Next Chapter: Chantal Sturk-Nadeau on Thriving
Outside the Comfort Zone
Chantal Sturk-Nadeau is a thought leader and passionate supporter of Canada’s business events community. Meetings Mean Business Canada offers its sincere thanks to Chantal for her partnership, hard work and can-do spirit during her time as Executive Director, Destination Canada, Business Events. Chantal spoke with Angela Kryhul, MMBC’s Communications Lead, about the evolution of Canada’s business events community and her plans for the future.
This summer, for the first time in 30 years, Chantal Sturk-Nadeau is slowing down her usual full-tilt pace and enjoying some downtime. A tourism industry veteran with decades of leadership experience, Sturk-Nadeau departed Destination Canada in June after six-and-a-half years as Executive Director, Business Events.
During her tenure, Sturk-Nadeau developed a strategy for Destination Canada, Business Events that included a new business model focused on attracting global events aligned with Canada’s economic priority sectors, a partnership model that increased revenue tenfold to $3 million in only four years, a new marketing strategy reaching new channels and new audiences with thought leadership content, and a new research platform for evidence-based decision making.
Prior to joining Destination Canada in early 2017, Sturk-Nadeau was Senior Vice President, Economic Development Winnipeg. For nearly 18 years, Sturk-Nadeau drove sales and marketing efforts and spearheaded major projects and campaigns for Tourism Winnipeg.
How have you witnessed Canada’s business events community come closer together?
When I joined Destination Canada, my goal was to enable all cities and all partners to have a spot at the table. Having that equal playing field was my personal objective and I think it enabled us to have a stronger voice and to educate international meeting planners about new opportunities and present a more fulsome package about all of Canada.
During the pandemic, I met monthly with our advisory committee, which included people from big cities, small cities, DMCs, DMOs and convention centres talking about what they were doing and how they were doing it. One of the things I noticed were the frank and open conversations.
Call it kind of a therapy session—people shared their best practices, what they’d been able to mitigate and where they were having difficulties. We realized that almost everyone was in similar situations. We started to talk about the challenges we face as a country. It forged tighter relationships than we’d ever had in the industry… and I’ve been in the industry for a long time.
We looked at what we could do as a holistic group. We created three task forces. The first was communications to help us sing from one song sheet. We created consistent messaging that Canadian cities could use when talking with stakeholders. The second task force was government relations and identifying gaps that industry associations and advocates could take the lead on. The third task force was how we could be more tactical when building a model for DCBE trade shows and events so that all Canadian cities can participate and ensure we were talking about all of Canada [to international planners and decision makers].
How must Canada’s story evolve to attract a new generation of international business visitors?
Research says the average age of delegates has gone down by about eight years. I think it’s about investing now to better understand where our target market is and what they’re looking for—really getting into the profiles and personas.
So, if we’re trying to increase market share for Canada over the next three to five years, I think Canada needs to get aligned with that next generation, whether it’s their values or what they want to see and do. With deeper knowledge we can do more specific target marketing. We can’t assume everything we have here is what people are looking for.
It could be about changing our story so that we’re not only saying ‘Canada is a beautiful country.’ Even before the pandemic, our marketing became super specific. On the association side, we really leaned into our sector expertise and talked about the brains, not just the beauty, of Canada. We need to better understand whether this resonates with the younger demographic of delegates and influencers (meeting planners).
What is your hope for Canada’s business events community?
That it continues to grow and evolve, continues to be forward thinking, takes a proactive approach to marketing Canada that is innovative and progressive. Also, finding ways to lean on our industry partners and continue to have a strong voice for all Canadians because at the end of the day, we can’t sell Canada without a strong pan-Canada industry.
What’s next, Chantal?
I’d like to coach young women in the industry who may not feel strong enough to get their voices heard. I’d also love to lend my expertise to an area that is ripe for growth, and I really hope that it’s within the tourism industry, perhaps on the international stage.
I love working with people to see their potential and push them out of their comfort zones along with me, because that’s actually a spot where I love to be—outside that comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens.