Blog Series Featuring a video interview with Dr. Lou Marciani

Video interview with Dr. Lou Marciani, Director and Co-Founder, IIFX

September 8, 2020

IIFX Director and Co-Founder, Dr. Lou Marciani

Aveshka’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Til Jolly recently became a Distinguished Fellow for the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience (IIFX). Carissa Nee, Aveshka’s Director of Communications and Marketing sat down with IIFX Director, Dr. Lou Marciani to get some insights on this new partnership and how Aveshka will contribute to the IIFX mission and vision.



Click the video above to view the interview. The interview transcript is also available below.

Nee: Hi, Good Afternoon, my name is Carissa Nee, and I am the Director of Communications with Aveshka and I am here today to speak with Dr. Lou Marciani with the Innovation Institute for Fan Experience. A couple of questions for you, Dr. Marciani, can you give us a quick background on IIFX and the impetus for standing it up earlier this year?

Marciani: I had retired from Director of the National Center for Spectator Sports, Safety and Security (NCS4) at the University of Southern Mississippi on April 1. By the time I got to my house that day, the phone was ringing, and this pandemic was starting to pick up some steam. Some people said “Where are you? What’s going on?” So, I was very fortunate in April to work with a company called Toffler Associates in DC, and the Institute to come together to put together a national Task Force in the sports and entertainment industry to bring people back to work, play and spectate. So, it gave me a continued emphasis in the country in safety and security, while I was putting the concept together for the institute. The institute is really done in parallel with the pandemic issue, but the timeliness was perfect. We were able to do what the mission of the institute is – to look at current issues and try to help solve the problems through a global alliance with thought leaders and stakeholders. So that’s what happened.

Nee: So, if the pandemic never happened, would you have continued to start [IIFX?]

Marciani: Yes, and here’s what happened too – during my experiences with the National Center, I got heavily engaged with Interpol. We are their academic arm at the National Center. I was engaged with 194 countries through Interpol for training purposes. I knew as early as 2018 that there is a gap in the world relative to understanding and enhancing safety and security globally, so my intent upon leaving the Center was to create a some type of global alliance to bring people together for networking, bringing people together for training and education, and really looking at maybe some standardization of this industry globally. So yes, it would have been started, probably not as dynamic or as quick as what I’m experiencing on a daily basis.

Nee: Sure. That makes sense, it’s kind of perfect timing at the moment.

Marciani: Well this happened to me once before, it was 9/11. And I had just taken a position at the University on the academic side and we immediately began to do research right after 9/11 on stadium security. From there we caught the attention of the government and by 2006, we had a National Center. I’ve had experiences in standing up centers and institutes and that exact same situation happened where we stepped in and began to help the country out through FEMA, DHS, training, best practices, etc. Similar things are happening with the Institute regarding this pandemic that will lead to a similar situation but on more of a global perspective.

Nee: Interesting. You mention this “global alliance,” can you shed some insight on the membership base, how has it grown since IFX – IIFX’s instantiation?

Marciani: Im getting used to IIFX too – its new to me too, obviously [laughs]. We just began obviously, and we’re attracting people that are in the security business profession, from professional teams, we’re obviously in communications with various leagues, technology companies, and think tanks like yours. We’re starting to bring people together. You look at who we are, I think first, we are really thought leaders together, right? Thought leaders, subject matter experts, stakeholders coming together. Like yesterday, we had a think tank meeting, with the Fellows. Dr. Jolly was on and we had some interesting conversation. So, what we want to do on a broader scale is to create a forum series where we can have town halls, workshops, and I want to talk to you about our conference. Bringing people together to open up communications is number one, two would be educating people, thirdly would be to look at standards, best practices, and lessons learned. Basically, we’re opening up the world to come together to solve problems is the simple way to put it.

Nee: So, anyone can join essentially?

Marciani: The people who would join are from 28 different segments, if you want to call them segments—yesterday we had someone from youth sports, USA soccer is engaged, all the way up to the NBA. We also want to get law firms involved, architecture firms because design has a factor, law has a factor, and best practices. High schools are very important to us as well. I don’t think we want to leave anybody out. Because it is a global – global could mean any entity that really wants to solve a problem in sports safety and security, or that’s in the industry of sports or entertainment.

Nee: That’s great. We were simply ecstatic to have Aveshka’s Chief Medical Officer, Til Jolly join IIFX’s Distinguished Fellows. You mentioned that you had a meeting with them yesterday. Just to shed insight to others, how does IIFX go about selecting the Fellows, and what specifically about Dr. Jolly made him stand out to you?

Marciani: We’re very particular. If you’re going to form an institute, your fellows need to bring a great deal of experience, knowledge, reputation to this entity, right? This is going to be a global entity that should be well-respected. So, when we put the fellows together comments came like, “how do you select them?” Obviously, you review their applications based on their experience and reputation. When we stood up the Fellows, a comment came, that not just through this pandemic, but the world is going to change where health safety is a critical piece of this future. They asked me to begin to identify someone from the medical field that would be able to guide this group of Fellows and us at the institute–to look at health risk as we go down the road. Fortunately, and with a little luck, Andy Weis [Aveshka Senior Vice President, Growth and Operations] came in with one of the recommendations he had. I knew of Dr. Jolly from other experiences indirectly, especially when he was with the National Football League for 11 years, really assisting with the Super Bowl and so he had a lot of experience in the medical field, but it’s very broad. If you look at his background it [ranges] from events, to risk communications, to emergency management, etc. He was an easy choice in the country to bring all of this talent to this entity. We’re blessed with him saying, “Yes.” He really did well at his first meeting yesterday and fits in with all of the other Fellows. I think he wants, without a doubt, wants to contribute — not just to this pandemic, yes it’s our problem right now — but far beyond that.

Nee: You’re blessed to have him, we are extremely blessed to have him. Aveshka is very excited about him, as he became our CMO recently. It’s a wonderful addition to our team and to yours.

Marciani: And he bridges the gap between [IIFX and Aveshka].

Nee: Absolutely.

Marciani: If you look at where you’re going, your mission is very similar to ours in a way. It’s about solving problems; it’s about bringing innovation to the industry. We happen to be one of your industries. I think the beauty here is that you serve many agencies, you serve many facets of emergency management, etc. I think the connection now between the two of us is that you have a channel now called “Sports and Entertainment” and I think what you bring to the table is fantastic. Particularly, as we look at two things that the institute will pay a lot of attention to down the road. One is knowledge, and two is data. We can’t move the industry without those two. If you look at some of your strengths, you are strong, and you are going to get even stronger in data and data analysis. How do we look at issues from that standpoint to elevate the entire industry, so I think the vehicle is going to be great between you [Aveshka], to us, to the industry, helping leagues, helping major venues, understand their risk from that perspective and making decisions in the future based on data – versus, call it, “gut”. So, I think that is probably going to be the major contribution of this relationship – I predict that.

Nee: Sure. So, as you mentioned, Aveshka we have this innovation component. Aveshka has been historically known for our public health, emergency management, consulting type of experience. But we do have this wonderful, very active innovation and technology arm too. We’re in the process of developing platforms for digesting big data and performing data analytics. But for example, for you, you just mentioned how data-driven decisions are pretty much important to [IIFX]. But if the NFL wants to open a stadium to fans during the time of COVID, how do you foresee IIFX pairing policy and that data to make decisions that enhance the fan experience while keeping everyone safe?

Marciani: I think we have education in front of us. I think our industry, even though I’ve been involved in it for many years, is conservative and slow at the switch sometimes to grow t0 the level we’re talking about. We met with Shannon [Vaughn, Aveshka Chief Innovation Officer] and we discussed and put out there to start pilot something in the nature of how to make decisions in a COVID situation. My first step is to work our way through one environment to see what the gaps are, what the needs are. What I’d like to see is to build out a platform for this industry that we can make the industry aware of and then work with those industries to build out a good analytical process for them to enhance their decision making down the road. That’s where I think we’re going to go.

Nee: Great. So, I know IIFX is very new. Clearly, you’ve been very busy, and you’ve hit the ground running and taking action, especially with matters related to COVID-19. What are the initiatives that you’re currently working on and how do you see Aveshka contributing to those upcoming initiatives?

Marciani: We obviously are moving forward. One initiative is our international conference November 17-18 [2020]. We met about that yesterday and this is the first one in our industry with a global approach to looking at the future of sports and entertainment. It’s called the Pathway to Innovative Solutions for the Sports and Entertainment Industry. One area that we’re building out for this conference is certainly health-related issues. I will ask Dr. Jolly to lead that direction. That is an example of how this might work. We can take away from this international conference some gaps that are global, and there is no reason why we can’t take [Aveshka], or all of us, globally down the road–there are stadiums and cities all over the world. The Conference is a big initiative for us. It’s our coming out of the institute on a global platform, as we put the conference together, for the first time, we will be in sessions with people all over the world discussing a common problem. That’s a big one.

The second initiative is starting to build out what we call a “Forum Series” – a speaker series. Bringing different speakers all over the world. Having executive town halls to look at [problems]. We also have a membership group called “Future Leaders” that have less than 10 years in the profession and we want to cultivate them through a mentor program with executives. We will have sessions with them where we can bring some mentors to work with them as they move up through the ranks too. This Forum Series will occur in January [2021].

The third [initiative] that exists right now is the Task Force. Dr. Jolly joined the Task Force as well. This is [a group of] about 50 professionals, from all aspects of the profession, studying ways to get back to work, play, and spectate. We’re on to Stage 2 of this Task Force which is centered around “re-imagination” and “re-igniting”. They are studying right now, re-imagining how life would be after COVID-19 in relation to changes in lessons learned, especially from what’s been going on the last couple of weeks with the NBA, with people that are opening, to how we’re going to handle rapid testing, for instance at stadiums, or how we’re going to do concessions or those types of things down the road. So, a lot of my energy is going into the Task Force, the Conference, getting ready for the Forum Series in January. And the other thing that is keeping us very busy is the number of technology firms coming this way to the institute, to look at integrating them with other aspects of safety and security, to how we get to the marketplace, how do we pivot to another aspect of their industry. Right now we have about 6-7 projects just with technology firms. It’s about people, processes and technologies. It’s got to stay in a triangle, you can’t separate them. To answer your question, that is what is going on in such a short period of time.

Nee: You mentioned you are in Stage 2 right now, what does Stage 3 look like for IIFX?

Marciani: I think the next stage is reopening and then recovery, with resilience at the end. I think our industry overall didn’t prioritize – and I understand because I am in it – but if you look at risk would you think that this would have happened at your venue or your league? You would have said, “probably not” so plans were not in existence for this [situation]. Once things clear, there will be a big emphasis put on business continuity and resiliency. That is another area [Aveshka’s] very strong at.

Nee: Yes. Aveshka can definitely contribute to that. [Laughs]

Marciani: Besides data, I am guessing at this, but I don’t think I am far off, that the second big major collaborative entity could be helping organizations understand resiliency, number one, and number two, help them build out their plans.

Nee: Well that’s all we had in terms of questions for you today. We greatly appreciate you sitting down with us and shedding some light for our viewers on how this partnership is going to work out. I know Aveshka is very excited about embarking on this with IIFX.

Marciani: I could say to you it’s similar on this end. The institute can only be better by bringing in the best of the best – in the world. We’re very lucky that this happened. You can tell from the enthusiasm of this conversation that there is a lot of potential between the two [Aveshka and IIFX]. To make the world better — to get people back to work, play, and spectate.

Nee: Thank you so much.

Marciani: Thank you for the interview too. Thanks, Carissa.

Nee: Take care.

Marciani: Bye now.

By: Carissa Nee, Director of Communications and Marketing, Aveshka