In our previous article discussing five trends that would shape the meetings and events industry in 2023, we outlined how tech would be used to enhance the experience of the attendee, mainly thanks to the advent of metaverses.
In-person events have made a spectacular reappearance in the past year. However, it also looks like virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. But keeping attendees engaged during this type of event will require new techniques and features. Enter the metaverse.
In this article, we are going to explain what exactly a metaverse is and how metaverses might shape the events industry in the future.
What is a metaverse?
“In science fiction, the ‘metaverse’ is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal, and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In colloquial usage, a ‘metaverse’ is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.” (source: Wikipedia).
In other words, we are talking about digital spaces where users can interact with each other using individualized avatars. And that’s where they differ from today’s virtual meetings: participants will join a digital event area as their own avatar and have the flexibility to wander about freely, communicate with other attendees, and create their own unique event experience.
The concept has been around for quite a long time (the term itself originated in 1992), and the first metaverse is believed to be the virtual world universe Second Life back in 2003. However, the concept came back to the forefront in 2021 when Facebook was renamed “Meta Platforms.”
According to Forbes, the potential economic value of the metaverse could generate up to $5 trillion by 2030.
The technologies that go hand-in-hand with the metaverse
Elements of technology necessary to access the metaverse include regular computers and smartphones, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
Most people are very familiar with computers and smartphones, maybe less with VR and AR. So let’s define these concepts.
According to Wikipedia, “Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated experience that employs pose tracking and 3D near-eye displays to give the user an immersive feel of a virtual world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (particularly video games), education (such as medical or military training), and business (such as virtual meetings).”
Augmented reality (AR) is “an interactive experience that combines the real world and computer-generated content. The content can span multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. AR can be defined as a system that incorporates three basic features: a combination of real and virtual worlds, real-time interaction, and accurate 3D registration of virtual and real objects.” (source: Wikipedia).
To summarize the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality, VR virtually creates a real or imaginary environment, while AR adds virtual elements to the real environment.
What could it mean for events?
New opportunities for engagement
According to Jennifer Best, VP of marketing at speaker bureau All American Entertainment: “The metaverse will transform the way we meet by remedying the number-one grievance event planners have about virtual events—that current virtual event platforms do not allow for the level of engagement they desire at their events.”
This is mainly due to the fact that the metaverse expands on the concept of gamification, which is a powerful tool when it comes to incentivizing participation and driving engagement.
The metaverse will impact hybrid events most by breaking down the divide between the participants attending in person and those attending virtually. It might help ensure that both enjoy an engaging experience.
A more immersive experience for on-site attendees
The metaverse could become a medium that will only be constrained by the imagination of the attendees.
For example, they would be able to experience how it might feel to drive a high-power car from the safety of the car manufacturer’s booth.
We could also imagine a keynote address given in real time by a popular animated character or a panel whose stage changes based on the subject being covered.
An in-person-like feel to virtual events
A study by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) showed that 76% of almost 9,000 participants said networking was a top driver when deciding whether or not to attend a conference or event.
And it comes as no surprise that it is still one of the most challenging aspects of virtual and hybrid events, primarily because of the absence of breakout sessions, which represent the best opportunity to engage in networking.
With the metaverse, we can imagine in-person attendees being able to see holograms of virtual participants through the use of AR glasses. At the same time, virtual attendees could watch in-person participants projected onto a VR version of the event. During virtual conferences, participants could debate topics in holographic form, undoubtedly offering a whole new experience of being connected whilst apart.
The metaverse could also enrich the way speakers can deliver information during virtual events. Speakers have a lot of methods at their disposal in an in-person event, but these tools don’t work for a virtual conference or panel. With the metaverse, we could imagine 3D models that would appear in front of participants.
In the corporate world, the metaverse could help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual world, allowing for more engagement.
It’s still early to tell if the metaverse will succeed, as the necessary infrastructure is not ready yet, and there are multiple concerns regarding privacy or user safety.
Metaverses might bring some new exciting developments to the events industry. Event planners will need to adjust to it as it will undoubtedly provide opportunities for events to foster and build communities.