Laurel Gray, a Senior Event Manager at ICC Belfast, has been recognised as an international leader in events alongside only 12 other industry professionals from across the globe. The Future Shapers Program led by the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) spans 12 months and involves participation in masterclasses, and working as part of a strategic project group to address industry challenges.
Laurel has an impressive background in major events with her career spanning almost a decade beginning as an Events Assistant at Belfast City Council before progressing to Logistics Planner at ICC Belfast and subsequent promotions to her current position.
Being selected to be on the Future Shapers Programme saw Laurel attend AIPC’s Annual Conference in Luxembourg this past week, along with other representatives from some of the world’s top-performing convention centres. Whilst there she presented a whitepaper to senior event leaders from more than 50 countries on a new industry concept - E:QUAL - co-created in collaboration with Future Shapers peers to help raise standards of health, wellbeing, welfare, safety, recruitment, and training for event professionals.
Laurel explained how the experience supported her to better harness ICC Belfast’s ambitions, she said,
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to lead as ICC Belfast hosted the 2023 SistersIN Celebration Event – a leadership and career development programme connecting schools with businesses committed to empowering female leaders of the future. This ignited my passion to advocate for diversity and inclusion so it was a proud moment to work with my peers to develop the E:QUAL concept – the first global community for event professionals promoting a culture of care that has the potential to create thriving workplace environments.
"The global events industry is valued at £800 billion. By 2028 the market is expected to reach heights of £2 trillion but this won’t be possible without a healthy, happy, and sustained workforce.”
In June ICC Belfast, Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall were awarded a Bronze accreditation by Diversity Mark showcasing the venues’ ongoing commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion. The organisation has achieved a 50:50 male:female balance at executive level and is led by Chief Executive Julia Corkey, she said, "We are tremendously proud of Laurel. She truly understands ICC Belfast’s vision and is committed to delivering for Northern Ireland economically, socially and culturally."
Our people are our best asset in this journey and, as Laurel and the wider team behind E:QUAL demonstrate, being truly world-class requires workplaces across the industry to adopt a culture where everyone feels represented, encouraged and valued.
"Environments where people can express their creativity support continued idea-sharing and innovation which ultimately futureproofs the industry and ensures we can continue to create a world-class stage where people make great things happen.”
As Northern Ireland’s only purpose-built international convention centre ICC Belfast underwent a £29.5M extension in 2016, funded by Belfast City Council, Tourism NI and the European Regional Development Fund. The new and improved 7,000 sq.m venue has unlocked Belfast’s potential to compete for business events with Visit Belfast on track to deliver £120M to the local economy this year through its sales, marketing, and visitor servicing activity.
I’m proud to have the opportunity to represent ICC Belfast and showcase Northern Ireland as an outstanding place to do business.
"I now have a global network of peers from a variety of roles within the industry from chefs to technicians to sales and marketing. There’s a lasting sense of camaraderie amongst us all and I know we will turn to one another as sounding boards and continue to work collaboratively to deliver business events for our respective cities.”