Laurie Sharp, 55, is principal of SharpEXP in Northern California. She's also the co-founder of Bubbles and Buddha and serves on the board of directors for the Society for Sustainable Events. Previously, she's held roles as vice president of events and experiences for New Relic, as a board member for the Corporate Events Marketing Association (CEMA), and as president of MPI Northern California.
A quote from her nomination: "She has established herself as an industry expert with vast knowledge and an exceptional combination of strategic thinking and operational prowess. Laurie is also a phenomenal people person, and she excels as a people leader and mentor."
How I got here: "My first job was at the Grand Kempinski as a Club Level concierge while also attending the University of Texas in Dallas, pursuing my degree. Here, I gained insight into back-of-house hotel operations, how to deliver white-glove customer service, how to be part of a collaborative team, and the joy of 6 a.m. shifts. From there, I moved into the conference planning side, spending eight years in the Washington, D.C., association market—planning large-scale, citywide conventions across the U.S. for more than 10,000 attendees.
When I relocated to San Francisco 20 years ago, I spent eight years at corporate event agencies and 12 in house at VMware, Dolby, and New Relic in event marketing leadership roles. I oversaw global teams responsible for customer and partner events and activations with anywhere from 20 to 20,000 attendees and included incentives, sales kickoffs, third-party sponsorships, executive briefing centers, and stadium-sized special events.
Now, for the past five years as principal at SharpEXP, we partner with senior-level marketing executives and their teams to define event marketing strategies, engage stakeholders, and execute best-in-class events on a project basis or to fill short-term resource gaps. I get to use all my experience and work with amazing teams that I bring together for each project."
Greatest career accomplishment: "I’ve always heard ‘You can do strategy or you can do execution—but you can’t be great at both.’ For me, I love event strategy work balanced with hands-on production and execution. To be able to go from crafting an annual event marketing strategy to defining high-level KPIs, building and growing a team, designing every element of the customer journey, and ultimately seeing the customer reaction, both in person and through pipeline growth, is amazing.
For me, SharpEXP allows me to bring all of those skills and the broad network I’ve developed to support my clients, no matter what their needs are."
A specific improvement I’ve made: "First and foremost, I love this industry. I am so grateful to do what I love every day. I’ve had incredible mentors, been fortunate to build and lead large global teams, and still work with colleagues who are 20-year lifelong friends. I continue to collaborate with the most talented CMOs, marketers, partners, and event destinations worldwide.
I hope that through my career—serving on the boards of industry organizations, evangelizing my passion for our industry on keynote stages, and promoting wellness and self-care—I’ve inspired and mentored future event marketers and leaders."
The biggest change I've observed in the industry: "There is constant change in this industry, which keeps us all on our toes! From the creation and explosion of event technology to the impacts of a global pandemic, there are so many elements that must be considered in today’s event marketing.
There’s the increased importance of wellness for our community and our attendees; the need to create safe, inclusive events for all of our attendees, including a focus on neurodiversity; and considering AI and industry consolidation. All these changes bring excitement and challenges. They push us to innovate, be creative, and strive for excellence—and, thankfully, it’s never dull.
Demand gen and KPIs will always drive our business plans. Still, regardless of the next big hurdle, we should never lose sight of the fact that we curate meetings and events for our fellow humans who want what we all want: to be part of a community, be inspired, grow in their careers, and achieve both business and personal success."
What I do outside of work: "I recently launched my 20-year-old daughter into the world, and she’s starting her junior year at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. That change has allowed me to spend more time on my passions, travel and hiking. My partner and I hiked in the Austrian, Italian, and French Alps for three weeks this summer. Our goal next summer is to hike hut to hut to complete the 106-mile Tour du Mont Blanc that crosses France, Switzerland, and Italy—and sip a little wine along the way.
The career advice I'd give my younger self: "Self-care is not selfish—it’s vital. In the last five-plus years, I’ve become more immersed in my mental and physical health journey. In addition to hiking, I’m a SoulCycle addict (625 rides and counting!) and practice guided meditation daily.
Earlier this year, in partnership with my best friend, Alison Regenold, we launched Bubbles and Buddha to give back to our events and marketing community. Bubbles and Buddha is a website and blog sharing stories of our community members, highlighting their journeys as event professionals and wellness practitioners. We aim to provide inspiration and share resources marketers can use to integrate wellness activities into their events."