Vancouver holds court

The city's convention centre was an inspired choice for a top lawyers' event.

Pre-event planning: The International Bar Association (IBA) hosts 40 meetings a year but its annual conference is the highlight of its event calendar. It is the largest gathering of the international legal community and some 5,000 legal professionals took part in the five-day conference last year.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that such a large-scale event is planned more than five years in advance. Judy Lane, director of PCO Judy Lane Consulting, has organised the meeting for the past 25 years. "The conference rotates around the world so we know which continent we will be in each year," she explains.

The event will take place in Dubai this year and Dublin in 2012, followed by Boston, Tokyo and Vienna. Sydney will host the 2017 conference.

"In some cases we make provisional bookings many years ahead," Lane adds. "For example, we've just booked Paris for 2021."

Lane conducts a number of site visits for each region before submitting reports on the shortlisted destinations. The IBA management board then votes to decide which city will host the conference.

Challenges: "There were very few challenges," reflects Lane. "In fact, I think the only concern initially was the lack of large spaces for social functions. There is not a huge amount of choice in Vancouver," she says.

As well as finding a venue that had at least 25 break-out rooms for between 100 and 400 delegates to accommodate the 200-plus working sessions, Lane also needed to source a venue with a large plenary room and an exhibition space for 80 exhibitors. She also needed to book venues for the welcome party and closing reception, which attract 3,500 and 1,200 guests respectively.

Solutions: The Vancouver Convention Centre had the flexibility of space to cater for the IBA's needs. It was the setting for the welcome reception as well as the main conference, while the neighbouring Pan Pacific hotel hosted the party on the final night. Lane is full of praise for the Greater Vancouver Visitors and Convention Bureau, local DMC Cantrav and the Vancouver Convention Centre, which she says is the best venue she has ever worked with.

"Vancouver is a very easy place to work in terms of the communication and flight access, and virtually all the hotels are within walking distance of the convention centre, which makes a big difference," says Lane.

Registration for the conference began on Saturday, with the opening ceremony and the welcome reception on the Sunday. The conference then ran from Monday to Friday, with the closing party that evening. As well as the five days of meetings, more than 50 social events took place.

Results: The IBA sends feedback forms to all the delegates and is still collating responses, but Lane says that so far, the comments have been very positive. "We keep a running analysis from year to year and try to improve on any aspects that weren't the best they could be," she says.

"It went so well this year. The only slightly minus point was that the exhibition area at Vancouver Convention Centre is in the basement and the meeting rooms are upstairs so it was difficult to generate traffic through the exhibition hall. So if we had a wish list it would be to have an exhibition area in the heart of things, but otherwise I can honestly say it was the best conference centre I've worked with."

FACTFILE
Organisation: International Bar Association (IBA)
Event: Annual conference
Group size: 5,000 delegates
Date: 3-8 October 2010
PCO: Judy Lane Consulting
Venue: Vancouver Convention Centre
Budget: Undisclosed

TIMELINE

2006: Site inspections of destinations in North America for the International Bar Assocation (IBA) annual conference. Toronto, New York and Vancouver shortlisted

2007: Vancouver confirmed as the host city for the 2010 conference following a vote by the IBA management board

March 2010: Registration opens

October 2010: The Annual IBA Conference takes place at Vancouver Convention Centre.

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