What is the potential of the metaverse for the events and congresses industry?



# tags: Metaverse , Technology

If for brands the metaverse is seen as an enhancer of their respective reach among different target audiences, for events and congresses even more advantages are pointed out.

In an ideal scenario, the technology inherent in the metaverse will allow the user to feel physically at the event, with 3D environments in high definition that can be accessed through virtual reality glasses. In addition to other avatars that you can interact with and even physical items that you can pick up and examine with tactile gloves or game controls. Some metaverse advocates say VR headphones will be needed to fully embrace the concept, but other tech companies are releasing avatar-based platforms that don’t require any special hardware. A recent example is Mytaverse, a new platform launched in November 2021 that offers a variety of pre-built or fully customised 3D environments that can include meeting and conference rooms, simulators, auditoriums and more. Participants customise their own avatars and can run, jump, wave, dance and more.

Lachlan Phillips, CEO of Orbits, believes that the impact the metaverse will have on events is similar to what email had on traditional mail.

While Bill Gates’ prediction, which points to the shift of all virtual events to the metaverse in two to three years, is still a long way off, some international event experts told BizBash that virtual event organisers do indeed need to have the metaverse on the radar. Lee Gimpel, founder of Better Meetings, says that “it’s crazy to say that we’re going back to an era where most events are in person”, alluding to the fact that, in just a few weeks, online events, which were once passed over by face-to-face events, became the first form of events for long months, with the pandemic. Gimpel believes that online events will continue to “grow, prosper and evolve”, but this does not mean that they will move entirely to virtual reality. The technology that supports virtual events is improving and changing over time, and “we will likely see a steady progression towards more immersive platforms each year.”

Greater interaction

Virtual visits to meeting venues and spaces, digital meetings that appear face‑to‑face, and immersive presentations. These are some of the possibilities that are being announced and that can be facilitated by the metaverse. An added advantage, say industry experts, is the promotion of networking in the metaverse, when compared to the digital and hybrid events that we have resorted to in the last two years. Ben Chodor, president of Notified, communications cloud for the world of events, public relations and investor relations, stated in an opinion piece in Forbes that the metaverse has the potential to take digital events experiences to the next level. “As the president of a company that offers a platform for virtual events, I have seen users drive demand for more interactive online experiences, in which they can participate in sessions in a complete and easy way, interact with colleagues, identify new leads and, most importantly, increase human interaction”.

Harry Prince, Creative Content Manager at Spacehuntr, recently stated, in an opinion piece for Event Point, that the metaverse can solve one of the main problems that digital and hybrid events have not been able to overcome: networking, or rather, the connection between participants. “Due to the immersive nature of the metaverse, this problem can be relegated to the past”, emphasises the person in charge. He explains that “watching an event remotely is seeing the action happening from a computer screen. It is an alienating experience.” In this sense, HarryPrince argues that the metaverse “can solve this problem by its intrinsic nature of gamification. Even before the metaverse, gamification led to 87% of users feeling more socially connected.”

Equal access to all participants

Lachlan Phillips provides an example of what is already happening at Orbits, an immersive online venue for events, workplaces and others: the metaverse has crucial benefits, in particular for hybrid events. “There will no longer be a clear division between who is in person and who is virtually at an event.” “When we hold a hybrid event on Orbits, the speaker speaks to the live audience and the virtual audience as if it were a large auditorium, and no matter where they are on the planet, they can interact with the speakers, participate in Q&A and workshops , specialised experiences or simply being with people at the bar.” There is also the fact that, with avatars, participants can present themselves as they wish, without being limited by gender, physical limitations, age or sexual preference. Racism or discrimination has no place in the metaverse environment.

Decrease of long journeys

In short, there is a certain magic inherent to face-to-face events that is difficult to replicate online, but which some experts believe can be resolved by the metaverse. Once fully realised, the metaverse can offer a highly interactive experience where people can move freely and engage in dialogue without having to leave their home. It will no longer be necessary to make long trips to meet someone, substantially reducing travel budgets.

More accessible events

Accessibility is, in fact, one of the great advantages presented, not only in reducing the number of trips, but because it will allow people with hearing impairments, for example, to communicate through written messages or sign language. Users with limited mobility can also move more easily from session to session.

“The ability for event organisers and sponsors to reach new audiences, and for audiences to be able to reach them, is one of the things I’m most excited about in the metaverse,” adds Ben Chodor, president of Notified.

Sustainable events

There is also the big issue of sustainability, which is unavoidable these days. The metaverse can be a carbon-neutral solution for large meetings and events, which can lead to more sustainable practices and even less vulnerable to external factors, such as a pandemic that puts everything on ‘stand-by’.

Potential challenges

Despite being still in a very embryonic stage, there are challenges that are posed to the development of the metaverse and the possibility of succeeding with users. One of them is the lack of devices that are small and powerful enough to be able to deliver the imagined metaverse experience, which can impact the budget for the events. Another has to do with people’s willingness to purchase virtual reality headsets or even use accessories to enter a virtual world. Entering the metaverse also presupposes a better internet connection and 5G is still being implemented, and with some difficulties. What works in a face‑to‑face event may not necessarily work in a metaverse event. It is necessary to carefully build areas for private conversations, for example.

Raquel Relvas Neto

Photo: Tumiso