The Metaverse: Change Is Coming
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of buzz about the metaverse, a complex virtual reality (VR) world where all communication and interaction is completed between avatars. At the beginning of the year, I attended the Consumer Electronics Show online and the metaverse was a big theme during every panel discussion I attended. The technology is still ten years away from providing an experience that rivals in-person interaction, but it’s safe to say that technology’s rapid pace of change could bring people into the metaverse a lot sooner.
A few years ago, while attending a large sports conference, I tried VR for the first time. NBA 2K for PlayStation 4 allowed me to “step up” to the three-point line and shoot hoops in a three-point competition. I was blown away by the experience; it felt like I was standing on an NBA court in front of thousands of fans. I highly recommend checking out a VR game if you have a chance, just to understand what its capabilities are, to appreciate how far this technology has come, and to think about the role it could play in our day-to-day. Also, it’s a lot of fun!
Although the technology is still in development and widespread adoption seems far off on the horizon, I believe it’s time for event professionals to start thinking about the metaverse and how VR may impact interactions between people and the events industry as a whole. As the metaverse develops, it will influence and change the way we connect. It may become so prevalent—and convenient—that conference planners and attendees could drive the hosting of events into the metaverse. And with that, I foresee three big changes: how we plan events; how we provide education; and how we network.
Event Planning and Execution
As more people and industries embrace the metaverse, it’s clear that the event planning process will change. For event planners, a big question to address will be when to jump into the metaverse with both feet. While the decision to host events in the metaverse could be attendee driven (as people could already be using the metaverse in other aspects of their lives), there will likely be a portion of attendees who are uninterested or unable to participate in a VR experience and will need to be accommodated. Then there will be an overwhelming selection of “venues” to choose from. Software companies will offer a variety of designs and features that will open the door for new ways to engage and educate our attendees. Event planners will need to evaluate each offering to find the best virtual venue for their event, which will take a lot of patience, planning, and comparing. New and innovative tools that help us compare each offering will be more important than ever.
Education during a conference in the metaverse will be immersive. Instead of the traditional speaker and slideshow setup, attendees will have opportunities to get “hands-on” practical experience. Event planners will need to expertly tailor their conference experience to suit the subject matter. At a medical conference, for example, attendees could have an opportunity to work with a virtual patient as the speaker explains or demonstrates new concepts or procedures. When the lesson finishes for the day, attendees will look for opportunities to network and connect with others at the conference.
Networking will always be a huge aspect of events and conferences. In the metaverse, networking will be unique and potentially out of reach for many attendees in the “real world.” But in some ways, being able to connect and network from home will make it easier for introverted attendees to dive into conversations and create more connections. Sophisticated attendee-matching features and games will promote interaction and information sharing, the goal of all events and conferences. I believe that cutting-edge venue designs in the metaverse will promote networking; I don’t know about you but I’d stick around a conference a lot longer if it was held at the Louvre—or even another planet! There will be a ton of options to create the perfect event for all networking needs, but there are a few things that we as event planners need to keep top of mind as companies reach out to us to design the perfect experience.
Equal Access for All
We all have a role to play as concepts like the metaverse become more prevalent. I believe we’ll have to insist that this new technology and its potential to enrich our daily lives is equally accessible for all. As companies will be approaching event professionals asking what type of features will be important, event planners will need to stipulate that an event hosted in the metaverse is first and foremost accessible for all attendees, regardless of income or ability. In the end, if digital tools like the metaverse are going to make it easier to provide experiential learning opportunities and foster new connections, then event planners will have to ensure that their attendees from across the globe can make it to the party.