Most of us are probably not well-versed on the metaverse, (spell check didn’t even recognize the word yet), although learning more about the metaverse and how it can complement live events as a hybrid solution is of interest to many in the live events industry. Over the last 24 months interest in the metaverse has grown, especially prompted by Facebook’s rebranding to Meta. At Poretta & Orr, we are continuously learning about and adopting new technologies and platforms that can enhance engagement opportunities, so we thought a Metaverse 101 might be valuable.
We just participated in a metaverse user conference put on by the company Virbela. Virbela is a twelve-year-old company that offers a platform that brings people together to work, learn, meet, and train in an immersive virtual world – from anywhere. The recent user conference was interesting, but there was a definite learning curve. Before attendees could participate, they had to download the software. Once that was complete, they were instructed how to design their avatar. An avatar is an icon or figure that attendees will use and maneuver during the meeting and that will represent them during the conference while meeting other attendees, asking questions or just exploring. The instruction Virbela offered was very useful, especially if you are not a “gamer” or someone experienced at playing immersive virtual games. For those that view themselves as “gamers”, they will presumably have much less of a learning curve and take to the format easily.
During the user conference, speakers provided numerous updates on what the future expectations are for the metaverse. Much is still in beta testing and speakers stressed that feedback during and after these events are vital for implementing improvements. The speakers used their platform to reiterate and and provide clarity that the metaverse is evolving and is currently nowhere near meeting the expectations for what it is envisioned to be used for in the future.
So, what is the metaverse?
The easiest way to describe the metaverse is that it is the next iteration of the internet. The metaverse is a digital avatar-based universe. It is a virtual reality world where users can interact, play games and experience things or activities as they would in the real world. The metaverse refers to a network of 3D virtual worlds that help create social connections through different online tools and potentially other items such as augmented reality headsets. In what techies call the metaverse, virtual reality serves as a platform for living a second life online. To connect and immerse yourself in a virtual reality, you wear a headset that immerses you in a 3-D environment. You might also use motion-sensing controllers to interact with virtual objects or use a microphone to communicate with other avatars.
Some examples of how the metaverse can be used seem a bit extreme, and for many, the metaverse offers a way to experience an activity that you would not typically do in a real-world setting. In a recent survey done by Statista, the most popular activity people in the metaverse engage in is to try some type of extreme sport. The metaverse could also potential be utilized to fill a void when holding a live event is just not possible. Poretta & Orr has held a number of successful virtual meetings, and the technology and planning that go into each virtual event is key to that success.
So, what are some of the benefits of hosting an event in the metaverse?
- First, accessibility comes to mind. There is no travel necessary, so virtually (pun intended) anyone can join and participate if they have access to the technology needed. Today’s web browsers are powerful and with the right platform the metaverse can be accessed from any mobile or laptop device.
- Enhanced audience participation is another benefit of VR experiences when compared to a typical ZOOM call. Planners can design an event so that it doesn’t remotely resemble a ZOOM call. Not only can attendees “walk” their avatar around the conference and visit different rooms set up with a variety of education and speakers, they also are able to attend unique networking experiences. Each attendee can choose where and what they would like their avatar to do during the conference. It is a very individualized and customizable experience.
- Venue size restrictions become a non-issue. You can configure your event with any number of speakers and breakouts regardless of venue size. Capacity is unlimited.
- Another benefit of the metaverse is that data is easily collected and shared. Collecting data points based on avatars’ behaviors during an event is easy to set up and means big benefits for the organizer, sponsors and ultimately, the attendee.
- And finally, because of the flexibility and limitless capacity, it can afford planners unique opportunities to be creative and innovative, which is the litmus test for events (live or virtual) and whether they are viewed as successful and memorable.
We know that face-to-face engagement is king. By all accounts the metaverse is in its infancy but staying current and learning about new technologies that have the potential to complement live events is critical. We will likely see even more events offering a mix of metaverse experiences with in-person experiences. So, if your head is spinning when you hear bitcoin, cryptocurrency, non-fungible token (NFT), walled gardens, cybernetics, and the like … fear not! Remember it was only a short time ago when words like internet, software, browser, web-version, byte, cache and bandwidth gave us headaches!
While the metaverse offers the cool factor and a “second life online”, nothing can beat real life and the opportunities live events offer, including experiencing first-hand the beauty, sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the spectacular destinations we get to visit when traveling to live events around the globe!