They also do this…

Des Mclaughlin (pictured), Group Managing Director at Grass Roots, is a whizz on wheels? and has owned many. “I’ve always loved motorbikes. At 16 I was a mod and my first bike was a Vespa 150 PX,” he said.

“Thirty years on I still ride but now it’s a Ducati Multistrada and a Harley Fat Boy.

“In 2012 I rode the infamous Route 66 with my son Max. We hired a Harley Electra glide in Michigan and drove through 10 states to LA covering over 3,000 miles in 11 days. This is where you see the real America.”

And while Des enjoys his fast bikes, Patch Media’s Communications Manager, Astrid Spegel, revels in ‘fast breaks’, after a career in professional basketball.

“I played professional basketball in the USA, Germany, Spain, Italy and France between 2000 and 2009, and was with seven different teams during that period,” she said.

“The best two teams I played for were Zamora, Spain and Salerno, Italy, who are still very active in first leagues.

 “My greatest achievements were winning ‘defensive player of the year’ twice and the leader in blocks in four different leagues.”

Mexia Communications MD Kursha Woodgate has practised martial arts since she was 13.
“I was lucky enough to train with a number of champions in my home town of Liverpool,” said Kursha. “This included Terry O’ Neill who appeared with Arnold Swarzenegger in the original Conan movie!

“I gave up for many years, then took it up again a year ago and attained my black belt, Shodan in Shotokan Karate. I’m now working hard towards my second dan.

“Karate keeps me fit and is spiritually calming – a real plus when working in the events industry.”

Also keen to keep fit is Noodle Live’s Event Technology Director, Clemi Hardie who has spent years carving out a surf career.

Clemi won numerous National and European accolades, was twice British champion, was in the English Surfing Federation team and also had a top 10 European ranking.

She’s still surfing (though not as much as she’d like), having hit the waves in France, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Australia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

She now needs a new passport. Her current one has just two pages left!

Freelance Marketing and Event Manager, Helena Briden is also keen on the water, but she doesn’t want to hit the waves, she wants to get beneath them.

Helena’s also a business associate of Thwaites Communications, but to her close friends she’s ‘the mermaid’.

“After working many years in the corporate world I took a sabbatical and trained in Florida to be a scuba and underwater naturalist speciality instructor,” said Helena.

“I worked in the Bahamas and Canada teaching people to scuba dive and introduced school programmes to teach children how to respect and preserve the underwater world.”

Helena still dives at any given (warm water) opportunity, while Royal College of Physicians marketing manager, Natacha Allen keeps her ocean interests strictly ship shape.

Natacha grew up in Cape Town and at 11 sailed Hobie Cats competitively at a regional, national and then an international level, representing South Africa at the 1996 World Championships in Dubai.

“I moved to the UK in 2001 and qualified to represent Great Britain in the 2003 ISAFF World Sailing Games in Marseilles with Team GB. It was a fantastic experience,” she said.

“Competitive sailing is a real challenge and gives you some great skills to bring to conference sales.”

Natacha still tries to get a regular ‘sailing fix’, while Adam Baggs, Creative Director and founder of Soaring Worldwide, finds the sky is his limit.

“Many people see paragliding as ‘a little crazy’, but unlike skydiving and bungee jumping it’s a serene experience, drifting around the skies above the hills of England,” said Adam.

“My real passion is the great outdoors, particularly Scotland, Wales or the Cotswolds, where I am fortunate enough to live and work. 

“What’s next?  Well the weather in England is a bit too temperamental for regular paragliding so I recently had my first microlight lesson!”

Meanwhile London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) St Luke’s’ Sales and Marketing Manager, Victoria Steinitz’s interests see her conducting bands.

“Music is both absorbing and affirming and now with three bands to fit in alongside my role as Sales and Marketing Manager, and being mother to two-year-old Lillian, it’s a good job running an ensemble also requires fierce organisational skills and a good sense of humour.”

And last, but certainly not least, we take a look at the life of US meetings/travel industry veteran Michael Lyons, who has swapped one successful career for another, in professional acting.

Mike, who has 40+ years of experience in the MICE industry, recently left Reed Exhibitions as Exhibition Director for IBTM America (formerly AIBTM) to follow his life-long interest.

His sideline career has already amassed an impressive list of roles. From films, to TV shows and commercials, plus 350 appearances on home shopping network QVC as a product host. His credits include speaking roles in The Sixth Sense, All My Children, Veep, What Would You Do, and Arrest & Trial, among others.

“I felt it was the right time to make a change,” said Mike. “In one of the motivational speeches I give, I encourage people to pursue their passion and trust their instinct to chase their daydreams. So I am merely following my own advice.”

Bet you’re wondering who you might be sitting near you at your next MICE event? Let us know about your second life, we’re already working on Part 2.

This was first published in the November issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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