Industry Profile: Laura Purdy

 

Toronto’s Exhibition Place general manager Laura Purdy is a well-known leader in Canada’s exhibition and event management industry. Although working in the industry was not initially her plan, she has built a successful career over 35 years.

“Convention centre management is a rewarding, exciting, and challenging career, where no day is ever the same,” she says. “Our team provides service delivery to multiple events, meetings, and exhibitions each week – all year long, and we have a unique opportunity to learn about many key industries and how business events contribute positively to the economy. The ability to interact with our clients, suppliers to the industry, delegates and the general public allow us to engage and provide a high level of service and customized solutions in dynamic situations.

Purdy believes in giving back and being an active member of the business events industry. She has volunteered in various positions at the national and international levels.

She was appointed the inaugural chair of the newly established North American chapter of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) last year. Purdy will represent the region on both the UFI board of directors and the executive committee for the term from 2023 to 2026.

“My work for UFI and our members allow us to deal with specific interests at the regional level to raise awareness and share best practices globally, while helping to raise the overall standard of the exhibition industry. My goals for serving on all these boards are to promote our industry as a career, ensure we advocate about the value of business events and to ensure that we promote and incorporate sustainability in our industry. As an organization that has led the way in the Net Carbon Zero Events pledge, UFI’s work aligns perfectly with our own sustainability objectives at Exhibition Place,” says Purdy.

Exhibition Place has implemented sustainable and ecologically sustainable operations for more than 20 years. Initiatives range from beekeeping to energy creation through wind, solar, district energy and geothermal and diverting significant waste from landfill.

“On the technology side of things, we are the only convention centre in North America to offer our clients, exhibitors, and guests complimentary wifi connectivity in our convention centre – and we have just introduced wifi6 – which means fast, robust and reliable technology for all our internet needs,” says Purdy.

 

 

PurdyTell us how you got started in the industry.

While working for O&Y Properties a Toronto-based real estate management company I was tapped to participate on the bid team tasked with responding to a convention centre management RFP for the newly constructed National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto, to manage what would be Canada’s largest convention centre. Working collaboratively with our JV partner SMG over the course of several months, we prepared and submitted our management bid and were awarded the contract in late 1996. Upon winning the management bid, I was seconded for a one-year contract to plan the grand opening (happening in a short 90 days) and undertake the role of director of sales and marketing for The National Trade Centre. After my one-year contract was up, I decided to stay on in the role.

What do you think attracts groups and events to Toronto?

Toronto as a city is a place of creativity and innovation – where diversity is a way of life, multiculturalism is celebrated, and all are welcome. The scene in Toronto is incredible; whether groups are looking for internationally recognized convention centres offering world-class service, or unique small spaces like an outdoor venue or an iconic castle, there are no shortage of places for groups and events.

What have been some highlight events hosted by Exhibition Place?

I’ve had the pleasure to work on many once-in-a-lifetime events here at Exhibition Place and some of the highlights include events with the Dalai Lama, World Youth Days with Pope John Paul II, The Pan Am Games, the G20 and I’m looking forward to Exhibition Place hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2026. In between all of those block-buster events, we are always excited to experience the Toronto International Boat Show, Collision Conference, and The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. With over 1761 events each year – it’s hard to just name a few!

What advice would you offer others entering the industry?

Working in the events industry can be one of the most rewarding career paths for those considering the field of event management, convention centre management or supplier opportunities. I am a strong believer in putting your hand up for new projects – especially if it is something not listed on your job description. A new project could be something with your own employer, or volunteering for an industry association. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with different colleagues, enhance your skill set and definitely learn something new about the industry, and yourself.

 

 

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