Melissa Swakow, 31, works in Chicago as senior manager of meetings and events at NHS Global Events. As a 2019 40 Under 40 honoree, Swakow discusses her passion for the events industry.
What I do:
I am responsible for contracting, advance logistics and on-site management for our largest client programs. Since becoming a manager a few years ago, I now also spend a large portion of my day on the training and development of the meeting operations team. Finally, I support the business development team on securing new business and transitioning new engagements to my team.
How I got here:
I joined NHS Global Events as a Meeting Services intern during my senior year at DePaul University. Once my internship ended, I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time position and have grown within the company.
Greatest career accomplishment:
NHS was awarded management of a two-day, 350-person law firm annual partner conference. When the firm merged two months before the conference was set to begin, it became three days and 500 people. I was the lead on the program and responsible for renegotiating the contract, managing all conference logistics and overseeing a team of nine. The program was a huge success and, even though we had only previously sourced programs for the client, we won their appreciation and future meeting management business.
My team, with only five employees, managed 38 programs in 2018 at nearly $1.3 million in revenue in 2018. Additionally, I negotiated away almost $17,000 in attrition damages for a program and was responsible for nearly $230,000 in hard dollar savings at another event.
Specific improvement I’ve made:
There was no formal meeting operations department when I started at NHS Global Events. We are now a cohesive and consistently successful unit. I established the “co-lead” approach to all programs to encourage team collaboration and improved work-life balance.
What I am working on now:
I am working to introduce clients to locations and experiences they have not had before. As one example is that I am sourcing a program in Las Vegas and introduced a soon-to-be-built venue into the search that the client was not aware of. They were hesitant but trusted me and recognized the strong potential for this property.
What I do outside of work:
I am an MPI-Chicago Area Chapter member and spent three years on the Board of Directors. I love spending time at home with my dog, Penny. For the last 10 years, I’ve managed fantasy football teams, with varying success. These days I am in a league with other meeting professionals, which allows me to say I watch football for work.