You may have noticed that here at MeetingPlay, we do things a little differently. We take pride in the innovative, customized experience we deliver, and also the top-level service we provide to each and every client. It’s all made possible by our incredible people, which is why we’re taking time to showcase some of our valued team members in our “Faces Behind MeetingPlay” series. If you missed the first post for the series, get to know our Co-CEO, Lisa Vann here.
Today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to our talented Project Manager, Stephanie Hart. In her three years at MeetingPlay, she’s already been instrumental in guiding the company through tremendous growth and change. While she’s away from her desk, you’ll find Stephanie spending time playing board games, reading, or hanging out with her husband and dogs.
1. Hello, Stephanie! Can you tell us about your role at MeetingPlay?
I am a project manager, so my job is to make sure all the development that needs to be done across all virtual and hybrid event event projects is getting done on time. I prioritize work among the developers and across projects, making sure the development team is focused on what they need to do from day to day, and then manage internal projects as well.
2. How does your job vary from a virtual event to an in-person event?
We’re a lot busier with virtual events because there is just so much more to a virtual event than a mobile app. Even when we were focused on building custom apps, the on-site registration and all of the planning for in-person events, it still doesn't encompass everything that a virtual event does.
With online events, the virtual event platform is the venue. It’s everything. Each event just has so much more to it, and there’s so much more to manage. It’s been the same amount of work, but different work. Some things haven't changed, but there are others that have — for example, we're doing more integrations than we ever have. We're also dealing with things like different time zones, so there's a lot that we had to adjust.
3. Virtual event efforts by MeetingPlay’s development team often go unseen. What might someone be surprised to know about?
Often people have a misconception that developers are off in this quiet room by themselves and not interacting with the rest of the team. That is absolutely not the case here! It truly is a team. Everybody is willing to jump in whenever they’re needed. If, God forbid, something goes wrong at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning for a live event, somebody is going to be jumping in regardless of the time. They're as dedicated to the success of an event as our account managers are.
We’ve been really good with making sure everyone is involved from the start of a project, especially if it's custom and has a lot of moving parts. Even before the kickoff, if you see a developer on something like a scoping call, that’s to make sure that we're doing everything right. It's about keeping everybody's expectations on the same page and making sure we can achieve what we're setting out to achieve.
4. Would you say virtual events enable the development team to flex their creative muscles more?
For sure, especially with design elements — for example, we've seen things like 3-D lobbies. But even when an event doesn't have something like that, there is a lot more space for custom design with virtual events than there ever was with a mobile app. For one, you have more space; and two, you don't have to worry about what constraints Apple is allowing for an iOS app. We do have to consider client specifications, though. Our team has been really good at sticking to client style guides, branding guidelines and things like that, but then putting our own spin on things, too.
5. MeetingPlay uses a lot of native tech in addition to integrations. How does that benefit clients?
The platform itself often has everything a client needs, but depending on the event, sometimes that's not the case. They may want to use a registration platform to bring attendees in or host sessions. We've seen events that have speakers, the agenda, exhibitors… pretty much everything coming from a third party and we pull that in. We’ve been able to integrate Zoom with our platform (even though we now have a native feature that allows a lot of people to be onscreen in a session), because some of our clients asked for it.
I think registration has been the big thing. Companies often kick off their registration before they're ready to develop a virtual platform. They're not going to want to export a list or migrate the registration data, so being able to just say, ‘OK, we can pull everybody in for you,’ has been helpful for clients.
With something like registration data, we're not reinventing the wheel; we’re simply pulling in attendee data. But when it’s something more, like the Zoom integration, there's a lot that we can do around it to frame it. If a client doesn’t want to think about it, we can use what we have out of the box with the integration, but if there's something different that they want to see — if they want to customize it to allow chat within the platform or host Q&A, for example — that's something we can do. Our virtual platform is really flexible with the newer integrations we’ve been adding.
6. What do you and your team do to create an awesome attendee experience?
It always starts with client expectations. If they are expecting an educational experience, that's what we're delivering to them — we're not distracting from that experience with things like gamification or attendee interaction. But if it’s an event where they really want a lot of virtual engagement and interaction — which is the majority of what we've seen with virtual events this year — we deliver that as well. It’s not just about what we have ‘out of the box’ that we include in our platform but the level of customization we can offer. It's never a question of, ‘Can we do it?’ but more, ‘How can we do this best?’.
7. What piece of advice would you give to meeting planners on planning hybrid events?
Give yourself as much time as you can. We've had clients with two weeks to produce an event, and it's been achievable, but you can see the amount of stress that puts on the client. I think we're getting to the point now that it's not so brand new; people are starting to get these virtual events under their belt and understand what it takes to plan one. At first, people may not have expected virtual events to be as big as they are.
8. How would you describe the overall value that technology platforms such as MeetingPlay bring to the events world?
The thing about MeetingPlay is that we're always evolving and growing and changing. For example, when I first started, one of my first group team meetings was that we were going to start doing container apps instead of an app per event for clients. All of our learnings, including how we've grown and adapted on-site, have translated to the virtual environment. At first, it was figuring out how existing clients who had to cancel on-site events would not lose all of their content. Since then, we've been able to take the needs that we're seeing in the marketplace and develop for those. From where we started with our original platform in March to where we are now, I cannot believe how far we've come. Now, it's truly about how we can create immersive virtual experiences. How fast and well we've been able to adapt speaks to the dedication of this team and how valuable each team member is.
About Stephanie Hart
Stephanie Hart joined MeetingPlay in 2017 as an Account Coordinator, having left a career in teaching for the event tech industry. She was promoted to Account Manager within six months, and over the next year and a half, executed several Tier 1 events and took initiative to manage some of MeetingPlay’s internal processes and documentation. That evolved into a promotion to Project Manager in late 2019. As Project Manager, Stephanie oversees ongoing development and manages day-to-day developer operations. When COVID-19 shut down onsite events in March 2020, she was essential to executing MeetingPlay’s strategy in pivoting to a virtual event environment. She continues to facilitate innovation and work behind-the-scenes to ensure the success of all events that MeetingPlay delivers.