Melissa “Mel” Park is an award-winning Global Event Producer who has utilized her engaging personality, unending energy, and attention to logistical and design details to build a business that has her recognized across the United States and Australia. Her client list has grown from one continent to another based on referrals, recognition from attendees onsite and clients who return year after year for her to produce their events. With major Australian event credits like The PGA Golf Show and General Practitioners Conference & Exhibition, The World Masters Games Gala Ball and Closing Celebration, and VIBE Alive under her belt, Mel broke out on her own in 2008 at the age of 26.
Always dreaming of making it in the US, she relocated to the States in 2014. After two years working in-house for a technology company leading a team of 20 producing conferences, meetings, and sales events, she has since stepped back out on her own specializing in elevating brands, amplifying corporate messages and transforming struggling events into extraordinary must-attend experiences.
New York City currently serves as Mel’s home base when she is not traveling to produce her nearly 30 annual events in top U.S. cities including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, Dallas, Boston, Minneapolis, and Toronto or internationally in London, Dublin, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, and Munich.
How long has your company been producing events? What is your main focus?
I have been producing events for 19 years. In Australia, my portfolio was intentionally broad as I never wanted to pigeon hole myself into one style of event. On any given day, I could be working on a conference, exhibition, gala dinner or outdoor festival.
Since relocating to the USA, I have made a name for myself in the technology space (mainly because I lived in the Bay Area, aka Silicon Valley, for five years) for my seamlessly executed large-scale user conferences, strategic sponsorships, and innovative brand activations.
Today, prospective clients typically approach me with one of three scenarios:
(1) they are looking for a tailored solution to a specific problem they continue to encounter with their event program
(2) they are looking for a complete end-to-end event overhaul
(3) they have an idea for a new event they are wanting to get off the ground but need a specialist to turn their “vision” into an effective and organized affair
I specialize in helping organizations elevate their brand, amplify their corporate message and transform their struggling events into extraordinary must-attend experiences.
What do you enjoy most about your role in corporate event planning?
I love the combination of exercising the acute attention to detail required for operations and logistics while having the opportunity to be incredibly creative at the same time. It’s always such a thrill to be able to take someone else’s vision and bring it to life in a next-level way they weren’t expecting.
My absolute favorite style of event to produce is a large-scale multi-day user conference. While historically these events can be beige and boring, I love the challenge of transforming them into an educational experience that trends on Twitter and has attendees raving about it.
And my favorite type of client? One who trusts me, thankfully all of them do, and gives me the freedom to infuse my “Mel-Factor” into their events to help them not only achieve their event goals but also create a truly memorable experience for their attendees.
How do you mix the current trends with the traditional to create a meeting that is engaging and informative?
I look at anything that’s standard or has “been done before” and put a modern twist on it. For example, I planned an event in Dublin, Ireland that needed entertainment to open its keynote. Rather than do a traditional band or performance act to energize attendees, I hired TWO!
I had drummers enter the auditorium from the back and make their way through the audience towards the stage so our attendees could really feel like they were part of the performance. Once they hit the stage, I had a very modern Irish Jig group perform a battle-style dance-off. After each had their turn, both groups came together for a high-energy finale.
With this concept, I was still able to celebrate local and traditional Irish entertainment, but deliver it in a way that was engaging and unexpected. In my eyes, this was the perfect balance of traditional meets modern.
What do you see as the corporate event industry’s greatest challenge, currently?
Definitely the education of our clients. So often, we as planners receive what are truly unrealistic requests from clients because, (1) they don’t know what is right for their event, and (2) they don’t have any idea what it costs to deliver what they are requesting and/or to achieve their goals.
In one instance, there’s the client who wants to incorporate XYZ event trend simply because everyone else is doing it, rather than because it’s a good fit for their target audience.
Another popular request is to include every single element you can possibly think of into an event program. Think keynotes, group sessions, breakout sessions, 1:1 meetings, wellness activities, networking opportunities, VIP dinners, partner/customer dinners, parties, side summits, and an exhibition hall. Now I’m not saying this can’t be done, as more times than not it is, but I always remind my clients that just because they CAN do ALL of these things doesn’t mean they should.
Educating them on all of the above examples, as well as what it actually costs to bring their vision to life, is definitely something we need to do better as an industry.
How do you measure the success of an event?
I always like to ensure a mix of qualitative and quantitative KPIs.
First, we start with quantitative. At the initial kickoff meeting for every event, I ask my clients to arrive with the goals they’d like to achieve. While they may vary slightly, these typically focus on attendee growth or retention, sponsorship dollars, revenue targets, and attendee and stakeholder satisfaction. If exact targets are not set, I use this meeting to get specific and drill down until we’ve assigned numbers or percentages to each goal. This way, I know from the get-go, not only what they want to achieve, but what I want to exceed.
Next comes the personal qualitative goals. I believe that every event has a pulse, so after I identify the ways we’ve achieved the quantitative goals going into the event, I take a step back on-site to evaluate the atmosphere. Are people enjoying themselves and engaging with each other and the content? Have I created an environment they want to come back to again? What are people SAYING about the event both onsite and afterward?
To me, the quantitative AND the qualitative are just as important as one another. The statistics combined with the onsite energy is how I measure an event’s success.
What is your favorite city for events and why?
I actually love the challenge of having NOT produced an event in a city before. It may sound counterintuitive, but I thrive when I need to put in the work to find the right venues, vendors, and local elements to make an event pop. Just like with the event I produced in Dublin, I had to really immerse myself into the city, culture, and event landscape to firstly find the RIGHT elements, and once they were secured, then work out how I was going to create my unexpected twists to ensure the event was not only memorable for attendees but also a huge success for my client.
That being said, I do have certain markets I LOVE to work in that routinely come back around for me. San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, are just a few of the amazing cities here in the US that I get to frequent for my client’s conferences and I happily go back each and every time. I know the cities, I know the venue options, and all of their local suppliers, and yet there is still the challenge of bringing together the RIGHT vendors for the particular event we
Plus, the sheer amount of growth in each of these and other metropolitan markets both in the US and abroad ensures that development will continue and the challenges won’t end, no matter how many times I return. 🙂