Almost all events worldwide have been cancelled in 2020, starting in March when pandemics began. In the meantime, the popularity of virtual events has increased. What will happen in the sphere of events in 2022 in the opinion of Patrycja Franczak? What’s the future of virtual and real events?
- VR equipment in the sphere of events? Guys, it does not work!
According to Patrycja, some people are looking for a new kind of event in the virtual reality world. You can imagine people at home attending a conference with VR headsets, but there are a few issues here… First, it would be a logistical problem to distribute the kits to the hundreds or even thousands of people who attend the event so that they can attend, right? People watching the speaker, sitting in the conference room or watching them on a virtual platform want to take notes on their computer or smartphone. They want to share on social media. This interaction is one of the most important ways events add value. The problem with VR headsets is experience. Eliminating elements of social interaction makes the event less valuable.
- Virtual avatar events will not be successful (at least not yet).
Back in 2006, people believed “Second Life” would change the world. This virtual world still exists, its quality has improved significantly, but it is still a niche place.
A lot of people talk about a similar approach to online events, based on avatars, where avatars hang around at the scene of the event and then take a break. Meanwhile, the strength of online and offline events is genuine human contact. As soon as you are forced to create your own avatar, the human element will be lost. Now, after months of isolation, we are searching for human contact more than ever, right? And forcing people to create avatars and learning the system is not conducive to the event either.
- Conferences and events will come back in a big way.
People are social animals. When we are with those we trust – our friends, people from the same club, members of the same professional association, or employees of our company – we feel safe.
Most of us have had no personal contact during the events since April 2020. We will be happy to come back to them. Once the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to most people, and there are easy ways to test and basic safety, the events will return. They will be limited by the question of our psyche, even if security systems are maintained.
- Virtual events will stay longer.
Over the months, speakers and event organizers have developed the world of virtual events very quickly. Patrycja says we’ve made about twenty years of progress in less than a year. Back in March 2020, we thought of virtual events as old school webinars, with huge, boring slides containing many words with a speaker in a video thumbnail. Before 2020, online events haven’t changed much in a decade. Meanwhile, we learned a lot in just a few months.
- Virtual events will focus on live sessions and limit or even eliminate replays.
Event organizers always knew about the strength of the community meeting at events. Until we started experimenting with virtual events, we didn’t know that we could virtually create similar experiences. We can interact with each other via chat, take part in real-time surveys, in meeting rooms, take part in quizzes and share content on social media. This does not work for replays. Back in the days of webinars, people have learned to register for an event and then turn on a replay when it is convenient for them, just like watching a YouTube movie or an episode of Netflix. The problem is that this passive experience is missing. Quite a few virtual events completely eliminate replays. This means participation is now or – never.
- Hybrid events in 2022.
The great advantage of a virtual event is the elimination of travel time and costs, which opens up a completely new market for participants. This shows a hybrid approach – an event that includes an element with a live audience and a virtual element involving people online. The hybrid model does not simply mean making a live video broadcast of what is happening in the conference room. This has been done for years!
Rather, there is the potential of an event optimized for both types of participants. For now, we can imagine what is possible. The speaker can deliver a 30-minute speech from the conference room stage which is virtually broadcast. You can then immediately conduct a live Q&A session with a virtual audience from a video studio in a nearby room, while the live audience has a coffee break. Then, after a virtual Q&A session from the studio, the real audience meets after the break to prepare their own version of the Q&A for the speaker, and the virtual audience is recessing. In this way, participation is optimized for audience participation, either online or in the same room as the speaker. This is a true hybrid model. The key to success here will be to ensure that the virtual audience has the same live interaction and participation opportunities as well as the real audience.
How you can imagine the future of virtual and real events? Any guesses?
Patrycja Franczak, MBA is a business innovation and branding expert and leader of infuture.fashion. She uses data from various industries and trend research insights to help clients optimize the company’s development strategy and focus their investment on the most promising projects. She helps to take advantage of market trends, adapt to the emerging needs of consumers and position fashion brands for future success.