No longer the domain of online games geeks in VR goggles, the metaverse will apparently soon be the norm with an expected 5 billion users by 2030 according to Citibank.
I prefer to view it as a natural evolution of what we’re already using online
Rather than terrify myself with trying to understand it all - the language floating around it is baffling for example - phygital, NFTs and EFTs etc. - I prefer to view it as a natural evolution of what we’re already doing in online events and go from there.
Anyway I have to because I’m a corporate event host, and I don’t want to sink like Blockbuster by burying my head in the sand like I do when it comes to TikTok!
And as a great proponent of hybrid, I think the metaverse will really boost the current hybrid event formats. Where we can’t always meet face to face the metaverse looks like the next best thing.
Because it’s basically all about how modern technologies: extended reality, blockchain, digital twins and edge computing, are converging to reshape human experiences.
And one of the areas where the metaverse is expected to have an especially significant impact is corporate events. Indeed this is already the case for some organisations. Accenture’s Technology Vision for the year is called 'Meet Me in the Metaverse.' It’s putting its money where its mouth is, running most of its internal events in the metaverse. For example, during Black History Month, the MD of their Texas office, Tamara Fields created a living museum in the metaverse. She created an avatar which took attendees, using VR headsets. through the exhibits, educating, exciting and including colleagues from around the world in the journey.
That’s the just the tip of the iceberg for events in the metaverse. Attendance, venues, design, and of course monetisation will be limited only by imagination. But what gets me, the event host, most excited, is how it can take hybrid and virtual events to a whole new level of immersion.
We are now used to virtual, which allows for events of any size, and any kind of audience, but the Metaverse is a gazillion times more immersive than Zoom or Teams or any other platforms of that ilk. If you’ve ever used a VR headset you’ll realise how easy it feels to really engage and it feels very real and dynamic with increased ability for self-expression and creativity.
Virtual identities and customisable avatars mean more fun creative ways to connect, and it really helps break down that divide between virtual and in person attendees.
Of course there are shortcomings to the metaverse, not least that it’s still in its infancy and uncharted territory for many. There are concerns around privacy and identity hacking, mental health, reality distortion and screen time addiction. What are the laws around it? Will it desensitise us to reality, make us lose track of time, separate us from nature and overstimulate our senses?
More than likely!
But as the mother of teenagers, I’d say that ship sailed away long ago with the arrival of the smartphone and X Box. But unlike the smartphone, we are asking these questions in the infancy of the metaverse. We know now the technology is moving faster than we are emotionally equipped to process so we can get ahead of the dangers, particularly in terms of events which is what I’m talking about here.
Organisers and planners need to explore what early adopters of the metaverse are doing, learn what industries are doing, or not doing, to protect those involved. They need to make sure all, and that includes diverse, voices are heard, and then put precautions and rules in place.
How the metaverse will impact on events can be controlled if we think about it upfront. Proceed with caution and consideration, but proceed in this brave new world, we must.