How Stream Chat Helped Freeman’s New Virtual Event Platform Go To Market Fast

Elissa Ewers, Freeman’s director of digital product, shares why Stream was her top choice when seeking chat functionality, and next steps for customizing the API solution.

Problem: When most in-person events went digital in early 2020, Freeman needed to integrate live stream chat functionality into its new virtual event platform to support thousands of concurrent users — and fast.

Strategy: After evaluating several third-party chat API solutions, Freeman integrated Stream Chat using the React SDK in just three weeks to support virtual event communication. Nearly a year later, Freeman is enabling more of Stream Chat’s features such as direct 1:1 chat and moderating block lists and is customizing the UI to harmonize chat design with its brand identity.

Results: Freeman’s virtual event platform has performant chat functionality equipped to evolve and scale as the platform supports more virtual event attendees.

About Freeman

A global leader in the events industry, Freeman is in the business of creating memorable moments that inspire and connect audiences, such as conferences, trade shows, and corporate meetings. From beautiful in-booth LED light installations and spatial virtual reality to attract buyers, to real-time analytics dashboards to optimize event ROI, Freeman’s products enhance experiences before, during and after events.

When the global pandemic forced most in-person events to transition to an online medium, Freeman rallied, and created a virtual event platform to serve their new user requirements. “We shifted focus and basically in a week we built a virtual platform off the base of in-person solutions we already had,” says Elissa Ewers, Freeman's director of digital product management. The new platform, OnlineEvent®, required a chat feature that enabled attendees to communicate with each other in specific channels during live stream presentations.

Why Choose Stream?

Ewers didn’t have much time to evaluate chat vendors. While she typically spends months weighing third-party tech providers that will integrate into Freeman’s products, she only had weeks to make a decision for OnlineEvent because Freeman’s customers were relying on the company to support their suddenly now-virtual events. Ewers had to be efficient with her tech evaluation, so she zeroed in on chat solutions containing must-have attributes such as rapid integration and scale to support tens of thousands of concurrent users. Ewers also sought a solution that prioritized security and single sign-on functionality.

After exploring chat options such as a custom javascript build, and the third-party providers Chatroll and Pusher, it was clear to Ewers that Stream Chat was optimal for Freeman’s unique needs.

Flexibility and functionality were core differentiating factors that led Ewers to choose Stream. “We knew what we needed to do immediately, but we also knew what we were going to try to do in the future — we wanted to make sure we would have the ability to make channels, and customize UI,” says Ewers. “Interactions like sharing files, emojis, link parsing, add mentions, and threads were also Stream selling points.”

Integrating with Stream

Using Stream’s React SDK, Ewers had the chat API working in just three weeks. It took several months to get the chat functioning exactly how she envisioned. During the integration process, Ewers’ development team ran into a few roadblocks and reached out to Stream’s Director of Customer Success Stephen Hodgetts for help. “Once we started talking to Stephen, he was able to help guide us and show us better architecture to deploy the chat SDK in a multi-tenant way,” says Ewers.

Stream Chat Performance Today & Beyond

Almost a year after integrating Stream Chat into Freeman’s virtual event platform, Ewers says it’s going well, and she’s never had issues with chat performance during a live virtual event. “It’s nice when the blockers are all things other than your tech partner,” she jokes. “Engagement is table stakes for virtual. Stream allowed us to build engagement into our platform really quickly.” Ewers adds that Freeman tracks how many messages are sent during an event, and which channels have the most activity — an important marker to showcase event ROI to customers.

Today, Ewers is focused on customizing the chat UI so it’s more seamless with the Freeman virtual event experience.

The future of events will likely include both onsite and virtual components — what many in the industry are referring to as hybrid events. And organizers will be tasked with marrying relationships between virtual and in-person attendees. With a scalable, performance-driven, and reliable chat solution, Freeman’s market-leading platforms will enable deep engagement for all event participants.

Want to see how Stream’s reliable, scalable and performance-first Chat can transform your business? Try Stream’s free, 28-day Chat Trial!