Melissa “Mel” Park is an international 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 is recognized across the United States and Australia.
She first began her professional career in Australia working at Reed Exhibitions producing high profile, business and consumer events like The PGA Golf Show and General Practitioners Conference & Exhibition before moving on to be part of the teams behind Australia’s largest special events like The World Masters Games Gala Ball and Closing Celebration.
Those experiences convinced the self-motivated entrepreneur it was time to break out on her own so she launched her first event management company in Australia in 2008 at the age of 26 and began producing annual events like HSBC Bank’s Chinese New Year Gala Dinner Tour across three major Australian markets and more than 20 outdoor festivals attracting 20,000 – 100,000 attendees.
She also served as the stage manager for notable events like the Sydney Olympic Games 10 Year Anniversary Ceremony, Sydney International FIFA Fan Fest in 2010, and the Major League Baseball Opening Series in 2014.
Always dreaming of making it in the US, she moved to the States in 2014 where she began working internally for two years at Hortonworks in Santa Clara, California leading a team of 20 as Director of Global Strategic Events. In that role she led the global roll out of the annual conference’s rebrand in less than a year including in two new international markets, both of which sold out, and turned their US flagship event profitable to the sum of $424k.
In 2017 Mel stepped back out on her own with Melissa Park Events specializing in elevating brands, amplifying corporate messages and transforming struggling events into extraordinary must-attend experiences. She has made a name for herself in the technology space for her seamlessly executed large-scale user conferences, strategic sponsorships, and innovative brand activations. 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.
She currently splits her time between New York and Sydney 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, or internationally in London, Dublin, Tokyo, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne and Munich.
Her events have been featured on many TV and radio programs in Australia. She is the creator of the 7 Steps to Event Success! Masterclass, producer and host of The Mel-Factor Podcast; a contributing writer to numerous publications and a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist.
Where did the idea for Melissa Park Events come from?
I, ever so modestly (I hope you’re vibing my humble sarcasm) named the business after myself due to the fact that I had built a strong reputation in my corporate career I wanted to capitalize on as an entrepreneur. While there are legitimate pros and cons to doing this, since going out on my own in 2008, I’ve been able to build a successful global business based solely on referrals, recognition from attendees onsite and repeat business so it’s worked well.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We have a global client base, which means I’m constantly operating across multiple time zones making a “typical day” in terms of a routine virtually impossible. Because of this, common “fixed schedule” productivity hacks like the 5 am club or time blocking aren’t realistic as my start time is often determined by my first meeting, which is usually at an ungodly hour.
To ensure my days are productive, the practice that works best for me is checklists. They are my flexible non-time based lifeline.
Every Sunday night I make a plan for the week ahead outlining what I need and/or want to achieve for my clients, my personal development, and professional goals. I use this plan to create daily to-do lists that help ensure I stay on track and provide the added bonus of being able to highlight completed tasks. (I mean, is there anything more satisfying?)
And yes, you better believe that if an unexpected meeting pops up or I complete a task that’s not listed, I write it down so I can highlight that too.
Every night before I go to bed, I review my list to see where I’m at, and make any necessary modifications. I get a much better night’s sleep knowing that I can hit the ground running the next morning.
At the end of each week, this to-do list turns into a ta-da list giving me the perfect excuse to celebrate everything I’ve achieved.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a creative, there is nothing more fulfilling than having an idea that only exists in your head and then watching it come to life. It’s pure magic!
I am constantly storing snippets of inspiration from everything, everywhere and everyone I come into contact with. When a client shares their event vision, I lean into this memory bank and search for the spark that I can build upon to deliver their vision in a next-level way they weren’t expecting. My clients have coined it: The Mel-Factor.
For example, I planned an event in Dublin, Ireland that needed entertainment to open its keynote. Inspired by the TV show Lip Sync Battle and the flash mob concept (which was fresh at the time), rather than do a traditional band or performance act, 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.
What’s one trend that excites you?
While I always keep my finger on the pulse professionally, I don’t really follow trends. I prefer to push boundaries and create them.
However, I am very drawn to the “lead with love and kindness” movement that I think has been the most positive thing to come out of COVID. I believe it’s SO important to take the time to reassess what and who you are prioritizing in your life, a practice I have done annually since 2017 when I found myself in a more toxic environment than I had realized. That forced me to sit down, look at who and what I had in my life and what wasn’t really contributing versus detracting from my goals. I cut what wasn’t working and have been so much happier and more fulfilled since.
It’s a HARD practice (and yes, it does take practice) but it’s one that has truly made a difference in my life and the people I attract around me so I’m thrilled to see it happening on a larger scale.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
To help me stay laser focused, I’ve implemented a “if it’s not a ‘Hell YES!’ it’s a NO” policy that I apply to all aspects of my life.
When an opportunity presents itself, rather than saying yes immediately, I take stock of how the potential yes weighs against my goals. If I cannot clearly see how it will enable me to get one step closer to achieving one of those goals, personally or professionally, I respectfully decline.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Oooooh, this is tough! It sounds cliché, but I believe every up and down has got me to where I am today, which is a place I truly LOVE in life. Naturally there are some things I definitely do NOT want to repeat, I wouldn’t want to undo anything either, even the stuff that sucked.
In saying that, if I wanted to make things a little easier on myself and a tad more enjoyable, I’d say:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
2. Turn your to-do list into a “ta-da” list and celebrate everything you’ve achieved each week – yes, even the small stuff.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m not a total extrovert.
When I’m onsite or wearing my event producer hat in the planning process, I am in my zone of genius, so anyone who has only experienced that side of me could easily assume I’m as extroverted as they come.
However, as soon as an event is over, you better believe I am beelining my way back to my apartment or hotel room to enjoy a very extended period of introverting, or “me-time.” In fact, these introvert periods can stretch several days at a time – or at least until my next flight. It looks like this:
I lock my door behind me, pop my phone on silent, line up my Netflix faves, crack a window for some (non-expo hall) fresh air, create a delicious home cooked meal or overindulge in room service, order an in-home/room massage and pour myself a margarita or scotch. Some would describe this as standard self-care, others (me) as going into a luxurious state of hiding. This practice is an absolute requirement for my mental health.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Many say, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I subscribed to that motto until I suffered from severe burnout. While searching for solutions, I discovered a video by NYC-based Burnout Coach, Caitlin Donovan who said, “In order to avoid burning out, you need to love your life as much, if not more, than your business. If your business is your way of escaping from your life – you’ll burn out every time.”
Hearing this served as a defining moment and absolute game changer in my life. Like many Type A personalities, I had built my entire life around my business (career) and brand, and if for any reason it all disappeared (hello COVID!), I would be left with nothing.
I had chosen work over a life outside of it. Instantly, I knew some significant changes had to be made.
Here’s how I did it AND how you can do it too:
Step 1: Your Purpose
Focus on what lights YOUR heart on fire. Ignore others opinions and expectations, define what is truly important to YOU. That is your purpose.
Step 2: Conduct An Audit
Remove, delete, terminate, walk away from (whatever version of “end” you would like to use) anyone or anything that doesn’t align with, OR isn’t going to help you achieve your purpose.
If someone in your life makes you more unhappy than happy, they’ve got to go.
I audited everyone – clients, vendors, family, friends and my social media. Through doing this exercise, I made the difficult, but necessary, decisions to terminate a few clients, source some new vendors, distance myself from certain family members, walk away from a couple of friendships and unfollow or block negativity filling my social feeds.
In order to become the person you’re working so hard to be, you need to be surrounded with positive energy, encouragement and the type of people who are going to force you to level up!
Step 3: Outline Your Goals
Outline your goals and write them as if you’ve already achieved them.
Remember, EVERY goal needs to help you get one step closer to living in alignment with your purpose. As you’re creating them, make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. (vague goals are not going to cut it.)
Step 4: GO ALL IN!
According to research, you’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. That’s huge!
I’ve found the most success by sitting down to write in my Start Today Journal BEFORE I officially start each work day.
I believe you can only pursue ONE goal at a time. So once you’ve written your goals, at the bottom of the page, rewrite the goal you’re going to go ALL IN ON and then:
Make a plan and work on that shit Every 👏🏼 Single 👏🏼 Day 👏🏼 until you’ve achieved it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
While it’s not ‘my’ advice per se, a quote and phrase that I live by is:
“Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
And that’s immediately followed by: Do it well or don’t do it at all.
Whichever one resonates with you, to me they both capture the same sentiment: work hard and constantly strive to over deliver while staying cognizant that there are always going to be others who know more than you. Learn from them and pass that knowledge onto others as you rise. Then you won’t just be successful in business, but in life as well.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t believe anything is a failure if you learn from it, BUT something that delivered a less than optimal result was the marketing campaign I executed to launch my event management masterclass. Now, I should be clear: I launched it in the midst of COVID lockdown when everyone had digital fatigue, the event industry had crashed and burned, and a very high percentage of event professionals found themselves unemployed. In hindsight, timing was most likely the issue. However in response to not making a single sale, I put my student cap on and studied as many successful course creator marketing strategies as possible so I could ensure the next one would be a success.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is purely selfish, however pre-COVID I lived 90+% of my life out of a suitcase, moving from one hotel to the next as I delivered events for clients in cities all over the world. Whenever I found myself spoiled with a hotel bathtub, I desperately wanted to enjoy it but never took advantage of it out of fear I’d fall asleep and drown.
It probably doesn’t exist because it may be considered a death trap, BUT every single time I looked longingly at one of those tubs, I wished for an inflatable neck floatie (think reverse airplane travel pillow) that suctioned (so tightly) to the bath wall and prevented you from slipping under the water.
I take zero liability if anyone runs with this idea and creates it – but you could definitely send me a free one as a thanks. hahaha
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A delicious lunch with my best friend. My hope is that anyone reading this currently has a smile on their face thinking back to the last meal they enjoyed with their bestie. Why does this stand out as my best recent investment? Because my relationships are my most prized possession. There is nothing better for the soul than spending quality time with one of your favourite humans, being your true authentic and unapologetic self and conversing about allll the topics – with a side of guac or pizza with extra cheese.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The G Suite.
I’m not one for a million different apps and programs and prefer to keep processes simple and streamlined with as little clutter and noise as possible. I actively use many of its internal applications but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Google Sheets where I build my master docs and event budgets. These docs are a one-stop-shop for our entire team, as well as our clients and vendors.
– are easily accessible – no matter where we are around the globe
– enable absolutely every event detail to be stored in one place, which helps ensure my entire team is well-informed and up-to-date on the entire production
– are 100% customizable – we use color coding, cell formatting and functions on every tab
– allow members of my team to tag one another, ask a question, send a quick task reminder and track conversations, without having to leave the document or rely on any other software program.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Risk & Resilience by Lisa Messenger.
The back of her book explains perfectly why I love it:
In this book, Lisa reveals the tough lessons she learnt during the hardest 18 months of her entrepreneurial journey, when scaling too quickly, hiring without strategy and trying to please everyone almost turned her dream into a disaster. And, the courageous steps she took to survive, thrive and prosper afterwards.
Sooo many relatable stories and lessons learned.
What is your favorite quote?
Oh, gosh! Well, I’ve already shared one from The Rock above, which is definitely a top contender, but choosing a single one is hard. I can get it down to my fave five:
1. Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable.
2. Don’t wait for an opportunity. Create it.
3. Follow your gut!
4. When you have a million dollar vision, don’t surround yourself with one cent minds.
5. There is no such thing as random.
- You need to audit your life & business, not just your accounting books, on a regular basis
- The people in your personal life will 100% affect your business, choose wisely
- You don’t need expensive software in order to run a successful business
- All entrepreneurs have a failure (or many!) in their path. You are not alone but you CAN learn from others’ failures as easily as your own.
- Find the people who inspire you most, famous or unknown, and drink from their well every. single. day.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.