Q&A with Melissa Wolfe, Solutions Engineer
Today’s event attendees are sophisticated media consumers with high expectations for virtual and hybrid events. Whether online or onsite, attendees expect digital event experiences to have the user-friendly experience they find on their favorite apps. But within the multitude of priorities and deliverables required to pull off a multiday corporate event, how can event organizers ensure virtual experiences are as seamless as the in-person live event?
At Stagedge, we’ve solved that problem by forming a team dedicated to creating interactive digital event platforms that are both streamlined and engaging. Solutions Engineer Melissa Wolfe sat down with us to talk about how her team supports Stagedge’s clients and to offer insight into her career in the events industry.
Q: What does the solutions team do for Stagedge clients?
MW: We’re brought onto a client engagement for many reasons, but particularly when there’s a virtual component to the event. These days, there is almost always a virtual component. Our role can be as small as using an app for polling and Q&A onsite or as large as streaming the whole event to an online audience.
There is no standard engagement for the solutions team. We are happy to jump in wherever and however a client needs us. Some clients already have an online event platform in place, and they just need a little help designing and managing their event site. Others need help with all digital aspects of the event—from building the site, to managing online registration, to streaming content.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a typical day?
MW: It depends on whether or not I’m onsite. When I’m at my desk, I’m usually in meetings most of the day. It's important for us to be involved in more than just solutions related content. I recommend that the solutions team be added to most event-planning meetings. The smallest detail—a schedule change, a room swap, or a new speaker—can impact our work. It’s better that we learn about any updates directly.
When I’m onsite, I’m usually there to ensure registration is running smoothly or to manage audience Q&A. We use a software called Pigeonhole Live to survey audience members both in the room and watching online. This product is very flexible and user friendly. We can embed Pigeonhole on any website, and users can join virtually or in-room from the event website or their own mobile device.
"I recommend that the solutions team be added to most event-planning meetings. The smallest detail—a schedule change, a room swap, or a new speaker—can impact our work. It’s better that we learn about any updates directly."
Q: Pigeonhole Live is your favorite survey tool. And what online event management platform do you recommend most often?
MW: We know how to work with any platform, but for clients who are looking for a truly holistic event management solution, we recommend Swoogo. What I like is that everything you need for your event can be built right on Swoogo, including registration, email campaigns, and the event website. Our solutions team is also Swoogo Certified and holds the knowledge needed to create a one of a kind event platform.
Q: What are your thoughts on virtual events? Are they here to stay?
MW: Event organizers have realized they can reach huge global audiences with online or hybrid events. While a lot of folks are understandably ready to get together in-person, not everyone is in that headspace, and it’s expensive to fly your entire audience to a single location.
I like that we’re able to give attendees multiple ways to view and interact with event content. And whether you’re online or in-person, we can make sure you have a great experience as an audience member.
"Nearly every event has a virtual or online component. The right digital platform and tools can empower event organizers to reach new audiences and find ways to keep attendees engaged."
Q: Tell us about an event you found particularly exciting.
MW: Early in the pandemic, when I was new to Stagedge, one of our long time clients held an international virtual event that we recorded live on stage—sort of like we were filming a talk show without the audience. It was just a fantastic, innovative event broadly.
I was going to monitor the Pigeonhole Live Q&A from my home office, but we realized the day before rehearsals that would create a delay of about 60 seconds since it takes about 30 seconds for me to receive a question and another 30 seconds for me to respond. Both Stagedge and its client wanted to have a seamless experience for online attendees, and that delay was going to be a barrier. My manager asked me to hop on a flight to the event site. From there, I could monitor the Q&A from inside the room and cut the delay in half. I had 30 minutes to pack a bag and drive to the airport to catch a flight. I barely made it! It was a fun and exciting way to kick off my career at Stagedge.
Q: What tips do you have for event organizers who are creating virtual or hybrid events?
MW: One, make sure your event site and registration are user-friendly! If someone has to click 10 buttons to register, that’s a blocker. You’re going to lose folks along the way.
Two, don’t forget about security. Event organizers have to collect a lot of personal identifiable information, and we have ways to store that securely while keeping sites easy to use.
Three, think about how to make an event interactive! Especially if you have viewers watching from home, it can be hard to capture their attention. Adding surveys, polls, and Q&A to your presentations is an easy way to keep folks engaged.
As a bonus, if you’re streaming your event, make sure your platform makes it easy for folks to cast your video onto a larger screen. That makes it simpler for offsite attendees to have watch parties in their location.
"Think about how to make an event interactive! Especially if you have viewers watching from home, it can be hard to capture their attention. Adding surveys, polls, and Q&A to your presentations is an easy way to keep folks engaged."
Q: What attracted you to the events industry, and what advice do you have for people who are interested in a career in events?
MW: I always wanted to work in events. I thrive in the “go-go-go” environment of event planning. Events and conferences are high stakes. I’m constantly thinking on my feet to support our clients’ objectives. Every day is different!
If someone is interested in a career in events, I would encourage them to be adaptable. Be open to pivoting and learning new things. If your manager asks you to do something you’ve never done before, don’t turn them down. Just say, “Give me 20 minutes, and I’ll figure it out.”
A lot of folks start their first job, confident they know what they want their career to look like. And if you’re focused—that’s wonderful! But if you’re unsure, take the time to experience the different jobs that are out there. That’s one of the things I love about working in events: No matter your skillset, there’s a role for you.
Interested in learning more about creating engaging event experiences for an audience that’s both virtual and in-person? Read more about the best way to support the hybrid attendee journey in our recent blog, 5 Best Practices for Hybrid Event Production.