How the Metaverse Will Change the Event Industry?
In the past few months, ‘metaverse’ has become the internet’s favourite buzzword. And it’s not just gamers or tech enthusiasts who are talking about it, but also Big Tech companies like Meta and Microsoft announcing various developments in this space — clearly signaling that every business and industry needs to gear up for it. From real estate investments worth millions of dollars to organising musical concerts with popular celebrities, the metaverse is almost on everyone’s radar. While there’s still time for the metaverse to emerge in its full form, it shouldn’t come as a surprise for the event industry that the metaverse is going to bring opportunities as well as challenges in the near future. But what is the metaverse and how is it going to impact the event industry? Will it change how virtual experiences are created? In this piece, we take a deep dive to understand this. What exactly is the metaverse? For starters, the metaverse is not a novel concept. It’s also worth noting that there’s no fixed definition of what the metaverse entails. Broadly, the metaverse aims to provide a more immersive experience — a platform for anyone to mirror their physical realm onto a virtual space. In October 2021, Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, went on to describe the metaverse as the ‘beginning of the next chapter for the internet’. Emphasising further on the potential of this new chapter he explains, “In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.” Later in November, Microsoft announced the launch of Mesh which aims to provide Microsoft Team’s users with the ability to collaborate virtually, but in a more immersive manner by creating 3D avatars. Clearly, the metaverse will allow real-life activities to fuse into the virtual world through technology. This new world could possibly allow for limitless opportunities — redefining what we know and how we build, create and organise our lives. So what does this mean for the event industry? It’s no secret that the pandemic fuelled the rapid evolution from only in-person events to virtual gatherings. Of course, the metaverse will allow event professionals to take their events a step further — ushering in a new era of how events are produced and how attendees engage with each other. With lockdown restrictions being lifted in many parts of the world, hybrid events have also gained popularity. However, various schools of thought have emerged regarding the overall experience that these hybrid events provide to the attendees. Engagement and community building continues to be a major area of focus and improvement when it comes to organising hybrid events. For the events industry, it can be said that the metaverse will bring endless opportunities to integrate technology and creativity for organising remarkable online experiences. Engagement and community building will likely thrive in metaverse events While the metaverse continues to be in the early stages of its development, it’s evident that the underlying technologies it will employ are Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). This implies that enriching attendee engagement will be much easier within the metaverse unlike the experiences provided by hybrid and virtual events. With 3D avatars being fundamental to entering the metaverse, attendees will be empowered to move around, talk with other attendees, explore and network. The metaverse will blur the boundaries between real-life and virtual experiences. Breakout sessions, an integral segment of events, will be more accessible to attendees through the metaverse. It’s evident that 2D virtual events have been constantly trying to replicate physical events. With the metaverse, attendees will be able to project holograms using the required gears and elevate their experience during these sessions. This ability to enjoy an enhanced experience and become a part of the community also hints that in the metaverse, attendees will have greater power over how they wish to take part in the event — implying that participation in events will no longer be linear. Want data about your attendees? The metaverse is here to help In the past, tracking attendee engagement in physical events has been challenging. While virtual events have allowed for better insights on attendee engagement, the metaverse is set to take this to the next level. Events in the metaverse will provide key insights into how attendees engage, behave and explore an event. The data gathered will allow for a greater post-event engagement. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, the metaverse will allow businesses to expand their events on a global scale. Unlike in-person events, the metaverse offers an endless opportunity to allow attendee participation from any part of the world. Organisers can invite an infinite number of attendees to their events — transcending geographical boundaries and spatial limitations. But does the increased scope of scalability of events in the metaverse pose a threat to security? Perhaps not due to NFTs. An NFT (non-fungible token) primarily denotes any unique digital asset that cannot be duplicated. This unique asset is powered by blockchain technology and is used to indicate ownership. So how will NFTs be useful for events? In the last few months, NFTs have been closely associated with digital art. But when it comes to events, NFTs can be used as event tickets. This will allow for restricted and credible entrance to events within the metaverse. Additionally, attendees can use an NFT for making secure purchases in events or to access special areas such as restricted VIP lounges or breakout rooms. Will the metaverse wipe out physical events? It’s clear that the metaverse will shift perspectives around how events are organised and enable unlimited scope of creativity. It’s also worth noting that the availability of VR and AR headsets can be a roadblock for its early adoption. But it’s likely that the platform will enable an interesting experience for event attendees, co-existing parallelly with other in-real-life and 2D events. The metaverse is already here and it’s not too long before the event industry will need to adapt to it. It’s certain that this new technology will open avenues for events to create and nurture communities.