Virtual events

Are virtual events going to be the new norm?

It seems more and more we’re inching towards an entire lifestyle built on staying online. The old joke of having our entire life in our phones is becoming more true with advancements in technology allowing for tasks that were otherwise a purely physical event becoming virtual.

But is it just a gimmick? Will these virtual events become the thing everyone is craving to see? We explore the idea here.

What are virtual events?

Virtual events can make for a vague term. Essentially that will mean any event that can be attended with technology, without the need for a physical presence.

To give a few examples, that would mean you could attend a meeting via Zoom, attend a concert via a game or virtual reality headset, or stream a conference into your living room via your television or device.

However, the word “event” would imply a sense of scale. At the moment, virtual events bring to mind anything you would otherwise consider an event, just with a virtual presence rather than a physical one. A meeting with your boss, therefore, wouldn’t be considered an event, but perhaps a bake sale would. A small event, but an event, nonetheless.

Will we see more of it?

It depends on who you ask. It’s a popular meme right now to make fun of Mark Zuckerberg, so when the Facebook and Meta CEO announced his plans for the “metaverse”, of course, people were going to laugh at the deadpan delivery of his vision for a future of tech that is so far into the future it seems like it happened in a galaxy far, far away.

But perhaps Zuckerberg’s problem is actually just overambition. The way every technological upgrade becomes accessible to the people below the billionaire CEOs of the world is by having the biggest people host the biggest events. Eventually smaller players in the industry embrace it and soon it’s in your hand. The phone, the television, 3D printing, the internet, all followed this trend.

Zuckerberg’s ongoing talk about “the next step in the internet” isn’t how you get the project managers and customer service operatives to embrace showing up to a virtual meeting with a rock monster as your avatar. There is simply too much space between the two ideas without any explanation or demonstration on how it will work.

Lucky for Zuckerberg then, that the traditional means of getting virtual events to become a common occurrence is already currently in motion.

Where is it now?

Mostly VR makes its appearance in the music and gaming industry – and often combined. There has already been a range of concerts that use virtual reality to bring a celebrity to a stage near you. Talks of holograms bringing back Tupac and Whitney Houston quickly developed into concerts held within the Fortnite and Roblox worlds featuring Lil Nas X, Travis Scott, and Ariana Grande.

In gaming, aside from concerts, VR headsets are being set up in experience rooms, complete with treadmills to move around freely in. VR gaming headsets are already at home, but without the treadmills, you’re just a broken vase waiting to happen. The prediction is, just as the first at-home consoles started out as massive bulky machines in the arcade, that treadmills will soon join VR headsets in the homes of gamers, along with specialized gloves.

So, what does that mean for the rest of the world? Well, in the meantime, less physically strenuous tasks can be performed virtually – like industry events, for example.

Last June Apple held their Worldwide Developers Conference in an entirely empty concert hall. Instead, the conference and its keynote speech by CEO Tim Cook was streamed to millions around the world via their devices.

As history suggests, what Apple will do will surely prompt others to try. We might find more and more businesses and brands giving their industry speeches and attending conferences entirely virtually. Unlike virtual reality and the Metaverse, the technology is already there and available to the public. Covid forced a lot of businesses to adapt, and most of them turned virtual to keep the world turning. Juries are watching court cases from cinema screens, meetings across industries are being held via a Zoom call, council meetings and politicians are making important decisions in front of their laptops while being streamed into a meeting.

Not only are virtual events likely, but they might even be necessary. Maybe one day, the idea of the Metaverse might come to fruition, but for now, virtual events make for a great way to make a splash without much effort from those watching, which is a great recipe for success.

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