The state of events: live, hybrid, and the Metaverse
Thankfully, we are seeing a return to live events and numbers reviving to pre-pandemic levels. It might feel as if the pandemic is behind us, but the events industry is forever changed.
According to the AMEX Forecast, “In-person meetings, as well as the number of attendees at those meetings, will increase across the board, with 87% of meetings expected to have an in-person component.” The report also noted that “the return to in-person meetings is happening more rapidly and at a greater volume than expected; however, the numbers are expected to stabilize in 2024.”
Live events look a bit different, however. David Merrell, CEO & Creative Director of AOO Events, has noticed that attendees at in-person events want more socializing and networking opportunities. “Consider building more time into your schedule for true networking activities, whether it’s casual cocktail receptions or more guided get-to-know-you exercises,” he says.
After over a year of lockdown, restrictions, attendee limits, and virtual events, people are ready to experience events with impressive vivacity; “immersive” is the word of the year. Between high-tech LED lighting, interactive brand activations and activity stations, and efforts to break the fourth wall between guests and event programming, immersive events are popular as ever.
A Forbes article titled “Live Events Bounce Back From Pandemic, And Forward Into The Immersive Future” discusses the ways immersive events are rising to the spotlight, “bringing together filmmaking, live theater, sculpture, even architecture. One of the most successful such marriages of technology, performance and art is Lighthouse Immersive’s experiences built around the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Gustav Klimt.”
Even coming back into the real world, immersive events give people the chance to step into fantasy worlds: virtual companies like Netflix are creating immersive events (read about our impression of “An Immersive Bridgerton Experience.")
The Forbes article also notes the increase of hybrid events that incorporate virtual components: “The definition of ‘live event’ continues to evolve as well, as new kinds of cross-platform creators fuse together music, sound, images, video, live performers, props and such technologies as projection mapping and augmented reality.” Livestreaming and webinars remain important parts of hybrid events. While everyone is longing for that in-person connection, there’s no denying the convenience of hybrid events, not to mention the benefits of money saved and reduced environmental impacts.
Events in the Metaverse
There’s two main ways to incorporate the virtual world into events: augmented reality (AR), which superimposes digital elements into the real world through a screen, or virtual reality (VR), in which a user imposes themselves through an avatar into a totally digital simulation, which requires users to look through a headset (Meta Quest or Samsung Gear, for example).
AR is frequently used for event gamification, accessing extra resources during presentations, and even acting as a map to guide event attendees through a venue. VR is quickly evolving, and top event-specific VR platforms currently include exVo by Allseated and Meetaverse. With the technology of the Metaverse, users create an avatar and attend events and tradeshows that allow networking, education, visual presentations, and even afterparty perks like virtual entertainment and bonding activities.
Hybrid, virtual, and VR events have numerous benefits, like unlimited attendees, increased networking opportunities, higher profit margins, more flexibility, and perks for attendees with hearing loss or language differences. While these event types are gaining popularity and seeing constant developments, economic obstacles may stifle the boom of these events: in early November, Meta announced it would be starting massive layoffs of 11,000 jobs as it converts more money toward pursuing the Metaverse. The result is plunging stock, so the future of this event technology is one that is yet to be determined.
Stay tuned for the rest of our State of the Industry 2022!
To view part 5, click here.