The Metaverse: What Does it Mean for the Events Industry
March 8, 2022
When Facebook rebranded itself to Meta in October 2021 to reflect its focus on the metaverse, it was met with no small amount of controversy. Despite this, however, there is little doubt that investment in the metaverse will grow significantly in the coming years, with Bloomberg estimating it will reach a value of $800 million by 2024. One of the areas where the metaverse is expected to have an especially significant impact is corporate events.
What is the Metaverse?
In the simplest terms, the metaverse refers to a persistent and immersive 3D environment that makes extensive use of new and emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality. It aims to take people beyond the screen and into virtual worlds.
Contrary to popular belief, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta isn’t the only player in the metaverse, and neither is it the first. The concept has already been implemented for around 20 years, with the Second Life online multimedia platform by Linden Lab being one of the first.
Another common misconception about the metaverse is that it primarily exists for immersive gaming and other forms of entertainment. However, while it leverages many of the same technologies as those used in the gaming industry, the metaverse goes far further. In particular, it promises to take hybrid and virtual events and meetings to a whole new level of immersion.
How Does the Metaverse Work?
The metaverse can take various forms. Older platforms like Second Life take place entirely on the screen and have no virtual reality component. Second Life has itself been used for virtual business meetings, with some major brands even buying virtual real estate on the platform.
Current concepts like Meta, which is currently under heavy development, make use of virtual, augmented, and physical reality to create a far more immersive experience. This begins with creating an avatar, which is a person’s representation in the virtual environment, whereupon they will be able to participate.
Examples of the Metaverse
There are numerous use cases of the metaverse that go far beyond gaming. For example, a participant might use it to spend time with friends remotely, visit virtual retail stores or attend virtual events. For corporate events and meetings, the metaverse promises to help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual world. This will bring a whole new level of consistency and immersion for today’s increasingly popular hybrid events format.
Another increasingly popular implementation of the metaverse is Decentraland, which allows businesses and individuals to trade in virtual real estate for cryptocurrency. The growing popularity of such platforms has encouraged many forward-thinking brands to invest in digital properties to increase their reach and even create virtual office environments. This has major implications for business meetings and other events especially in today’s distributed work environments.
How will the Metaverse Impact Meetings and Events?
Perhaps the most important implication of the metaverse for the events sector is that it offers unlimited space for ideas. By contrast, an office or meeting room can only hold a finite number of monitors, and monitors can only display a limited number of simultaneous video feeds. With the metaverse, there is no hard limit on the number of people who can get involved.
The highly immersive and extensible nature of the metaverse is such that it can be used for hosting events of practically any size, including major trade fairs and the like. For example, a business could participate in a major virtual event by setting up a virtual booth that attendees can walk up to in the virtual world in much the same way as they would with a physical event.
For smaller-scale events, such as business meetings and conferences, the metaverse helps remove the remoteness from remote work. This can help increase engagement and company culture alike, in a way that meetings over platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams never could.
The engagement aspect should also not be underestimated. The metaverse greatly expands on the concept of gamification, which has now been widely adopted as a way to engage both customers and employees and, in the case of events, attendees. This results in more dynamic and connected workplaces, along with an increased ability for self-expression and creativity. After all, the metaverse offers practically unlimited ways for participants to create their virtual identities by way of customizable avatars. For the metaverse and marketing, it also presents a fun and creative way to connect with customers. In the end, the metaverse is a major step up from the virtual and hybrid events that we’ve all become accustomed to over the pandemic.
The impact on hybrid events is particularly important since the metaverse helps break down the divide between those attending in person and those attending virtually. In either case, attendees can enjoy a similarly engaging and high-quality experience.
What About the Drawbacks of the Metaverse?
The metaverse, at least in the form envisaged by Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, is still in its infancy. It also faces significant concerns around privacy and various other factors. Moreover, we must also consider the fact that a lot of communication is shared through body language, either subconsciously or consciously. This inevitably gets lost in a virtual environment, at least for the time being.
Despite both the demonstrable and potential drawbacks of the metaverse, there is no denying its potential to greatly disrupt the events sector. However, rather than viewing it as a way to completely change and redefine the event landscape as it exists today, a more constructive approach would be to recognize how it can augment current hybrid event formats. The main thing to remember is that face-to-face interactions are key to building trust, and while physical interaction will remain irreplaceable, it is not always an option. In these cases, the metaverse might just turn out to be the next best thing.
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