#Eventprof of the Month

Melissa Chery

Each month we profile one inspiring individual who is raising the bar in the meetings & events industry. Read on to learn why Melissa, Senior Field Marketing Manager at Tipalti, is our May 2020 #Eventprof of the month.

Melissa is one of those dream clients that can truly make a difference when it comes to the event-planning experience. She always brings a positive and collaborative spirit, empowers her team to just go for it, trusts everyone to make thoughtful and strategic decisions, and cares deeply about the customer experience – which comes through in all the successful events she’s had a hand in.

We started working with her back in 2018 when Tipalti hired us to produce 10 Marketing Roadshows (now an annual series!) in 10 different cities across the country. We went on to produce an additional 10 roadshows together in 2019 and started planning the 2020’s series when COVID-19 took the world and the events industry by storm.

It’s a true pleasure working with Melissa on Tipalti’s Elevate Finance Summit roadshow series because it lets us explore venues in some of the most lively and influential cities in the country; like New York, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, and Los Angeles. We can’t wait to pick up where we left off as soon as restrictions are lifted – bringing more roadshows to a city near you!

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Here are 10 questions with our May feature, Melissa Chery.

1. What initially drew you into the events industry?

I always had a love for entertaining and hosting creative theme parties in my teen and early adult years. After switching majors many times, I decided on Business Marketing and took a job as an office manager while finishing my degree with a virtual education startup. They knew I was studying marketing and passed off several projects, one of them being their first tradeshow. I was able to give insight on everything from start to finish, including the theme, booth design and activation, staffing, and the field event aligned with the tradeshow (i.e., Happy Hour during the event). Plus the idea of traveling for work (especially to NOLA) was a huge perk! I was immediately hooked and loved the idea of channeling my creativity into something that would accelerate business for the company.

2. What’s a day in the life of Melissa like?

Zoom, Zoom, and more Zoom! I tend to find myself in a lot of meetings, but it’s great to be able to collaborate with so many different people in the company. And one of the benefits of working from home lately means I don’t have to commute the 50-minute trek into the office!

Regardless of COVID, my days generally start pretty early because I have 2 small girls (one’s almost 3 and the other’s almost 2 – they’re only 13 months apart!). Once I get them ready for daycare, I chug my coffee, and either:

1) commute to work,
2) go for a run, or
3) get ready if I’m working from home

It really depends on the day, I usually work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Generally, my workday starts around 8 am and is filled with lots of meetings, strategy planning for events, or ABM campaigns, alignment with sales, etc. If I’m in the office, I have to leave by 3 pm to beat the traffic back to the East bay from the peninsula to get my girls. I usually hop back online to finish up some projects once they go to bed.

For me, weekends are more relaxing! I spend time with my family, mostly outside (weather permitting), to burn off some toddler energy (i.e., hiking, stroller runs, and toddler soccer lessons), cleaning and napping when I can, and enjoying some wine and Netflix with my husband in the evenings.

3. How many events do you work on per year? What’s the mix?

In 2019, I managed 60+ events and planned to manage 75+ in 2020. However, with changes from COVID-19, we have seen several events get canceled or postponed. At the moment, we are trying to find the right mix to fill the gaps with canceled events, while still maintaining our goals.

Usually, we like to have a good mix of events. From our roadshow series, tradeshows, field events (i.e., dinners, happy hours, sporting events, etc), co-sponsored partner events, user groups, and now, the addition of virtual webinars, and Zoom industry roundtables.

I look forward to the return of live events, but this experience has challenged me to pivot and be creative with developing new programs. Taking our roadshow online has given us the opportunity to expand the audience beyond a specific geographic, giving us more leads than anticipated. We’ve also shifted to do more industry-focused marketing and recently launched our industry roundtable series: Coffee Chat. This event allows attendees to interact with peers and learn from each other in a casual discussion forum using Zoom breakouts.

4. What is your favorite venue you have worked in, and why?

I’ve worked in so many different venues, that it’s hard to pick a favorite! I love the Viceroy in Santa Monica for our repeat SoCal roadshow because the space is beautiful, the staff is friendly, and the terrace provides a lovely atmosphere for lunch or networking.

One of the most challenging venues I have ever worked was the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco for Dreamforce. At the time, I was working at a previous company and we took over their View lounge for a drop-in lounge, while converting several suites and hotel rooms into meeting rooms and social spaces. It was a huge undertaking, but a great accomplishment! We were able to successfully host many meetings and events in one venue over the course of a few days.

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5. How do you measure success for the events you manage?

There are several factors I take into consideration when measuring success, some of them include:

  • How many leads did the event bring in? I usually set a regular goal and a stretch goal that I tell sales reps, so we can maximize efforts onsite.
  • What kind of brand exposure did we have onsite? If there are competitors onsite, did we overshadow or displace their messaging with attendees?
  • Did we increase presence YoY for repeat events?
  • If we hosted ancillary events in addition to the main program (i.e. happy hours) were they well attended?
  • How timely was the event follow-up? Did SDRs/Reps personalize the outreach?
  • How many net new opportunities were generated in the months following an event?

6. What was your biggest event fail, and how did you overcome it?

Being in the event industry, you should always anticipate that something will go wrong. I have had many failures over my career, but being able to overcome them and keep them as seamless as possible is part of the challenge.

The biggest event fail I can think of was when I was working on a User Conference for a previous company. We had contracted with a hotel in SF and secured a pretty significant number of hotel rooms in the room block for out of town attendees. It turns out we miscalculated the needs and had a huge excess of rooms that were not being used. It was early in my career and I was so scared I’d get fired. But, in the end, we found a way to repurpose some of the rooms for staff lodging, negotiated with the hotel to release the hold on another portion, and used the rest as a converted meeting space for sales meetings. I was so relieved we found a solution (and that I still had my job!), but that was a huge learning experience for me to think quickly and act on my feet when faced with a seemingly impossible situation.

7. Where do you see the events industry going in the future? Any trends?

I think COVID-19 has turned the event world upside down, causing a need for event professionals to pivot and come up with new strategies to navigate this time. While I do see things eventually returning to “normal,” I think we’ll see a different type of normal in the events world (or a “new normal”). I’m predicting a mix of in-person and virtual events being part of almost all event programming. For instance, tradeshows having an in-person component for the expo, networking, etc. and a virtual component for attendees to view sessions.

Moving forward, I plan to keep a good mix of virtual events in our future plans, like the virtual industry roundtables we’ve been putting together.

8. Do you have a favorite book or podcast you would recommend to fellow event professionals?

I wish I could say yes, but I mostly read fiction (currently reading Little Fires Everywhere) and listen to True Crime Podcasts!

9. Who would be your dream guest at an event?

I have been fortunate enough to work with some pretty cool guests at events. Magic Johnson was a clear favorite (such a nice and humble person, and a great speaker). Jay Leno was a total riot! But my ultimate dream guest would be Obama, he’s such a well-spoken leader.

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10. Any advice for #eventprofs just getting started?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and go all in! Mistakes help you learn and grow. They happen to even the most seasoned event professionals, so do what you can to find a solution and keep moving forward. Know that there is no such thing as a perfect event, the key is to keep the outward front seamless and resolve any issues on the backend (as best as possible). The more you stress about a mistake, the more people will remember it, so focus on the positive and keep going!

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