Nominated Marketer of the year by the financial-economic magazine, Anja Stas won the last ICCA Best Marketing Award with her instant CSR concept: a unique link between the meeting industry and charity.
Get to know Anja Stas better by reading her interview with us!
Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate, Open, Creative
What is your professional background?
Very diverse. From Corporate Headquarters to Private Non Profit, built upon my studies of Law, Marketing Science and an everlasting appetite for learning and growth. But always driven by my passion for the possible in people, brands and companies. Mainly International Marketing in Pharma, FMCG (Coca-Cola) and Media/Entertainment, including 14 years of expat experience.
And now…walk us through your “typical” day!
Getting anchored in the morning with my morning routine makes all the difference: meditation, yoga, planning. Listen to something inspirational positive on the way to work. Day Overview with Assistant. And I do not do any mail in the morning first thing! Ever. It’s the greatest way to get distracted and carried away into other people’s agenda.
There will always be a couple of blocks of creative time in the week during which I will not take meetings and work on concepts, strategy, speeches. These blocks of time are important to move along the longer term goals and purposes.
Then most of the day when not travelling is taken up by internal Meetings with colleagues or team: could be quick status meetings or strategic/creative workshop like meetings. I do not like meetings and try to get rid of them all the time and fail miserably :-). But many meetings are work sessions during which we discuss new projects and ideas – so they are not all your typical ‘meeting’ format.
During lunch I try to go outside – get fresh air – walk in the zoo – walk into town to get new ideas and inspiration. After all, with a location in the middle of Antwerp, adjacent to the Zoo, it’s a fantastic benefit to the job that must not be taken for granted!
Did you have any mentors or people who deeply influenced your career?
I always feel I have to come up with a name when they ask me that question but the truth is, not really one big name. Besides the support from a loving family, life and the players in it, have all influenced me in my choices and my path. Big or Small. Many were teachers of the way I did not want to travel though and some nudged me in the right direction. However when it comes to marketing, branding and conceptual thinking there is one distinct person that influenced me the most: my boss at Coca-Cola Headquarters who taught me how to look at the world with new eyes and translate them into innovative ideas for your brand/product/company. For that I am very grateful.
What are the challenges faced by professionals from your industry today?
To marry and fuse our humanity with technology. Redefine the purpose of live meetings that often have a disastrous ecological footprint . Taking advantage of having people from across the globe ‘live’ together and capture that opportunity for better networking and long term professional partnerships and solutions. Revisiting the format of ‘meetings’ with darkened rooms that feel like bunkers and bring in daylight and nature for better thinking and connecting.
What is the recommendation you would like to give to the younger generations interested in following your path?
Stay grounded and connected to who you are. Don’t leave a stone unturned to find out who that is and what your strengths are and focus on those. Become excellent in what you do and keep learning. An open mind and positive outlook on life are crucial to connect with opportunities. The future is a network of people and possibilities: your job is to weave it into your own connected piece of art. But you cannot do it alone and relationships are not sustainable on social media only: so you got to get out and go through the discomfort of building relationships live. And you got to find your purpose – which could be just to live life!!! but to do it with a sense of service: we need to get of our island and connect to the world around us and become serving citizens to create the possible future that we all dream of.
How did you get into the business/the role you’re in today?
With the plans for the renovation of our concert hall – Queen Elisabeth in Antwerp, which is run by the Antwerp zoo Society, the decision was made to built extra dedicated space to serve as the international convention centre for the city of Antwerp, making it a unique gathering place merging the zoo and her gardens as vital nurturing part into meeting experiences. As the CMO/CCO for the Antwerp Zoo Society with a full fledged team in marketing, communications, sales, entertainment and customer service it was a natural expansion of our roles into a new field, that of international congresses. Even though we’ve been hosting 300 events a year (mainly incentives and corporate meetings), the challenge to become a known player in the international meeting industry was substantial.
What is the best thing about working for the Flanders Meeting and Convention Center ?
The constant learning from my colleagues from all departments as well as the opening of my first hotel which has been a great learning opportunity.
What is your favourite destination and why?
Wherever people are friendly, the weather warm, the air balmy, nature breathtaking and culture at your fingertips 🙂
Proudest moments in your career to date?
Zoo of Life: a sold out Musical performed 23 times with 714 volunteers and professional cast: a community based project with creative excellence and heart centred execution. This was the third legendary campaign I created/produced that went far beyond the bottom line, created long term reputation value and brought people together making them fans for life. The previous two were our: ‘A Room With A ZOO’ campaign that launched our new convention centre and won the ICCA Best Marketing awardand the most legendary campaign that gave me temporarily marketing celebrity status in the country: the live streaming of Belgium’s first baby elephant Kai-Mook: one that put the country in a frenzy and broke all kinds of records. The red thread through all of them being: meaningful marketing: marketing beyond the bottom line!
Professional that you admire and why?
Ariana Huffington: of creating an innovative successful business in a completely saturated market ; taking advantage of the disruption energy and becoming a leader in her field. And ALL Female leaders that have gone out and put themselves out there – no matter what.
Return to Love – Marianne Williamson
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
How to be of service in beauty love and wisdom.
Jonny Lang (blues) Marco Borsato, Michael Buble , Bonnie Raitt etc.
Apple, Disney, Virgin, London, Sydney.
TV series you are hooked on?
Thank you so much for your time and detailed answers Anja! We wish you all the best in both your professional and personal life!