Q&A with our Architects: Melissa Murphy, National Operations Manager

Name: Melissa (Mel) Murphy

Job Title: National Operations Manager

Office:  Sydney – but I enjoy visiting our teams in other cities when events are in these locations. 

I enjoy my job because: I am fortunate to have so much variety in my role – I wear many hats! I started at Arinex in 2011 in our Delegate Services team, before moving to Conference Organising. Fast forward nine years and I now lead our Conference Organising and Incentives & Special Events teams. I also manage and oversee key events and work with very inspiring and influential clients. I value the balance of remaining within event operations, leading teams and working with the Management Team on initiatives to take Arinex to the next level. I am passionate about working with our internal team and our clients to not only achieve – but exceed – their objectives.

The event I am most proud of is: Oh my goodness it is hard to choose after working at Arinex for over 9 years! I would have to say the 19th International Microscopy Congress in 2018. I remember sitting nervously in my second ever business development interview wondering what the event could look like in years to come. As Project Manager I forged a close-knit relationship with our Committee which enabled us to have open and honest discussions throughout the journey and we still keep in touch. We had many challenges and triumphs. In excess of 2,200 delegates descended on Sydney and we kicked goals with our sponsorship and exhibition targets, smashed all the client objectives and I was so incredibly proud of all the hard work the team put in to achieve these results, culminating in a global IAPCO Collaboration Award and a MEA NSW Association Event of the Year Award. I also contribute this event to my own personal achievement of winning Event Manager of the Year 2018 and Platinum Individual 2018 at the 2019 National MEA Awards.

Three must-haves while on-site are: My phone, coffee and the onsite team (a lot of laughs are had onsite and it is wonderful to be able to share the amazing feeling of delivering a successful event with so many of your team).

My advice to ensure things run smoothly on-site is: Set expectations with your clients to expect the unexpected and be ready to deal with challenges that will arise. You can be super prepared but inevitably, the coffee may be cold, the air conditioning too warm or one of the printers may not work! It is all about being solutions focused and working with your team and clients to ensure a positive experience onsite. My other advice would be to trial and test any technology (i.e. polling, live streaming) onsite before the actual session to ensure all is working as it should be. The devil is in the detail and as Arinex prides its performance on seamless delivery it is imperative.

The biggest challenge in managing and delivering events is: If you had asked me at the start of the year, I would have said delivering an event that is innovative, meets the needs of delegates and achieves client objectives whilst delivering on a conservative budget. But at the moment it would be COVID-19! This unexpected challenge just goes to show that you need to brace yourself for anything that may arise. We have now managed over 40 event postponements and some cancellations as a result of the pandemic but it is in times like these that our team thrives and it is amazing how they have been implementing solutions and coming up with new initiatives to benefit our clients and strengthen Arinex as a Company, as the opportunity for increasing revenue at the moment is very limited. It is incredible how much work goes into postponing an event – each is unique with its own objectives, different elements and intricate details. Each event is at a different stage of planning so a tailored solution is created to enable each of our clients the opportunity to make informed decisions based on a proposed stakeholder communications’ strategy, financial scenarios modelled on various outcomes (postpone vs cancel in most cases) and re-working all the items completed to date such as logos, websites, marketing collateral, abstract submissions and re-engagement of sponsors and exhibitors. A challenge we could do without but one from which to learn an astonishing amount and hone our skills.

Two of my favourite venues are: ICC Sydney – a state of the art convention centre with fantastic staff, amazing culinary experiences, the latest technology and the perfect harbourside location. I feel like it is my second home. Flames of the Forest in Port Douglas – a magical rainforest setting with all the existing infrastructure already in place, so it allows an unique private event with fantastic value for money to our clients. It feels like you are stepping into another world and is a once in a lifetime experience particularly for overseas guests.

Three tips for anyone hosting an event are: Make sure you have a structured project plan in place outlining a clear path and timeline to the event (and that you stick to the plan!), implement a solid risk management strategy and put yourself in the delegate’s shoes when planning – it is all about the delegate experience onsite.

When I am not delivering inspiring experiences, you will find me: Checking out new cafes and restaurants, cooking, finding new walks to do on the weekend or planning my next holiday!

In 5 years’ time events will be: There will still be a thirst for face to face interaction at events. Networking is usually a key objective for our clients and particularly our sponsors and exhibitors. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to implement technology solutions for our events, such as online webinars, virtual exhibitions, interaction via event apps and the like to ensure that for now, we can still continue to meet. I think many events in the future will look to implement a ‘hybrid’ mix of virtual and face to face experiences .