2019 40 Under 40: Melissa Swakow, NHS Global Events

Melissa Swakow

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. Impressive stats: 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.