October marked one year of working for Word of MICE, a company created by Mariska Kesteloo. I was pleasantly surprised because it was Mariska who reminded me of this anniversary by preparing a surprise for me and my wife Alicia.
It is an amazing time in my life. I would like to share a personal story with you about this extraordinary year and working together with Mariska. Especially since we haven’t met once in the whole year of our collaboration. All the meetings with Mariska took place online on Zoom and using other online tools but we got along very well and I learned what the Dutch sense of humour means.
The first step
A few years ago, when my wife Alicia and I were living in the UK, I noticed that Mariska was actively sharing her knowledge about B2B influencer marketing in the MICE industry.
I was eager to know more about this topic as she was the only person covering B2B influencer marketing in the MICE industry. I was also very interested in using social media to promote tourism and destinations. We met through LinkedIn and corresponded from time to time.
The first time (and interestingly the only time) we met in the real world was in London. It was in February 2019 at the International Confex trade show. I remember that I came to the fair in London from Cambridge and, apart from the fair, my main goal was to meet Mariska personally.
For many months Alicia and I lived in London right next to the Kensington Olympia exhibition centre, so it was also a sort of sentimental journey to where we used to live.
It was great to meet Mariska in person before the Confex started. We met for a coffee at the Hilton London Olympia Hotel. Later I found out that she is more of a tea person than a coffee person like me. During the meeting, I learned that she has knowledge and experience in B2B marketing, influencer collaborations and destination marketing. And next, she has the mindset and determination of an entrepreneur.
I also watched Mariska’s presentation on B2B influencer marketing in the MICE industry at Confex that day. Afterwards we had lunch together at Alborz on Kensington High Street. So many common topics of conversation! We could not stop talking!
What I didn’t know at the time was that this meeting was the start of our collaboration. That’s why I believe it’s always a good idea to connect with interesting people online and to meet them in person afterwards.
The start of our collaboration
Mariska invited me to join IBTM World 2019 in Barcelona, she created a collaboration with Reed Exhibitions and wanted me to be on stage to talk about influencer marketing and digital marketing.
Wyświetl ten post na Instagramie
Unfortunately I couldn’t join her in Barcelona at that time. It was not an easy time for me and just a few months later the pandemic started. The MICE industry was gripped by an unprecedented crisis. It was also a time of learning new skills and creating new collaborations.
After we returned to Poland and settled in Warsaw, I noticed that Mariska started her own podcast series in early 2020 called the B2B Influencer Marketing Chat Series. I remember that I didn’t miss any of the 10 podcasts and was a very engaging and active participant. This was of course noticed by Mariska and Alessia di Raimondo, her co-host during the first series of the podcasts.
I had the opportunity to reconnect with people that I already knew personally (Henrik von Arnold, Amanda Thurlow). Next, it was a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, such as Giovanna Lucherini, Ivo Franschitz, Keith Jenkins, Dries de Geyter, Dennis Lippens, Sabrina Meyers, Julius Solaris and Rupa Shah. Listen to the interviews here Season 1 B2B Influencer Marketing Chat Series.
After this series Mariska asked if I was interested to work together on a small project with her, then another project followed. And in October 2020 she asked me if I would like to join Word of MICE as a team member to support her with the ongoing projects and business development. There could be only one answer, of course YES!
Picking up the fruits of our collaboration
Our year together at Word of MICE, I had an amazing time.
Let me be honest, it was a very difficult and tough period, because many of our friends in the tourism industry and the MICE industry lost their jobs, projects were put on hold, and companies went bankrupt. On the other hand it was the perfect time to create new opportunities and collaborations, using our creativity. And let’s not forget the increasing role of digital marketing and online events.
One of my first tasks was to participate and support the second season of the B2B Influencer Marketing Chat Series. I was delighted to be able to invite, among others, Phil Gonzalez from the Igers Community (Instagram fans and mobile photographers) to this series and to add a little Polish element in the form of interviews with Anna Górska from ICCA and Robert Szulc – live conversation from Ecuador about incentives.
We had engaging and amazing conversations with representatives of the MICE industry and how they and their companies survived during the pandemic. Through this project I met more people and we spoke to Carina Bauer, Tim Williams, Nyomi Rose, Horacio Caamano, Helen Moon, Maris Kuklis and Antti Lumiainen and Nadia Rubtsova. Listen to the interviews here Season 2 B2B Influencer Marketing Chat Series.
Working at Word of MICE is the perfect opportunity for me to establish new ways of collaborations and executing new B2B influencer marketing campaigns, with companies like, Singapore Tourism Board, Helsinki Marketing, InspireME from Monaco, Catalunya Convention Bureau or France Convention Bureau.
I had the opportunity to work on campaigns and projects with influencers and content creators such as Sabrina Meyers, Nadia Rubtsowa, Nyomi Rose, Meg Strahle, Sina Bunte and Jorge Bravo-Pratscher. Miek Egberts will always remain in my thoughts.
During the year I learned a lot about resilience, flexibility and overcoming personal challenges, because Mariska and myself, we have been through a very difficult and emotional rollercoaster.
Thank you Mariska
I’m glad we have a similar vision, we often discuss topics related with the MICE industry and destination marketing. We keep an eye on the development and new trends in digital marketing. Every month of work is a blessing during these times. For me even more because I can do what I love and I can work from home.
Thank you Mariska for involving me in every step of the company, sharing new ideas and projects and how to improve Word of MICE. Last year we ran, among many projects, LIVE on IBTM’s Instagram. And during another campaign we used the new Twitter Spaces broadcasting capabilities (#Associations Space) and the Hubilo platform for the online events (Singapore Spotlight Series #BizeventsSG).
As always Mariska repeats during conversations with clients “I am Dutch so I will say it straight”. This makes working with her always very transparent and focused on achieving goals. By the way, her Dutch sense of humour has a lot in common with the Polish one, which is probably also why we get along so well. Because it’s important to have fun in the work you do.
I really enjoy my work and the style that Mariska has introduced. Everything is always clear. Sometimes I have to sit many hours in front of the computer, and not everyone understands that the proverbial eight hours cannot be calculated. On the other hand, I also know that when something suddenly happens in my life, I can always count on her understanding and flexibility. I wish everyone such a business partner as Mariska.
If there’s one thing that I have to mention that was a challenge for me, is the fact that she pushes me to get out my comfort zone and encourages me to do the things I have rarely done this in my professional career. I know she’s right but I was not used to this.
I don’t know what the year 2022 will be like, but who knows? In times of a pandemic when our jobs and our loved ones’ health is so fragile, when it is difficult to predict what will happen in the MICE industry and in the entire world. Despite many unfavourable developments, I remain optimistic. There are many new opportunities and perspectives, and I am sure that together we will develop and strengthen the position of the Word of MICE.
I also know that Mariska is not only a good business partner, but I have gained a friendly soul. This is very valuable to me and I would never have thought that one meeting in London would bring so much good in my life. Again, you see now the value of 1 connection on LinkedIn.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope coming months will we very succesful for you.