The metaverse has become increasingly popular over the past year, with many industry leaders taking steps to embrace its benefits. Despite the fact that event producers are still recovering from the whirlwind of pivoting to virtual, new technologies like NFTs, holograms, cryptocurrencies, and metaverse, are upending the industry once again.
In the face of the pandemic, the events industry has been forced to adapt virtual platforms as people became more isolated at home in times when they were previously reliant on in-person interactions for success. Since then, we have seen sustained demand for improved virtual spaces, as well as how virtual events have been successful in engaging audiences.
As we move towards more immersive platforms year after year, it’s likely that we’ll see a steady progression to better interactive event platforms, since existing virtual event platforms don’t offer the interactive capabilities that event organizers desire, with chat functions and breakout rooms only yielding so much.
Among such concepts is the Metaverse, which is gaining traction in the events industry. As per a report by Fortune Business Insights, in 2022, the metaverse market will generate $47.38 billion, and by 2030, that number will rise to $678.8 billion.
What is the metaverse?
A metaverse is a network of virtual, immersive 3D worlds accessed using virtual reality (VR) technology, laptops, and mobile devices where people can conduct business, play games, or participate in social interaction
Essentially, it is a 3D online virtual environment which mixes both the physical and virtual worlds so that users are able to interact in real-time. Using the Metaverse, users can connect with virtual communities and explore new dimensions.
Originally coined by Neal Stephenson in the 1992 novel Snow Crash, the term has gained new momentum since Facebook announced it would rebrand as Meta. Here are a few examples of metaverses, in addition to the one that Meta (formerly Facebook) is building:
Ideally, technology will allow users to feel as though they are physically present, and once they register for a virtual event, digital assets – such as NFTs – will give them access to the event. With Metaverse, users can interact with each other in more authentic ways by interacting with metaverse components, such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D holographic avatars.
Participants would be able to present themselves however they wish, and Metaverse events could accommodate attendees from around the world without vendor or venue limitations. It could also open up new revenue streams through different upgrade packages for an event, which would lead to new networking opportunities.
It is still too early to speculate how online events will continue to grow and thrive in the future, despite persistent demand from the general public.
“Virtual events now cater to global audiences who have traditionally attended local events. There were no online events 20 years ago. However, with the advent of technology and Covid, virtual events have become the preferred way to interact in a social or corporate setting. The digital world has totally transformed, and having a digital component in your event is essential. However, what the metaverse is and how it will work is still an open question,” says Atul Todi, Co-founder of 10times & FLOOR.
Atul adds that hybrid events can benefit greatly from the metaverse. “The distinction between in-person and virtual events will no longer exist,” he says. ““On FLOOR, we host hybrid events in which speakers address live and virtual audiences in the same manner as if they were speaking in one big auditorium. No matter where you are in the world, you can interact with speakers, participate in training sessions, and participate in workshop discussions.”
He sums up, “In the coming decades, the metaverse will significantly affect the way we interact with people.”
Microsoft founder and technology industry doyen, Bill Gates wrote in his year-end blog that most virtual meetings would shift from 2D camera images to 3D virtual spaces with digital avatars within 2-3 years. He suggested that people would be able to make virtual meetings with their own avatars and view them in real space. VR glasses and motion capture gloves will enable virtual meetings to be accurately replicated to convey the same feeling as in-person meetings.
What are the benefits of hosting events within the metaverse?
The events industry will help accelerate the growth of the metaverse because of the myriad benefits the fledging technology will provide to brands, speakers, vendors, and attendees.
Metaverses could provide people with a highly interactive experience where they can move freely and participate in two-way dialogues without ever having to leave their homes. The ability of the metaverse to transcend location and even languages is one of its most exciting features. Event planners should consider the many benefits of hosting events within the metaverse.
A metaverse is open to everyone due to its virtual nature. People of any ability in any location can participate with the right tools and technologies. Participants with varying abilities or responsibilities don’t have to worry about a stressful trip elsewhere; instead, they can attend events from wherever they feel most comfortable.
The metaverse allows users to interact as if they were in the same room, regardless of distance. Metaverse users simply need to walk up to the avatar they want to interact with, just as they would if they were in the physical world. In the real world, so many decisions on events are driven by budget and space constraints, but in the metaverse, these limitations do not exist.
2. 3D Avatars
Users can identify in any way they choose and be anyone they want to be. People have unlimited creativity and freedom in the metaverse. Additionally, it allows individuals to present themselves however they want without being constrained by gender, physical limitations, race, or age.
Individuals can also access virtual clothing, skins, and accessories that they may not be able to access in the real world. Metahumans will be able to create uncanny realistic avatars of themselves or the way they want to appear in the future.
3. Unlimited Vendors and Suppliers
In the real world, if your supplier is unavailable on the date of your event, you cannot use them. Metaverse, however, does not have these limitations. Moreover, if the venue space you want doesn’t exist, you can hire a tech team to create it for you.
You can say the same about the design, decoration, and special features of your event. Your event can be designed in any style you like with any features you want.
4. Nurture Sustainability
Metaverses also help event organizers comply with corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies since attendees can avoid travel, physical accommodations, food waste, and other waste.
The University of Michigan’s Office of Campus Sustainability found that, for a large international conference with 5,000 attendees, going virtual saved 98% of carbon emissions and prevented emissions equivalent to 158 American families’ annual emissions!
The metaverse is fully customizable due to its digital nature. Brands can create the event of their dreams with the right approach. In addition to traditional events, organizers can also create VIP lounges filled with entertainment, fun activities, and NFT swag bags using the metaverse.
You can’t just decide to host an event in the metaverse and expect to be able to create an unforgettable experience on your own. Partner with organizations that have experience in building bespoke VR spaces for the best results.
Who is currently investing in the Metaverse?
Metaverse technology and advancements to support its accessibility have received a lot of investment, especially from big tech companies.
The following investors are among the most notable:
Meta (formerly Facebook)
Facebook has launched horizons workrooms with a huge investment budgeted over the next 10 years.
The company will create their first digital twin store in the Metaverse, which will be an exact replica of their physical store in the real world.
Collaboration with Unity technology to create a Metafactory, which examines intelligent manufacturing, innovation, and digital twin technology.
The leak suggests that ‘Reality OS’ will be created, working on technologies to create their own version of the Metaverse such as Apple glass, VR headsets, and haptic technology.
As we continue to embark on what is being called the fourth industrial revolution, it is crucial that event planners, event tech companies, and marketers remain agile, flexible, and innovative so events can thrive in this new era.
While the concept does have its shortcomings, as with any new technological development, it can certainly be said that it will revolutionize the way people attend and interact at events. As an extension of physical gatherings, the Metaverse can also be seen as bringing people together in the most innovative, engaging and “always-on” events of the future.