Impactful careers in the events industry 

Impactful careers in the events industry 

Discovering my passion: Why I chose a career in the events industry 

Written by Nicolette Elia – Director of Event Services

When I was contemplating my career, the events industry never crossed my mind. I didn’t I even know about the many conferences, exhibitions, and tradeshows happening worldwide. To be fair, this was the early 1990s, a time when kids were simply kids. The World Wide Web had just launched in 1993, and there were no smartphones, tablets, Facebook, or TikTok. Unlike today’s teenagers, I was far less aware and connected to the world. 

My journey into the exhibition industry began a few years after I started work. Once I dipped my toe into this unknown territory, I was instantly captivated. With both creative and academic qualifications, the exhibition world offered a perfect balance of both. What thrilled me most was witnessing an empty exhibition hall transform into a vibrant world of colourful displays, exhibition booths, and creative pavilions. The energy on the trading floor was electric, intense, and infectious, and I quickly became immersed in the industry. Within months, I was designing exhibition floorplans, rolling out marketing campaigns, and negotiating contracts with suppliers to maximise budgets and profit margins. 

The deeper I delved into the industry, the more I craved. Soon, I was travelling internationally to manage country pavilions aimed at attracting business and boosting economies. It was at a business tourism tradeshow in Geneva when I realised the events industry was far more significant than I had ever imagined. Despite being confined within four walls, exhibitions and tradeshows had limitless reach. The introductions, negotiations, and networking had a higher purpose—they created wealth, raised awareness, and impacted lives. 

But how do events such as exhibitions, tradeshows and conferences have such an impact?  

Consider a consumer exhibition, an event with a common theme, open to the public. People stroll through aisles filled with hundreds of shopfronts. Exhibitors have a captive audience eager to meet them and purchase their goods. Visitors enjoy the convenience of shopping with ease, exploring a wide variety of options in a climate-controlled venue offering snacks, meals, and refreshments, encouraging them to linger longer. This perfect formula often results in visitors (consumers) getting caught up in the bright lights, appealing colours, and “show-only” promotions, leading them to spend more than planned. 

Exhibitors (retailers) benefit from increased sales, leading them to purchase more merchandise from suppliers. This increase in demand prompts suppliers to expand their stock and hire additional employees, positively impacting employment and boosting economies. 

The events industry also profoundly impacts the world through conferences, congresses, conventions, meetings and seminars. These gatherings provide a platform for professionals, academics, governments, and others to deliberate on the latest innovations, debate hypotheses, discuss cures, and find solutions to global challenges. 

As an example, the UN Climate Change Conference, known as the Conference of the Parties (COP), attracts approximately 20,000 delegates annually to address the critical state of our changing climate and its devastating environmental impacts. Similarly, the International Aids Society (IAS) conference draws over 25,000 global participants to accelerate scientific discovery. 

I was privileged to work as the Director of Operations for Africa’s largest convention centre, when we hosted both COP17 and the IAS Conference. Being at the heart of such significant work and witnessing the passion of people from different nationalities, races, and cultures united by a common goal was humbling. I realised we were facilitating events that could change the course of history. Understanding this, I recognised the immense role that conferences and tradeshows can play in shaping the world. 

Twenty-five years later, the transformation of an empty exhibition hall still excites me. However, I have grown wise to the fact that as industry professionals, we are not just building exhibitions or providing meeting rooms—we are changing lives. This makes me proud of choosing this career as my destiny. It is why I remain loyal and wake up each morning with genuine passion and exhilaration, eager to embrace the potential of a new day and the start of another conference. 

Case Study: International Media and Communication Research Conference

Case Study: International Media and Communication Research Conference

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre hosted one of the world’s biggest communication conferences from 30 June-4 July 2024, putting Indigenous knowledge at the centre of communication research. The prestigious “International Association for Media and Communication Research” (IAMCR) conference brought together 1,300 international delegates from over 61 different countries. 

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) hosted the conference in collaboration with local iwi, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, and senior academics from seven New Zealand universities.  

UC Professor Donald Matheson, Chair of the Local Organising Committee, says IAMCR 2024 has put Ōtautahi Christchurch and Aotearoa New Zealand on the map and will lead to further research projects and other valuable connections. 

The event utilised every room and space at Te Pae Christchurch during the 4 day conference. In addition, multiple venues and city hotels hosted sessions including Crowne Plaza Christchurch, Distinction Christchurch Hotel, Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square, and Tūranga Christchurch Library, with social events taking place at hospitality spaces including Riverside Market. 

Whiria te tāngata | Weaving people together 

Media and communication research explores the influence and impact of the media and new information technology. It shows how communication and media work in a broader social context.  

The theme of IAMCR 2024 was Whiria te tangata | Weave the people together: Communicative projects of decolonising, engaging, and listening – the strength that comes through common purpose. It invites reflection on the terms and models appropriate to describe contemporary communication, including the political and moral goals embedded in them.  

Partnership in knowledge-making  

Keynote speakers included Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Distinguished Professor at Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi), who is a global authority on indigenous methods in the social sciences, and Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University), one of New Zealand’s leading Pacific scholars and researcher. 

Connecting young Pacific researchers with school students was a focus of the conference, supported by UNESCO’s New Zealand National Commission. 

“A major scholarly topic in our field is decolonising communication and Ōtautahi Christchurch is a perfect place to do that. It makes our academic commitment to partnership in knowledge-making real. Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre with its striking Te Ngutu (ceremonial entranceway) and strong cultural narrative of connecting with place, adds to that,” Professor Matheson says. 

Early-career focused conference 

IAMCR 2024 was a conference of emerging scholars, with about 40 percent of participants still doing their research degrees. This added energy and ensured there were many new ideas discussed. 

There were awards and grants for participating members including 25 travel grants, excellence awards for papers on climate change communication, urban communication, or rural communication services. 

“We are all working through many of the same issues, including the pace of technological change, questions of trust in communicators, the way communication reinforces inequality between rich and poor, the role that communication can play in global challenges such as climate justice, public health and safeguarding the fragile structures of democracy,” Professor Matheson says. 

Reducing environmental impact 

The conference had a strong focus on reducing its environmental impact and also prioritised accessibility for all.  

Activities included planting trees at a scenic regeneration wetland, an urban walk with a local guide (kaumatua) to learn about the partnership between the tribe and the city in rebuilding the city centre, media art exhibitions and more. In addition, there was a strong focus on incorporating plant-based menu items, reducing unnecessary printing and waste management during the conference. 

“Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre is in the central city, so participants were able to walk to and from their accommodation. Te Pae has a small environmental footprint itself and has been certified carbon net zero, with a wide range of sustainability initiatives in place. During the conference, we had volunteer ‘eco-angels’ walking the floor, advising delegates on steps they can take to reduce their carbon footprint and they were handing out tickets to the heritage (electric) tram as spot prizes,” Professor Matheson says. 

Meet our people: Courtney Schimanski, Pastry Chef

Meet our people: Courtney Schimanski, Pastry Chef


Courtney Schimanski joined Te Pae Christchurch in 2021 as a Pastry Chef. Courtney’s culinary career began at Ara, studying part-time while she was still in high school, eager to kickstart her career. Courtney honed her pastry skills at The George Hotel and Christchurch Casino, learning invaluable skills, especially in catering for large numbers.  

Courtney grew up in a family of chefs, with her passion for desserts starting as a young girl, when each week Courtney and her Gran would pick a recipe to bake together. The freedom to use your imagination and creativity to craft unique dishes, and seeing the joy they bring to people, continues to inspire Courtney as a Pastry Chef. 

I love seeing people’s reactions when they receive their food, especially when one of my dishes, like ‘The Shroom’, lights up their faces. The diversity of events at Te Pae means I’m always learning and pushing creative boundaries.” 

Courtney enjoys the challenge of making each dessert unique and using quality ingredients and equipment in the Te Pae pastry kitchen. Being part of a large culinary team provides the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, enhancing creativity. The sense of camaraderie and the collective celebration of achievements makes it a unique and fulfilling experience. Te Pae offers a dynamic environment where attention to detail and innovation are always at the forefront. 

One of Courtney’s favourite desserts created for Te Pae is ‘The Shroom’, which is special for its theatrical presentation and the joy it brings to people. The team at Te Pae have recently launched our new menu, which features the ‘Red’ dessert. This dish was a great accomplishment for Courtney, due to the complex balance of hay smoke, peppercorns, and tart berries.  

Courtney draws inspiration for her desserts from various sources: mentors, other innovative pastry chefs, and the ingredients sourced from the Canterbury region. Showcasing local products in her dishes is a significant inspiration. In addition, the resilience of Christchurch after the earthquakes and the revival of the hospitality industry have fuelled Courtney’s desire to create desserts that bring joy.  

In terms of current dessert trends, Courtney has seen a growing focus on dietary and lifestyle requirements. This has challenged chefs to innovate and create dishes that are both safe and delicious. The new menu features more dietary options, ensuring everyone feels included. As someone with dietary issues herself, Courtney understands how important this is. 

In the future, Courtney would love to travel to Europe, home to some of the world’s most amazing patisseries and chefs. Being surrounded by incredible food and learning from the best pastry chefs in the world would be a dream come true. Then to bring back that knowledge to New Zealand to inspire the next generation of pastry chefs would be incredible. 

When Courtney isn’t busy crafting beautiful desserts, you may spot her out training for half marathons. Being outdoors and breathing in fresh air after a day indoors helps Courtney reset and prepare for new challenges. 

Te Pae is incredibly proud to have Courtney on our team, bringing passion, creativity, and joy to every dessert she creates. Keep an eye out for her delightful creations at your next event! 

Armageddon Expo Christchurch

Case Study: Armageddon Expo


From showcasing international stars that capture the pop culture zeitgeist, to providing a chance for fans to dress as their favourite comic book, movie, or animation character, the Armageddon Expo is a unique activity on the local events calendar.

Beyond Reality Media director Bill Geradts says that diversity of experience is what really sets Armageddon apart from other local events.

The 2024 Armageddon Expo highlighted the range of entertainment on offer at the event. Headlined by British comedian and Doctor Who companion, Catherine Tate and Holly Marie Combs, star of hit US show Charmed, the event combined props, art and cosplay, with the chance for fans to purchase collectables and memorabilia.

“There’s not really a name that encompasses everything we do,” says Bill. “Armageddon is a different beast. Just from start to finish, it’s a different kind of show.”

Utilising everything Te Pae has to offer

The event is also unique in that it uses almost every part of Te Pae Christchurch, from the Meeting and River Rooms to the Exhibition Halls and the Auditorium.

Bill says that the range of venue options is part of the appeal of Te Pae Christchurch, which has played host to Armageddon every year since the new convention centre opened.

“Over the last 30 years, we’ve used almost every major venue in the country,” says Bill. “In my mind, Te Pae is the best venue in the country, in terms of what it offers. It has more flexibility, more availability and it’s also just really nice looking, which does help.”

Size of event

This event takes six months of planning, six months of execution, and sometimes many years to book the right artists – the organisers had been coordinating with Catherine Tate for six years, ahead of her headline appearance this year – continues to grow in scope and popularity. This year’s Armageddon Expo attracted 13,000 attendees over two days.

“This year’s Christchurch show was probably one of our most successful,” says Bill. “We get a lot more people coming to these shows that are in cosplay and having a ball, a lot more younger ones, a lot more families, a lot more kids coming through.”

Accessibility and variability of our spaces  

Bill says setting up an event of this scale is easy at Te Pae Christchurch, with large and small details streamlining the process for his team.

“We try to use pretty much everything that’s in the building,” says Bill. “There’s not a lot of infrastructure we bring in.”

“Loading is a dream. They’ve got a great loading bay, which is fully undercover, meaning weather is a non-issue. They’ve got heaps of trolleys, which is very helpful because a lot of venues don’t have that. And the elevators are nice and big as well.”

Bill says his international guests also love the space, with the Te Pae Lounge – an exclusive VIP suite with self-contained kitchenette and bathroom, as well as direct access to the auditorium – ideal for the event.

The auditorium, which hosts the headline guests and other presentations, is a key part of the Armageddon Expo format at Te Pae.

A choice of quality hotels close to the venue is also important for accommodating the needs of the Expo’s stars. “It’s one of the of the nicer things – we can walk them across the road to the show.”

With a new season of shows now in the planning stages, as well as new science fiction and fantasy franchises and a slew of international stars on the target list, the Armageddon Expo team is already looking several years out – and in planning with Te Pae Christchurch.

“We’re also a bit unique in terms of large events, in that we’re based in Christchurch. So we can just pop in and say hello.”

“It’s a great venue. I’d recommend it to anybody who’d want to use it.”

Case Study: Asian Seed Congress

Case Study: Asian Seed Congress


The world’s largest seed industry event, the Asian Seed Congress, was held at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre for the first time in late 2023 – bringing over 1,000 delegates from more than 45 countries to the Canterbury region and contributing an estimated $2.5 million to Christchurch’s visitor economy. 

New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) Operations & Events Manager Sharon Dawe says the opportunity to showcase the country’s major seed growing region was made possible in-part by the ability to host the event at Te Pae Christchurch. 

“Te Pae was definitely a significant part of the bid. Being in Canterbury – the heart of the local grain and seed industry – was quite a drawcard, but if we had not had the venue, it wouldn’t have come to Christchurch,” says Sharon. 

A flavour of Aotearoa 

Having won the bid, the organising committee were determined to put a local stamp on it. “We recognised we needed to put a New Zealand flair on it, to really make it our own,” says Sharon. 

Despite the scale of preparations required, Sharon was confident that she had the right support in the events team from Te Pae Christchurch.  

“As a Te Pae customer, whatever you want, they will make it happen – the staff just go out of their way in their commitment to every single detail,” says Sharon.  

The taste of a region 

As a significant contributor to the local agricultural sector, the NZGTSA was also proud to showcase food sourced from Canterbury and the South Island – an integral part of Te Pae Christchurch’s food philosophy. 

“That was a huge hit with the delegates – to know that we could source so much of the produce locally and that some of the food on the menu was produced literally an hour from here.” 

The business of meetings 

The Congress is notable for the sheer volume of business conducted over the course of the 5-day event. Organisers estimated nearly 10,000 meetings were held during the Congress, with up to $200 million of new business generated during trading sessions. 

“One of the key parts of what Te Pae offers is the versatility they can provide any event,” says Sharon. “We have our own national conference and the Arable Awards at Te Pae, so we knew that they could cater for anything from our own event of 150, to a major Congress hosting over 1,000 delegates.” 

Located for success 

Another drawcard for the venue is Te Pae’s proximity to Christchurch’s vibrant inner city entertainment centre, and a range of hotel accommodation. 

“The delegates loved how close they were to the venue,” says Sharon. “Having a choice of a range of quality hotels within walking distance not only means that you don’t have to coordinate transport, but it also encourages people to go outside and get more of a genuine experience of the city.” 

Four fully subscribed post-event tours, as well as a dedicated tour for partners and families, not only showcased the local industry but also highlighted the broad range of tourism experiences in close proximity to the city.  

A landmark event 

Sharon says the post-conference feedback from delegates has been amazing. 

“Overall, the feedback has been incredible,” says Sharon. “People were saying to me that it was the best Congress they’d been too, how much they loved their experience of the country, and that they want to come back and visit or stay longer.” 

Meet our people: Marzena Orlecka, Food and Beverage Manager

Meet our people:
Marzena Orlecka, Food and Beverage Manager

19 October 2023

Marzena Orlecka joined Te Pae in May 2022 as an Event coordinator and was recently promoted to our Food and Beverage Manager.  

Marzena brings a broad range of experience and skills which she acquired from her career in Poland and South Africa.

Marzena’s career in the hospitality world started in Poland while she was studying to become an Accountant. What was supposed to be a short-term opportunity turned out to be a career, as she completely fell in love with the industry.  

Her energy and passion led her to climb the ladder in the hospitality and events industry. In 2010, she joined the Soccer FIFA World Cup as the Food and Beverage Manager in South Africa.   

“I witness how much joy it brings to people when they get to experience a “social event” regardless of what type of event it is. It is where I learned that I like to “take up the stress” of planning and organising for weeks or months, just to see the smile on people’s face for a day or an hour.” 

Her personal life brought her to New Zealand in January 2020. After working for The Christchurch Club and at the Botanical Gardens, she felt the need to get back into a large events environment and could not think of a better place than Te Pae Christchurch. 

“Being part of this team makes me very proud. It was amazing to experience all the steps to where we are today and to be part of the Te Pae culture and family. Everyone working in this place has been a rock and great support to each other and the achievements we made have been a collective success of all of us coming together.” 

Passionate about her work, it is Marzena’s curiosity and desire to make people happy that makes her stand out and led her to win the “EVANZ Raising Star of the Year” award last year.

“Winning the award was very unexpected. There is such exciting potential for young people in this country, they are all amazing. I dedicated the award to my team who worked really hard alongside me to deliver exceptional events.” 

When she is not working, you will find Marzena out hiking, skiing or fishing and spending time with her family. Marzena is always on the hunt for a new activity that connects her to nature and reinvigorates her energy for managing the next event!

Te Pae team in action at AIME Tradeshow

Te Pae team in action at AIME Tradeshow

28 February 2024

Four members of our Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre team joined a strong New Zealand contingent at the 2024 AIME (Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event) Tradeshow held in Melbourne 19-21 February.

The leading trade event for the meetings and event industry in the Asia Pacific region, this year’s AIME event was a vibrant celebration of the business events community.

Our Business Development team returned feeling inspired and excited about new opportunities and connections made. Over the three-day conference, Heidi Heming and Gillian Officer were busy with 37 appointments with a variety of Australian buyers.  These meetings, along with the amazing Neon Carnival welcome event and the numerous valuable knowledge sessions, were all highlights for AIME 2024. It was fantastic to be part of the largest ever 100% Pure New Zealand team stand.

Te Pae Christchurch is already well-known for our leadership in sustainability, and it was with great pride that our General Manager Ross Steele attended an AIME media presentation to announce that we have achieved Toitū net carbonzero certification. We believe Te Pae Christchurch is the first convention centre in Australasia to achieve this certification, which is a credit to our entire team. Also presenting this media session was Megan Crum, Head of Business Events at ChristchurchNZ, who shared the exciting news about the launch of their Conference Legacy Project.

“The Australian buyers we met enjoyed the stories of our building design and our connection to place, and they shared with us some great new opportunities for our venue and the city of Christchurch. There was such a positive vibe on the show floor, and the New Zealand stand drew a strong crowd of interested buyers,” said Heidi Heming, Te Pae Business Development Manager Australia.  

AIME Tradeshow

Why conferencing in Christchurch can be impactful?

Why conferencing in Christchurch can be impactful?

19 October 2023

Recently Te Pae Christchurch hosted the 14th Annual TravelManagers Conference.  One of the conference’s key goals was to make this event Carbon Neutral.

Michael Gazal, Executive General Manager from TravelManagers, working with local-host HOT-founder Chris Paulsen wanted to make sustainability a key focus, and choosing a sustainable destination and venue for their first annual conference in New Zealand was important.  

“Te Pae Christchurch helped us deliver on making this a green event with several sustainable operations, like no-waste-to-landfill coffee-carts, recyclable and reusable water stations, and no single-use plastics”.

TravelManagers also partnered with local The Christchurch Foundation to help meet their carbon-neutral goals.  They provided practical and hands-on solutions, and rather than buying carbon credits to offset emissions, they helped the conference find and choose a local tree planting activity that is encouraging the return of native tui birds to the central city.  Planting enough trees to cover travel emissions for all 370 delegates.

“Monetary wise it may have been a more expensive option however the value of bringing a group of our key partners together in a special part of Christchurch in the city’s red zone made the investment more than worthwhile.” said Michael Gazal

Fun and powerful, this experience was welcomed with excitement and pride by the attendees.  “The smile on people’s faces said it all!!  Although it was a physical exercise digging holes and planting trees, you could feel the energy and satisfaction of our participants with plenty of laughs in the mix!”

Alongside this sustainability exercise, delegates spent time around Christchurch, discovering and enjoying various activities within the city including zip lining, punting on the Avon, cultural walking tours, and cooking classes amongst others that showcased the diversity of the city offerings.

Our journey towards carbon neutrality  

Our journey towards carbon neutrality  

19 October 2023

Te Pae Christchurch is committed to reducing its environmental impact, leading by example to generate meaningful change for the future. 

While we are only in our second year of operation, our sustainable journey has been going for four years.  Te Pae Christchurch partner with New Zealand government-owned Toitū Envirocare to help us on our journey.   

Following our third successful audit for Toitū Enviromark Gold Certification, our next ambitious target is to be carbon-neutral by the end of 2024, and Toitū Envirocare are guiding us on the journey. 

What is helping us on our sustainability journey?  

Green Building Design:  Te Pae Christchurch was designed with a focus on sustainable building practices.  It has been built with environmentally friendly materials, effective insulation, and natural lighting that all help reduce energy consumption.  

Energy Efficiency:  We operate with state-of-the-art, energy-efficient technologies such as LED lighting that further reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions.  

Sustainable Catering:  We partner with sustainable local suppliers.  To minimise the carbon footprint associated with food transportation, we choose seasonal and locally produced food options wherever possible.    

Standing by Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:  We donate any unused food from our events that can be re-used to local charity ‘Foodbank Canterbury’, and we use the GAIA food dehydrator that turns food-waste into a rich garden fertiliser that is gifted to local gardens.  We have also installed an eWater system that produces a natural cleaning product, reducing reliance on traditional cleaning products.  We are 100% free of single-use plastics.  

Water Conservation: To minimise water consumption, we use efficient equipment and landscaping practices.

Meet our people: Nathan Gardiner, our new Head of Technology and Innovation

Meet our people:
Nathan Gardiner, our new Head of Technology and Innovation

19 October 2023

Nathan joined Te Pae Christchurch three months ago in the newly created position of Head of Technology and Innovation.

He brings a wealth of experience to the role and has made an immediate impact leading the highly skilled team of Audio Visual (AV) and Information Communications and Technology (ICT) specialists at Te Pae Christchurch.      

Nathan has been involved in AV and ICT management in the education sector for many years including at the University of Canterbury where he managed several critical AV and ICT projects.     

“I was seeking new career opportunities and was attracted by the opportunity of the role. From the moment I walked into the building I wanted to be part of Te Pae Christchurch.   The passion of the team and the Te Pae Christchurch values and manaakintanga (hospitality) aligns completely with my own values.”  

Even though Te Pae Christchurch is only eighteen months old, Nathan has already set about working on an innovative technology roadmap to heighten the customer journey.     

“I have been so impressed with the team at Te Pae Christchurch.    It’s wonderful to be a part of this incredible work whānau, where passion, innovation and our customers are at the forefront.  I feel right at home here!”  

On a more personal side, when Nathan is not spending time with his active family including his wife, five teenagers and two cats, you can find him riding his motorbike throughout Aotearoa.