The Metaverse: What Does It Mean for the Events Industry?
It’s no secret the events industry has experienced a rapid transformation over the last few years. Now, the events industry is preparing for the metaverse.
When the pandemic shut down much of the world in March 2020, event organizers embraced online event platforms to transition to virtual events quickly. Today, with increased vaccination rates and a drop in COVID-19 cases, many event organizers are turning to hybrid — combining the best of what in-person and virtual experiences offer.
These trends won’t go away any time soon.
Virtual experiences will only become more enriching with the metaverse in hand, delivering even more value to attendees no matter where they are in the world.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a broad term that refers to virtual, 3D experiential worlds accessed through virtual reality (VR) technology, laptops, and mobile devices that let you work, play, and engage with others virtually, using digital avatars.
Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” in his 1992 cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash. In his book, Stephenson always capitalized “Metaverse,” which described a shared “imaginary place” that is “made available to the public over the worldwide fiber-optics network” and projected onto virtual reality goggles.
“To me, the metaverse is any place where a community can interact digitally. A place that is persistent, always there, and where you can return,” explains Lee Kebler, director of immersive technology at Futures Intelligence Group, which helps brands prepare for the metaverse and create long-term metaverse strategies.
In addition to the metaverse that Meta (formerly Facebook) is building, here are some examples of metaverses:
The metaverse market is expected to bring in $47.48 billion in 2022, and that number is projected to balloon to a whopping $678.8 billion by 2030. We suspect that the events industry will drive a large chunk of that growth.
What are the benefits of the metaverse for the events industry?
The main reason the events industry will help accelerate the growth of the metaverse is because of the myriad benefits the fledgling technology will deliver to brands, speakers, vendors, and attendees — which we’ll examine in this section.
Because of its virtual nature, a metaverse is open to anyone and everyone. With the right tools and technologies in place, people of any ability in any geography can participate. Attendees with varying abilities or responsibilities don’t have to worry about a stressful journey somewhere else; instead, they can experience events from wherever they’re most comfortable.
“It’s a boon for everybody,” Kebler continues. “You can reach people you couldn’t reach before and build a community that typically took a lot of real-world effort to create.”
Celebrate Diversity and inclusion
Similarly, the metaverse enables event organizers to create genuinely diverse, equitable, and inclusive events. For example, the metaverse makes building a diverse speaker lineup easier by opening up opportunities to people of all backgrounds and abilities around the world. It also increases the chances that people from different countries will attend your event.
The metaverse also lets attendees express themselves uniquely without concerns about bias, because attendees can create unique avatars without bounds. For example, Meta’s avatars feature assistive devices, including cochlear implants, over-the-ear hearing aids, and wheelchairs. Metaverses are advancing rapidly to let users choose from a range of the following:
- Skin tones
- Body shapes
- Physical abilities
- Hairstyles and textures
- Traditional and religious dress
Like most industries, the events industry will only build, adopt, and leverage more tech tools and platforms going forward. According to Dave Boyle, head of development at Taylor Inc, one of the most significant benefits of the metaverse is that it enables brands to build resilient event strategies.
Helping organizations build virtual, hybrid, and physical spaces that deliver innovative brand experiences, Taylor Inc. is on the cutting edge of the rise of the metaverse.
“COVID-19 shut down the entire events industry,” Boyle said. “If the metaverse had been in place before the pandemic, that wouldn’t have happened.”
Looking ahead, Boyle believes that the metaverse will serve as a complement to in-person events and as a platform for exclusive events.
“Moving forward, brands will take a two-prong approach to events,” Boyle said. “You get to go to a trade show in person, and there will be a virtual space you can visit as a follow-up.”
To deliver a powerful in-person event experience, event organizers often devote ample time and energy to logistics. In addition to figuring out where the event will take place, Event Experience Leaders also need to think about how attendees will get to the event venue, which staff and vendors are required to pull off a great experience, and whether their event software has enough bandwidth to support everyone’s needs.
“In the metaverse, the barrier of entry is a phone and a computer and an internet connection,” said Morgan Carlson, interactive creative director at Taylor Inc. “It’ll be interesting to see how much companies can increase their reach.”
Of course, event attendees, speakers, partners, and vendors share similar concerns:
- How will we get there, and where will we stay?
- Do we have the budget for travel and accommodations?
- What happens if the event is canceled or rescheduled?
- What if something comes up and we can’t appear in person?
The metaverse solves all logistical concerns because everything takes place in a centralized virtual venue. Although technology-related challenges can crop up, the metaverse delivers a simple, plug-and-play experience.
The metaverse also helps event organizers deliver on corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies because attendees can avoid travel, physical accommodations, food waste, or other material waste.
For example, the University of Michigan’s Office of Campus Sustainability found that, for a large international conference with 5,000 attendees, going virtual delivered 98% carbon footprint savings and prevented emissions equivalent to 158 American families’ annual emissions!
Thanks to its digital nature, the metaverse is wholly customizable. With the right approach, brands can create the event of their dreams without bounds. In addition to run-of-the-mill events, organizers can also use the metaverse to create VIP lounges filled with entertainment, fun activities, and NFT swag bags.
Of course, you can’t just decide to host an event in the metaverse and assume you’ll be able to create an unforgettable experience on your own. For the best results, partner with organizations experienced in building bespoke VR spaces.
“When you’re ready to build and design, find a partnership,” Kebler advises. “Don’t go into it blindly.”
One of the perks of the metaverse is that it’s on the cutting-edge of what’s possible in the events industry. The metaverse can help pique the interest of attendees who want innovative ways to attend events and sponsors who want to be a part of new and immersive experiences.
“The metaverse is exciting because it offers extensive connectivity between people worldwide. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t connect with someone on the other side of the planet like this.”
Director of Immersive Technology
Futures Intelligence Group
What are the challenges associated with the metaverse?
Although the benefits of the metaverse for the events industry speak for themselves, there are several challenges that event professionals must consider before diving in.
Although folks in the United States and Europe might have access to high-speed fiber-optic connections in their own homes or offices, not everyone has that luxury.
Event organizers need to pay special attention to where their ideal attendees are when planning an event in the metaverse. Suppose your perfect attendee is in an area where internet speeds and connectivity aren’t operating at pique performance. In that case, you may need to reconsider your plan for an event in the metaverse.
Most futurists believe headsets or AR glasses are necessary to access these 3D virtual worlds, which may create a barrier to entry based on socioeconomic factors. That said, as the metaverse expands and demand increases, VR headsets should lower in cost.
“Anyone taking the metaverse seriously should consider other ways for attendees to engage beyond headsets, which can be a huge barrier to entry,” Boyle said.
Additionally, there isn’t parity across platforms. Some people may be using iOS or Android devices or Chrome or Safari, while others may have an Oculus or iOS VR set. This diversity of technology can lead to interoperability challenges, which can cause friction in the event experience.
Suppose your goal is to leverage the metaverse to break down barriers and increase attendee numbers. In that case, it’s essential to look for event technology solutions that allow participants to engage with the metaverse no matter what tech they do — or don’t — have.
“Gear your events toward the person with the least technology,” Carlson explains.
The metaverse also presents learning curves for everyone involved. Attendees, vendors, and speakers might have issues adapting to and using the technology, so you may have to create various training videos or offer free sessions to get everyone up to speed.
Event organizers, too, may struggle with new technology. Conceptualizing and building dynamic experiences in the metaverse may require extensive training, special partnerships, a large budget, and more.
What’s more, most metaverse platforms have limitations. For example, some venues only allow 30 to 60 users in a space at any given time. This might be ideal for internal training, team meeting, or networking event, but not if you’re planning a user conference or SKO.
“Live events are complex. Don’t assume it’ll be easier in the metaverse,” Kebler said. “It’s not less complex; it’s just different.”
Take small steps into the metaverse, find a partner with experience in the space, and iterate over time for the best results.
What types of events are ideal for the metaverse?
The truth? The metaverse makes sense for all types of events:
- Team-building activities
- Product launches
- Networking Events
- User Conferences
- Internal training
- Fashion shows
- Sales kickoffs
- Live concerts
- And more!
For example, in May 2021, Gucci went virtual in the metaverse with the Gucci Garden on Roblox, which celebrated the luxury fashion house’s 100th birthday. It ran for two weeks and let visitors explore themed rooms that paid tribute to past campaigns and try on digital Gucci items.
Source: The Verge
Want to experience the metaverse yourself but not ready to host your own event? We recommend attending one of these upcoming events in the metaverse:
- Permissionless: May 17-19, 2022
- Zebu Live: September 22-23, 2022
- DeFi Conf 2022: October 6, 2022
- Immerse Global Summit: December 5-7, 2022
How do I get started hosting events in the metaverse?
Ready to plan your first event in the metaverse? Congrats on being a futurist! Keep these tips in mind to increase the chances your inaugural metaverse event is one for the ages:
- Offer detailed guidance. An easy way to overcome learning curves is by publishing comprehensive documentation that attendees, staff, vendors, and speakers can refer to for troubleshooting. “Handholding goes a long way,” Kebler explains. Make sure you have plenty of support staff on hand during the event too.
- Use in-app messaging. One way to increase the chances that attendees have productive experiences in the metaverse is by using in-app tutorials and popup messages to walk them through the process. “Take advantage of as many ways to educate users as possible,” Carlson said.
- Lower your expectations. Don’t expect participants to be expert metaverse users. When you’re just starting, put yourself in your attendees’ shoes and create an experience that’ll be easy for newcomers to navigate. Remember: Don’t overthink it!
- Study the metaverse. If you’re new to the metaverse, find people who have experience in it and start poking around. “If you have a child playing Roblox, spend some time with them,” Kebler said. “Figure out what’s interesting and enticing about the space.”
- Create content optimized for the space. Some companies might be tempted to use promotional videos, slideshow presentations, and infographics in the metaverse; they’ve already created them, so why not use them again? “That doesn’t necessarily lead to a great user experience,” Carlson said. “Companies need to learn how to create digital content for this different and unique space.”
Get Started: Create a Metaverse Event To Remember
If you want to make sure your metaverse event is successful, you can’t go wrong partnering with experts in the space. For example, by joining forces with Bizzabo and Taylor Inc, you can rest comfortably knowing you’re building an event with experts delivering next-level experiences in AR/VR/mixed reality spaces.
“The metaverse is hard to design for and plan around,” Boyle said. “Don’t just jump in and try to make a metaverse. Turn to people who’ve done it before.”
Request a demo today for more information on how Bizzabo can help you dominate your next metaverse event.