Creating immersive event experiences that foster excitement and offer value has better scope for building impactful relationships with an audience.
Not many could have predicted a few years back that they could sit within the comfort of their home and watch an event live on a screen. Now, as technology keeps disrupting the event industry, there’s more one can experience than simply looking at a 2D screen.
Blending physical and virtual spaces has been an ongoing experiment in the gaming space and in scientific explorations related to medicine and engineering.
But with events going virtual in recent years, the concept of fusing real-life elements within a virtual realm is gaining prominence.
Event planners want to take their events a step further as their audiences seek better experiences. This paves the way to leveraging technology to change the face of events and break the monotony of usual event experiences.
Immersive technologies are the perfect solution to do this. But how will it change events?
Let’s understand how these new environments are impacting events and event experiences.
What is Extended Reality (XR)?
The term Extended Reality (XR) encompasses immersive technologies that are now popularly being used across industries – Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR).
The main idea of these immersive technologies is to merge the physical and virtual environment such that it creates an extension of the physical space around us.
Simply put, XR is a superset of VR, AR and MR — and will also comprise upcoming technologies that aim to provide simulated experiences.
While VR, AR and MR have existed for quite some time now, the term XR came into the spotlight in recent years. Used as an umbrella term for these immersive technologies, XR is set to bring new opportunities that will revolutionise the events industry.
As technologies under XR continue to develop, one thing is certain — events will meet higher standards of engagement.
It can be said that the development of immersive technologies can be the stepping stone to a new wave of events.
But for now, virtual and hybrid events emerge as one of the most trending event formats. So how can XR be used in these events?
Application of XR in virtual and hybrid events
The multifaceted benefits of hosting virtual events have encouraged many companies to adopt this event format. And by incorporating XR, event organisers will be empowered to make their virtual events more engaging and exciting for their audience.
For instance, an XR studio can be used to launch a product at a virtual event. Using such immersive technologies for a virtual product launch will enable the event organiser to add an extra dimension to the event engagement as well as interactivity.
The same can be said when it comes to hybrid events. Using XR to host hybrid events can be a gamechanger to connect with event audiences in a way that was never possible before.
To create a full XR environment, the emcee is required to be present physically at the XR studio with an LED screen behind them. In some cases, an LED floor may also be used.
As the emcee continues with the event, a tracked camera follows them while a virtual camera associated with the LED screen positions the AR components. But that’s just the basic level at which such XR environments are created.
At a hybrid event, audiences that join in person can enjoy a fully immersive experience within the XR studio. While those joining virtually can also get a sense of this new experience as they get to see these visual elements on the screen.
That said, such immersive environments are still new in the events industry – which means both event planners and their audiences need to get used to them.
So what should event planners do to achieve this?
What does it take to adapt to immersive events?
Starting to use gaming engines that allow creating entry-level 3D environments and immersive experiences can be the starting point for event planners.
Talking about how event planners can prepare themselves for immersive experiences, Joe shares, “ Get used to the gaming engines as they provide photo-realistic content that you can get deep into and create some amazing scenes and fit for your brand.”
For instance, Unreal Engine can be used to create 3D scenes from a city or any landscape with tools to create photoreal visuals.
Hosting more virtual events and offering XR components within it can help event organisers to get their attendees to gradually adapt to these new environments.
Unlike in-person events, such immersive event experiences rely heavily on digital technology.
Does that mean hosting events using such technologies would require event planners to learn new skills?
To some extent, learning more about these new environments can be helpful for event planners to get started on understanding the basic principles on which these technologies work.
That said, the fundamentals of event planning continue to be congruent – be it a simple in-person event or a hybrid event leveraging XR technology.
It’s evident that XR environments can take event experiences to a whole new level – giving event planners and their audiences a brand new way to develop their relationships.
But what do events that leverage such technologies have in store for sponsors?
Will XR in events be beneficial to sponsors?
Engaging with the event audience is a key reason for sponsors to participate in an event.
It’s a given that the announcement of events that incorporate such immersive technologies creates a buzz as more people tend to be excited to attend them.
This gives a scope for sponsors to reach more audiences through these events. What’s more, such events provide sponsors with the capability to showcase their brands in more than one way.
What can be of concern for event planners, however, is the sheer possibility of immersive technologies influencing attendees to lose interest in social interaction at events.
To prevent this from happening, event planners need to incorporate engaging and interactive real-life elements into their events.
Content such as presentations or networking sessions that require attendees to interact with the speakers or other attendees can be some effective ways to prevent social interactions at events from receding.
Another new environment that has been generating considerable buzz in the events industry is the metaverse.
While still at a nascent stage, metaverse events are anticipated to change how events are experienced.
So what’s the line of distinction between XR and the metaverse?
Is the metaverse going to swipe away XR experiences?
In simple terms, the metaverse is a 3D virtual space that can be explored by authentic users through their digital avatars.
XR, on the other hand, acts as the gateway to the metaverse.
The XR stage can allow physical elements to enter the virtual space to overcome spatial limitations. For instance, car companies can use the XR stage to launch a new car and then scan it to provide a digital version of the car accessible to their virtual attendees on the virtual event platform. This helps the brand to give its virtual audience a more realistic experience and the ability to launch a product in a smaller space.
Event planners today have more than one choice when it comes to how they wish to host an event.
So what can one expect from XR when it comes to hosting events?
What is the future of XR in events?
The events industry will continue to witness major developments and growth as these immersive technologies keep evolving.
While virtual events have ensured that geographical limitations do not hamper event attendance, immersive technologies will take a step ahead and make virtual event attendance more accessible and life-like.
With physical venues reopening, immersive technologies will combat the tedious in-person event experience and make such events more advanced and riveting.
There’s more to what XR can bring to the table for event planners in 2022 and beyond. Watch the full episode below to learn more.