Cheryl Trinidad likes to try new things with meetings. “No risk, no reward,” says Trinidad, who has a way of making the cliché sound fresh and fun. Which could be because we’re catching her at what she considers the fun part of the process.

“Change is scary,” says Trinidad, CMP, vice president, conference services, at LPL Financial in San Diego. “But we’ve been thoughtful. I’ve been working with sponsors and with the home office since last year, showing them the benefits of the new concept. So I’m past the scary part. Now I’m excited.”

An Intimate Show Floor

The new concept is the layout of the exhibit hall at the focus conference, LPL Financial’s largest annual meeting, which will draw nearly 6,000 attendees to San Diego in August. These attendees are independent advisers and financial institutions that are affiliated with LPL, the largest independent broker/dealer in the U.S. In addition to general sessions, keynotes, and breakouts, the event features an expo with 120 exhibitors, plus 22 booths from LPL Financial itself. Exhibitors (or sponsors, as LPL refers to them) are firms that provide product and investment recommendations for LPL advisers to help their clients.

Last year, Trinidad created a “community square” floor plan (she thought of it as Harvard Square–like) for the booths associated with the home office in an effort to make them more accessible and engaging—to make it a place that attendees would hang out, rather than walk past. Booths from other exhibitors were laid out in the traditional aisle format.

This year, all booths will be arranged in community-square settings. But Trinidad has recast the squares as “neighborhoods”—six of them, all named for areas of San Diego, her hometown. “The community square worked so well we decided to duplicate it and replicate it at focus 2014,” she says. Truth be told, it worked almost too well in 2013, with many exhibitors reporting that their booth traffic was down because attendees were so drawn to the LPL community square. (Trinidad’s attendee surveys corroborate the anecdotes: Traffic to home office booths showed an increase in 2013.)