and cooking spoke to spouses about their jobs and how these experts in Des Moines help shape trends across the country.

The group also enjoyed an afternoon in the gorgeous Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens for a discussion on the ways that first spouses can support children and families in their states. Dr. George Belitsos and Andrew Allen, the former and current CEOs of Youth & Shelter Services (YSS), shared their personal stories and talked about the important work that YSS does for the youth of Iowa. The discussion culminated with several of the governors’ spouses visiting the state-of-the-art YSS facility in downtown Des Moines, which is a national model of best practices.

Guests were also encouraged to enjoy the city on their own, with advice and guidance from those who call Des Moines home. We paired each governor’s family with a Des Moines Ambassador, who is a local resident that is knowledgeable of the city and could offer advice, recommendations, and answer any questions. By partnering with the Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, we were able to offer guests deals and discounts on experiences throughout the city via the Des Moines Fun Pass. Through this experience, we were also able to create a special East Village shopping pass, which included discounts from Allspice, Permanent Collection, Dornink, and J Brownlee, who are our neighbors in the East Village.

Our team also provided coordination and assistance to various groups and organizations with receptions held around the regularly programmed social events, spouse’s program activities, and identified concierge opportunities. During the business meetings held at the Iowa Events Center, LS2group worked with various organizations to host displays during the business program in an effort to highlight Iowa’s history and innovation. Displays featured Iowa’s universities, the Jefferson Highway, Home Base Iowa, Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor, and STEM programs.

The 2016 NGA Summer Meeting would not have been possible without generous contributions from our sponsors. Not only are we lucky to live in a state with such successful companies and business owners, we feel grateful for their generosity and patience as we were event planning and preparing for these large-scale events.

Media Coordination

In addition to highlighting Iowa in front of NGA meeting attendees, we worked with NGA’s communications department as well as Governor Terry Branstad’s communications team to showcase the meetings and events for local and national media.

As a part of NGA’s overall rebrand, we worked to remodel the annual press event, which kicks off the summer meeting every year, from a traditional press conference to a highly successful moderated panel. Our team coordinated for David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, to moderate a discussion between Governor Branstad, NGA Chair Governor Gary Herbert, and NGA Co-chair Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The discussion showcased Governor Herbert’s initiative, States: Finding Solutions, Improving Lives, covered topics on the docket for the weekend’s business sessions, and allowed the local and national media in attendance to pose questions to the governors.

Our team also coordinated with NGA and the governor’s office to provide media an inside look at the social events and business sessions each day with “media packages,” including video b-roll from the previous day’s meetings and events, along with photographs from Christopher Maharry, all highlighting each evening’s unique gatherings at the Iowa State Capitol Building, World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, Terrace Hill, and Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Community Service

Over the weekend, in order to give back to the Iowa community, the governors, staff, and volunteers worked with The Outreach Program to package 50,000 meals for the Food Bank of Iowa. A press event was held on the final day highlighting the efforts to help families battling food insecurity.

Months of event planning and partnerships with many people around the metro and the state of Iowa lead to a successful 2016 NGA Summer Meeting in Des Moines. Our team would love to help you with your next event – big or small.

Click here to learn how our team can help you with your event planning needs.

Want to see more photos from the events? Check out our Facebook page.