The formula for an enjoyable evening event is typically a mix of a nice setting, tasty food, a stocked bar, and the right music. But how do you raise an event to that proverbial “next level”? Global Events Partners hit on it spectacularly when it booked an unusual photographer for an evening reception at its GEP Summit in New Orleans.

In June, GEP hosted 107 meeting planners at its 13th annual client/partner event, and on the second evening held a party at the Grand Oaks Mansion at Mardi Gras World. In a room near the entrance, portrait photographer Robert X. Fogarty was set up and ready to shoot. Earlier in the day Fogarty had come to the meeting to describe his Dear World photography project, which began as “photographic love notes” to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and has expanded well beyond.

Fogarty asks his portrait subjects to share one meaningful message by writing it on their skin, typically their arms or hands, in bold black marker. His images are striking and personal, and GEP attendees, he explained, would have an opportunity to have their portraits taken in this style.

That evening, attendees enjoyed the food, drink, and music (including a clarinet solo by GEP’s chairman and CEO Chris White), but the buzz in the line of people waiting to be photographed was remarkable, as people discussed what they wanted their personal statement to be—and then asked colleagues to write on them. The photos were collected in a powerful montage that was displayed the next evening, and attendees received prints in the mail a few weeks after the meeting.