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IAEE Spotlight on 2022 IAEE Woman of Achievement Award Winner Lenay Gore

Lenay Gore may be “mostly retired,” but she remains “all in” when it comes to her passion for the industry and maintaining the relationships she has forged over the past 30+ years. Learn how this IAEE Woman of Achievement continues to impact the exhibitions and events industry!

By Mary Tucker, Sr. Communications & Content Manager

With more than 30 years of industry experience, Lenay Gore has been a dedicated IAEE member for the majority of those years. She has served on almost every committee of the association, on both the national and chapter levels. During her tenure, she has advanced the standing of women in the industry by acting as a role model and mentor. Lenay has served on the IAEE Board of Directors and was a recipient of the IAEE Distinguished Service Award in 2009.

Lenay started working for general contractor Andrews Bartlett in 1989 (now GES). Before Andrews Bartlett, she worked on the hotel operations side of the industry in mainly food and beverage positions. After GES, Lenay worked for the Washington DC Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (now Destination DC) in convention sales. Following that position, she worked at the San Diego Convention Center in a convention sales role. Lenay also worked for an audiovisual production company before starting her amazing career at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

For 15 years, Lenay managed a meeting staff of more than four among APTA’s total of 92 employees. While in her leadership role at APTA, she acted as a staff leader for an all-staff mentoring group in addition to serving as founding staff member of APTA’s Internal Diversity and Inclusion Council. Lenay announced her retirement last year and continues her involvement in the industry as an independent contractor specializing in sponsorship sales and exhibit operations.

Lenay has been dedicated to advancing IAEE’s mission and initiatives, as well as steadfastly demonstrating exemplary leadership for women throughout exhibitions and events. Her devotion earned her the IAEE Woman of Achievement Award last year, for which she was recognized this past December during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Louisville, KY (watch Lenay’s acceptance speech here).

2022 IAEE Awards Chairperson Daniel McKinnon, CEM (left) and IAEE President & CEO David DuBois, CMP-F, CAE, FASAE, CTA (right) present the Woman of Achievement Award to Lenay Gore (middle) during Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2022 in Louisville, KY.

Here, Lenay shares with IAEE how she shaped her career through her diverse roles within the industry, her view on the importance of developing strong relationships and her admiration for fellow women in exhibitions and events who help lift others in the industry.

What brought you to the industry and what stands out for you about developing your career from the female perspective? And, what significant advances have you seen for/by women and what would you like to see more of?

I had an administrative job in hotels for many years before becoming a Catering Manager. My boss was an amazing woman who took a chance and promoted me. She was the best at what she did and taught me the value of relationships. Those connections propelled my career and allowed me to experience many sides of this wonderful industry. It is inspiring to see so many more women in not just leadership roles, but at the very top of their organizations. I had the pleasure of working for more female bosses than male for most of my jobs.

You have worked in various aspects of exhibitions and events. How has this diversity shaped your career and what are some of the best lessons you’ve taken from the way in which your career has evolved?

By working in so many different areas, I feel I was able to negotiate from a position of strength and knowledge. I had walked the walk, so was able to communicate my needs and wants from a different perspective than many planners. From that I learned the value of partnerships; it truly makes all the difference. Be fair, be kind, and remember who signs your paycheck.

This award recognizes, among other things, mentorship. You led a mentoring group at APTA and have been applauded by your peers for your generosity in sharing your knowledge with others. Why do you feel it is important to mentor?

One should always set others up for success. By sharing knowledge, contacts and opportunities with others, you will help them succeed. By the same token, learn from them. Sometimes people think it’s their way or the highway, but you must stay open to learning new ways of doing things, new ideas and generate growth on both sides of the relationship. Ask lots of questions and be prepared to answer lots of them too.

You have also been praised by your colleagues for your leadership qualities. What do you consider top qualities a great leader should possess and how do you apply these traits when managing your teams?

Again, it’s all about sharing and caring. Care about people, care about your organization, care about your partners, care about yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in admitting you need something or someone to assist you. When asked for help, share the reasons for your response to help people understand the “why” and how it fits into the big picture of what you are discussing.

You announced your retirement last year and have moved on to a different phase of your contributions to the industry. What are your plans for retirement and what are you looking forward to the most?

Honestly, I was afraid I’d be bored… but I certainly am not! I didn’t really have many (or any) hobbies per se, but when you have time, you can find things out about yourself that you never knew and find things you enjoy now that there is time! There is a group of fellow industry retirees in my community, and we get together and still “talk shop.” If anyone is thinking about retirement and is nervous, just give me call! I also am really enjoying keeping a toe in the water by working with CEIR. If you want to know more about CEIR, give me call too!

The Call for Nominations for this year’s IAEE Awards is now open! Check out all of the award categories here and be sure to submit your nominations by 31 August!

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