Vice President of Business Development
In 2017, Leslie Thornton joined the Webster Group as the Vice President of Business Development. With over 30 years of experience in the events industry across the association, government, non profit and corporate areas, Leslie has been supporting clients in achieving their strategic initiatives, missions and goals throughout her professional career.
As Vice President of Outsourced Services for SmithBucklin Corporation, a $100M+ association management firm, Ms. Thornton was responsible for developing new opportunities for management in the areas of Event, Tradeshow and Convention management; Exhibit, Sponsorship and Advertising Sales; Education; and Financial Management and Accounting Services and was a member of SmithBucklin’s Corporate Management Team and a graduate of the company’s Leadership Learning Forum.
Previously, as President of a $5M global events firm founded in DC in 1947, Courtesy Associates, Ms. Thornton led the strategic direction, day to day management and business development of a team of 45 event professionals managing meetings, tradeshows and conventions for the Federal government, corporate, technical, scientific, academic and non-profit organizations. In addition to business development responsibilities, she led client teams and was responsible for the work accomplished on behalf of two of Courtesy’s largest clients, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Department of Energy.
Her work for the US DHS/FEMA consisted of leading the logistics teams for multiple National Level Exercises under the National Exercise Program (NEP) events over the course of 8 years. Congressionally mandated, with a 12-18 month lead up, the NEP Events were held concurrently in several cities and US Territories and involved over 20,000 participants involving federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as private industry, nongovernmental organizations, community organizations, and members of the public.
Ms. Thornton managed the merge of the Courtesy Associates and SmithBucklin, Washington, DC event planners, creating one of the largest full-time, professional event management teams in the industry. She sat on several industry advisory boards including multiple Convention and Visitors bureau boards, and the Hyatt Hotel Corporation’s Customer Advisory Board.
Ms. Thornton has an extensive network of hospitality and event professionals around the world as well as leaders in the DC business community. She is a member of the Economic Club of Washington, DC.