You’ve probably been hearing the term “metaverse” everywhere. From the fashion industry to sports, it seems like everyone is jumping on this digital trend bandwagon. But should event marketers join? While the metaverse is still the wild west with many unknowns, there’s no denying its potential for opening new avenues of connection. It’s worth keeping an eye on the metaverse while also hedging your bets and understanding its limitations.
What the heck is the metaverse?
If the “metaverse” sounds like something out of a sci-fi book, you’re right. Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson first coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash to describe a 3D virtual space. Fast forward a few decades and the concept has gained newfound interest as the next evolution of digital life. At its simplest, the metaverse is a collection of virtual, 3D worlds, where people create personal avatars to explore different platforms.
For example, this technology would allow a participant to feel like they’re physically at an event where they can walk around and interact with their environment with haptic gloves or game controllers. Not all of this technology exists yet but smaller scale experiences are currently in play.
The upsides of the metaverse for event marketers
So, should you run to your boss and ask for VR glasses? Maybe. Many marketing pros agree that at the very least, we should keep the metaverse on our radar. While virtual events certainly weren’t new before the pandemic, we’ve seen their adoption accelerate and many businesses have gotten really good at them. It stands to reason that there will be a natural evolution of virtual events, even post-pandemic. Couple that with the continued popularity of video games and other virtual reality experiences, and it’s likely that fully immersive digital worlds will become an expectation for many customers.
Elements from the metaverse can also enhance your current virtual or hybrid event strategy. Virtual features such as chat boxes and breakout rooms can only go so far – and one could argue their novelty is wearing off – so incorporating metaverse components like augmented reality, virtual reality, avatars, and video could allow attendees to be more fully immersed and experience connection in more authentic ways. For hybrid events the metaverse can allow for a more seamless integration of in-person and virtual elements. A few more benefits of the metaverse include:
- Lowering physical constraints. Most businesses have a limited budget for staff to attend conferences but the metaverse can essentially teleport employees to an event for relatively little cost. For event planners, a whole new world of attendees is open to them when geographical location is no longer a concern.
- Fewer venue/vendor constraints. Vendor or venue availability doesn’t have to be a concern in the virtual world. You can create the venue and experience that you want without the limitations of a real world partner.
- More attendee creativity. Individual identification and representation is a critical part of diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations and with avatars, attendees can have full reign. Gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or physical limitations don’t have to exist in the metaverse which means racism or discrimination can be disempowered, and attendees can be fully empowered.
So what are the downsides?
Just like with anything new, it’s important to tread cautiously before diving in headfirst. For starters, this is not an inexpensive endeavor so it’s important to make sure the metaverse is right for your event strategy. You also want to be sure that while you’re expanding your inclusivity, you’re not alienating anyone else. Do your audience research to understand if they have access to the necessary equipment and most importantly, are comfortable using it. If your audience is ready and willing to jump into the metaverse, go for it. However, if you find that your primary audience isn’t ready, you may want to focus on creating a great traditional event instead.
Some marketers (and attendees) maintain that there will never be a substitute for face-to-face interactions, and with the pandemic, screen fatigue is very real. Consider how you can strike a healthy balance between online and in-person experiences and lean into your brand’s strengths and passions. If your business shines in creating highly valued consumer experiences in real life, then stick with that. Creating an expensive and sub-par metaverse experience will not gain you any points with your customers and detracts from what you’re really good at. On the other hand, if digital tech is your organization’s bread and butter, investing in outstanding metaverse events might be a great way to engage customers and stay competitive.
The long and short of it
At the end of the day, the metaverse remains a fascinating and nascent area for event marketers to consider. It remains to be seen just how fully it will be adopted in the event industry and warrants keeping an interested – and cautious – eye on new developments.
Whether you’re planning in-person, virtual, hybrid, or even metaverse events, reach out to InGo first. We can help you solve your biggest event marketing challenges and drive more attendees and engagement.