New and improved LBCon heading back to Missoula

(Photo by Pam Voth/Last Best Conference)

Renowned national speakers, workshops led by local business leaders, and – new this year – live music and film packages are all part of the Last Best Conference coming to the Wilma Theater on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 3-4.

Dubbed “LBCon” and hosted by founding partners MonTEC, the University of Montana and Missoula Federal Credit Union, the Last Best Conference will highlight entrepreneurial spirit, blossoming culture and a shared love for Montana.

The conference, the first of its kind in the state, aims to bolster regional innovation. Keynote speakers include leaders from Portland, Oregon; Santa Monica, California; Boise, Idaho; and beyond.

Adding to the excitement and value this year, LBCon partnered with Missoula’s Wilma and Roxy theaters to provide music and film packages to conference attendees.

“Conference goers will have the chance to see top-notch music and film this year,” said Morgan Slemberger, LBCon director. “Musicians such as Shooter Jennings, James McMurtry and the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and films such as ‘Charged’ by Phillip Baribeau and ‘Lester Leaps In’ by Mike Stienberg, will be part of this year’s event.”

Slemberger worked during the past year to enhance the conference experience for participants.

“We are incredibly lucky to have dedicated community partners for the Last Best Conference in our second year,” she said. “These new offerings of music and film passes really set the stage for a more South by Southwest experience, with a Missoula twist.”

LBCon tickets are on sale now for $179 through Friday, June 30, and then for $199 through Friday, July 28. These tickets include all main-stage sessions and commemorative LBCon swag. Separate packages, including Conference + Music, Conference + Film and Trifecta (Conference, Music and Film) passes also are available online.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, Montana tops the nation for highest startup activity. Spurred by this recognition, breakout sessions called LBCon Academies – which are led by local leaders in business, the arts and academia – also will be open to participants starting Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Academy topics range from using creativity to change your business and the world to creating original living and learning spaces that foster innovation.

Breakout sessions will happen around the city, showcasing the downtown area and unique cultural hubs like the Wilma and the Roxy. Sessions also can be streamed online through Gatherboard, a software company led by Missoula entrepreneurs Molly Bradford and Colin Hickey. Academy tickets are available separately for $49 per session.

“After living in Portland, Oregon, for the past several years, it was amazing to come back to Missoula and see all the incredible startup activity,” said Kristi Govertson, a Missoula-based entrepreneur, speaker and author who volunteers on LBCon’s planning committee. “The values of LBCon are creativity, courage and community, and I think building up our regional connections through LBCon will only enhance Montana’s growing reputation as the last best place to start a company or creative endeavor.”

What makes LBCon unconventional are the participant-driven breakout sessions that occur between keynote speakers, Govertson said. Participants’ interests guide which breakout sessions they attend, and often the sessions have the feeling of an impromptu “water cooler” conversation among colleagues rather than a formal presentation, she said.

More information, including a complete schedule and lineup of speakers, musicians and films, is online.