When you think of Grand Hyatt Melbourne, what may immediately spring to mind is its iconic gold tower, its legendary award-winning breakfast buffet at Collins Kitchen or even its famous City Club Fitness Centre. But within its 33 levels also lies an entire floor purpose-built just for event spaces.
Head to level 8 and you will find 15 unique venues including two ballrooms that can fit up to 700 seated guests, to conference rooms, and even a one-of-a-kind theresidence space, elegantly styled to give one the feeling they have just stepped into a mansion. It goes without saying that it’s a busy floor run by several dedicated teams to make sure every event, no matter how big or small, runs smoothly.
Jacqui Parnham is the director of event planning at Grand Hyatt Melbourne and has been in the industry for over 13 years. We managed to grab some time with her between events to ask her about her role, new trends in the industry and how Grand Hyatt Melbourne is staying ahead of the game.
How did you get into the events industry?
After I finished my commerce degree at Deakin University, I went on to do a graduate certificate in hotel management from the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School. Part of the requirements was to do a placement and I got a position as a banquets waiter… and then I guess I never left! I was soon promoted to banquet office coordinator then joined the sales and marketing team, where my passion for events started. Starting as an event planning executive, I have worked my way up to director of event planning. During my time, I have had the chance to help out at Park Hyatt Melbourne and only recently returned from Singapore, where I helped at the new Andaz property.
How have you seen events and conferences change over the years and what are people now focusing on?
I would say there have been three main areas where we have seen changes: menu, technology and waste.
At the beginning of my career, we were hardly ever notified of dietary requirements and now that people have become a lot more health conscious, we get a lot more requests. In fact, we just held a conference where the entire menu was gluten-free. We also make sure our catering offers gluten-free, nut-free and vegetarian options.
Technology has also evolved quickly and clients are increasingly using apps, webcasts and incorporating real-time interaction in their events, which we have been able to cater for as our spaces are all equipped with the latest technologies.
We are also now seeing a big trend in sustainability with clients requesting things such as refillable bottles, asking how much power they are using and trying to limit as much waste as possible. Here we are proud to let guests know about our Closed Loop Organics Unit – a bespoke food composter which means there is a significant food waste reduction from the hotel. Grand Hyatt Melbourne was the first five star hotel in Victoria to implement this system and in 2017, was nominated as a finalist in the Large Business category for the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards.
What common mistakes do event and conference planners make and how can they be avoided?
I think the biggest mistake is getting stressed if things are not going to plan on the day. If you stay cool and remain flexible, the majority of the time the guests never even know anything is going wrong. The great thing about holding your event in a place like here is that we have years of experience, are experts on the property and can quickly adapt to any situation to make sure the event runs smoothly with limited disruption. The secret is to remain calm, roll with the punches and let the event staff (us) do the worrying/fixing for you!
What new offerings can clients expect from Grand Hyatt Melbourne this year and how will this benefit them?
We have just introduced an event concierge, who is a friendly face to meet you on arrival and ensure you have everything that you need. They will check on you throughout the day, are always available for any last minute requests and are basically there to help the planner look good and ensure everything is running smoothly.
We also now offer the Hyatt Event Concierge App, which planners can use discreetly while in a meeting or conference without needing to leave the room to find someone or make a call. So with requests like room temperature change, beverage refills or even needing more chairs, the planner simply sends the request through the app and they will be sent immediate updates on the request progression. It’s a great way of having instant direct communication with our events team with limited disruption.
What is the best part about your job?
My team and I get to work with all the hotel departments within our job, which keeps it interesting. Even though we work long hours, it’s worth it when the event comes together and seeing how happy the client and guests are.
I also love meeting so many different people and seeing them return time and time again because they trust us. But I think the best part is meeting couples and helping them organise and celebrate the best day of their lives!
What has been the most memorable event you have worked on in your career to date and why?
Our massive Living Grand event in 2015 and 30th Anniversary Party in 2016 come to mind immediately!
They were both huge celebrations for the hotel, which involved thinking outside the box. It was planned as a rooftop event but unfortunately it rained on the day, so we all quickly took action and everyone got involved to move the event indoors. This also meant ensuring the guests didn’t know the party wasn’t running to the original plan. It was fantastic night and by the time it came to dessert and final drinks, the rain stopped and we were able to go to the rooftop anyway. I also will never forget the pony who joined us for the Living Grand event!
We also get to see and work with many high profile people and celebrities, which can be exciting. Personally looking after the visit of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden in 2016 was a highlight. Seeing his whole team take over the hotel, the many meetings required, the security and even closing down Russell Street with their huge motorcade was fun to see.
For more information about hosting you next event at Grand Hyatt Melbourne, please call our Events team on +61 3 9653 4449 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.