2014 Industry Builder Hall of Fame Inductee
Walter Oster, Chairman & CEO, Canadian National Sportsmen's Shows
Introductory Speech by John Houghton
I would like to introduce you to a serial entrepreneur, a leader and a philanthropist.
A person who has an amazing capacity for risk, hard work and an uncanny ability to work with everyone, from all walks of life.
This is a person with many interests and is passionate about all of them and brims with enthusiasm when they talk to you about them.
They incorporated their first business at the age of 26. It was in the construction and real estate development business which eventually led then into the hospitality industry which gave them exposure to shows and expositions. And, that got them interested, perhaps hooked on the exposition business.
They became an active member of related hospitality industry organizations and soon their business prowess was recognized. This resulted in invitations to become a board member then eventually the chair several of these organizations – all this punctuating their leadership skills.
In addition to their overwhelming capacity to work with people and remember everyone’s name, this person has innate ability to put together and sell great sponsorship deals. This individual is certainly one of the most successful sponsorship sales people I have encountered in the business.
Over the years their contributions have been recognized in many ways: let me name but a smattering of them;
Queen Elizabeth, Golden Jubilee Award
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Lifetime Achievement Award from Ontario Tourism
Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from McMaster University
And recognized by a lot of kids who benefited through the charities they have contributed to.
This is a person who has made huge risks but not always won; but never gave up.
One risk they did make was agreeing to head up one of the longest standing show organizations in Canada at a time when it was facing some challenges. Without their personal investment it is doubtful if the organization would exist today.
So what do they contribute their success to and what advice would they give others in the business?
“You have to have nerves of steel, the capacity for hard work, a generalist with the interest and ability to run all aspects of a show”.
Most importantly you need a great partner and if it there is one main reason for any success - it is his wife Mary who has given him unwavering support for over 52 years.
Ladies and Gentleman let me introduces you to this year’s Hall of Fame, Industry Builder – Walter Oster, Chairman & CEO Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows.
Acceptance Speech by Walter Oster
Wow! What an honour to receive this award in such a dynamic industry!
My first exposure to the show business dates back to the 60s as a member of the Toronto Home Builders Association, I attended their trade shows. I went on to be a Director of the Canadian Restaurant and Food Service Association in 1984 during which time I served as Chair of the Hostex Show. I was also instrumental in acquiring the Food & Beverage Show during my tenure as Chairman of CRFA. This initial exposure wet my appetite.
Exposure to the big picture came in 1988 as a director of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre of which I have been Chairman for the past 17 years. This gave me exposure to all categories of shows including trade, consumer, meetings & conventions. Attending this variety of shows furthered my interest in the business of consumer shows.
In 1989, I was elected to the Board of Canadian National Sportsmen’s Shows. In the course of re-structure, I agreed to the Presidential role for a 6 month period and I’ve now been at the helm for 22 years. What an exciting and challenging industry! We are on stage for 4-5 days a year and spend 360 days planning and building each show. Not much room for error when you only get one chance a year to make changes and adjustments to the property. This year, we have expanded our operation through our Canadian National Show Management division. We purchased the two Babytime Shows and People In Motion. Our plan is to continue our expansion to include various categories of shows.
My passion continues and I’m so pleased to be a part of this great industry that generates huge economic benefits and provides employment for a lot of people.
Once again, I am honoured with this award and I want to congratulate CAEM for being professional in representing our industry. I commend CAEM on the educational seminars that you present to its membership. You do a great job in managing the affairs relative to show producers, service providers and representation to the government & media.