A Digital Deep Dive With Freeman’s Richard Maranville

Author: David McMillin       

Participants at Convening Leaders 2018 heard two terms echoing throughout the halls of Nashville’s Music City Center: data and digital. As technology continues to change attendee expectations at business events, event organizers are excited about new possibilities for face-to-face interaction, but many of them are also overwhelmed by the number of options and potential challenges.

Freeman, one of PCMA’s Uber partners and the production company behind the Convening Leaders Main Stage, has made recent moves to help address some of those concerns.

Freeman Chief Digital Officer Richard Maranville recently offered PCMA a look at how the company’s acquisitions of two new companies will give event organizers opportunities to access better data and solve one of the biggest obstacles to event-technology adoption: budget.

The events industry has been buzzing about the possibilities of big data for a number of years, but where do you think organizers currently stand in their ability to tap into those possibilities? What are the major hurdles that have been standing in the way of the digital transformation for some organizations

Every piece of event technology creates a massive amount of data, which is difficult to stitch together with the other data points collected to analyze across all products. We’ve been missing a single place where aggregated data lives. This would allow event professionals to have a heads-up view of all their products at once in a centralized location, seeing how they all work together to impact the event as a whole. This would also allow organizers to derive better insights from their data (revenue generation, efficiencies, customer service) and measuring the results of actions taken based on the data. That will make big data a reality.

Without an open platform that all event tech can tap into, a holistic event picture will continue to be a unicorn. Digital transformation is no longer an option for brand experience, so as technology providers, we need to make it easier for customers to have the tools they need to engage their attendees and grow their businesses.

Freeman recently launched a new initiative called Fuzion to help organizers overcome one of those hurdles — information integration. Can you offer a high-level look at what Fuzion does and how the ecosystem is designed to help simplify event planning?

The aim of Fuzion’s open product ecosystem is to alleviate these industry-wide integration challenges by connecting data across all points of the event lifecycle to create a seamless experience for organizers and attendees. One simple example is [that] for an organizer to take registration information and abstract-management data and push it to the mobile app, they currently must coordinate with multiple vendors to pull and/or push information between systems. Fuzion greatly reduces this need, enabling multiple vendors to easily integrate on a single platform.

The idea is to make solution integration and selection simpler and more cost-effective for partners and organizers, ultimately enhancing the event experience for attendees.

Can you offer a background of the types of companies that are already working with Fuzion?

It’s fantastic that we have such a great industry, with so many technology companies eager to demonstrate their commitment to shaping the future of the events. Fuzion’s founding partners represent voices across many segments of the events industry — including registration, mobile apps, floor-plan management, abstract management, and housing. In addition to Fuzion’s seven founding partners we announced on Jan. 4, more than 25 event technology companies are excited about Fuzion and are in active discussions to become partners.

How will Fuzion continue to evolve to enable event organizers to adopt new technologies that will launch in the future?

Fuzion represents an open community of event-technology partners that will continue to grow and evolve with the industry. Fuzion will enable technology companies to continue to focus on feature expansion and product innovation, as they won’t have to spend as many resources on time-consuming integrations. And, as integrations become easier for customers, adoption of new event technologies will also become easier.

Shifting gears from the future to the present, VR and AR seem to be the two most-used acronyms in the brand-experience conversation, and Freeman just acquired a studio that has turned plenty of heads in the immersive world: Helios Interactive. I’m curious to know what’s on the horizon that most excites you now that Helios is part of the Freeman family.

Two things excite me the most. First, Helios creates some jaw-dropping interactive live experiences that utilize technologies like AR and VR and many more. Now that they are a part of Freeman, we can bring those solutions to scale like no one else, so our customers large and small will have access to bleeding-edge technologies.

Second, Helios is always innovating. They’re working on new ways for attendees to interact with content, mind-bending storytelling techniques, and some of the latest and greatest technologies. We’ll have a lot more to talk about in the coming months.

Helios has already worked with some major names including the NFL, CES, and Comic-Con. Organizations with smaller budgets may assume that immersive AR and VR experiences may be out of the question. Can immersive AR and VR experiences happen on a smaller scale?

Certainly, and this is a goal of ours. Technologies like AR and VR belong to everyone. They fundamentally change the way we interact with the world, and we don’t think that a select few should have access. A major effort on our part is to bring AR and VR to the market at scale so all our customers can utilize it at their own brand experiences. We are laser-focused on utilizing these technologies as storytelling mediums — and given how effective and impactful they are, we are intent on providing them to as large of an audience as possible.

Between the launch of Fuzion and the acquisition of Helios Interactive, it’s been a big close to 2017 for Freeman. What are you most excited about in 2018?

We’re just getting started! 2018 will be a big year for us because Fuzion and Helios lay the foundation for innovative solutions not just from Freeman but also from our partners. Without giving too much away, you’ll see new insights solutions that finally unlock the promise of big data at events, new interactive attendee experiences, and a robust digital ecosystem for events. And that is just in the first six months of 2018.

To learn more about Freeman’s brand-experience work with the American Public Health Association, the American Society of Hematology, and other face-to-face events, click here. And stay tuned to pcma.org for a behind-the-scenes look at how Freeman developed The Mix, a massive wall of HD video screens at Convening Leaders.

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