How Did You End Up Here? Laura Purdy

In this edition of the EXPO READY newsletter we launch a new initiative entitled “How did you end up here?” to shine a spotlight on the experiences of a CAEM member to learn more about what brought them to the exposition and event industry. Learn more about Laura Purdy, CEM, CMM, General Manager, Sales and Event Management – Beanfield Centre/Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place below:

I didn’t go looking to work in the exhibition and meetings industry. The industry somehow found me. I was quite happy building a career in marketing and retail management for a prestigious Bay-Street commercial real estate firm. In my role I also participated in new business development for the corporation –  responding to RFP’s for management contracts for commercial real estate properties around the world. I would participate in a bid – for a few short days or weeks, then pop back into my regular job. It was interesting work, and added some variety to the regular day to day business of shopping centre management.

In spring 1996 a new exhibition and convention centre was under construction on the grounds of Exhibition Place, and an RFP was issued seeking a 3rd party management company to open and run it. The National Trade Centre was poised to be Canada’s largest convention centre, located on a beautiful 192 acre campus. Together with a US firm we formed a new Canadian company, and over the course of 6 months submitted a bid and were named as the successful proponent.

Shortly after winning the RFP, I was asked to continue with the project as the Director of Sales & Marketing. To be honest – outside of attending ICSC conventions, and annual visits to the One of A Kind Show and the Toronto International Ski Show I didn’t know much about the exhibition and convention industry. However, many of my skills in marketing, communications, tourism and shopping centre management were readily transferable to the exhibition and meetings industry. And really when you think about it, a consumer show by nature is a temporary shopping centre.

We started our contract about 100 days before the official opening of The National Trade Centre. My first day on the job was actually in Los Angeles, working our booth at the IAEE convention. From day one the industry offered some of the most dynamic, exciting and challenging work I had ever had the pleasure to experience. I had the benefit of learning from two amazing mentors from our US office, who shared their knowledge and passion for the industry; and through CAEM, I met some of the most engaging and interesting people, most of whom I still have the pleasure of working with.

This year, I will celebrate 24 years at Exhibition Place, and now have the honour of leading an amazing group of industry professionals. I have continued to participate in CAEM, serving on committees and as a Board member. I happened upon this little-understood industry, and yet somehow I feel that I was meant to find it all along.

Laura Purdy
Acting General Manager
Exhibition Place