Virtual events were first ignored. Then they were laughed at. Then they were reckoned to be useful and effective. Then they exploded as a new compelling way of meeting and conducting events. They are today a necessity and becoming a norm.
There’s no going back now.
The speed of change over the past year or so has been phenomenal:
- Change in mindset from attendees – from hating virtual events, to accepting them, and to now finding them convenient and useful and being a legitimate mode of experience in their own right.
- Software tools and vendors – a 400% increase in the number of event tech vendors that cropped up in 2020 and over a billion of dollars in investment for.
All of these are contributing to making virtual experiences better and better.
With the team at GEVME, we decided to take a few steps back during these frantic times to re-imagine what it would take to build great virtual event experiences.
The first result was the definition of 10 Principles of Next-Generation Virtual Events. These are what we believe should be the essential success criteria to lift the experience of virtual events to the next level. We then launched a series of original shows, where we invite experts to inspire and give practical insights on how to create great virtual experiences.
But the end goal for us was always to build a tool that we felt was missing. Today, there are generally two methods to put together a great virtual event:
Each method comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks.
The ideal way would be the best of both worlds:
And this is what we set out to do!
So, evidently, we ended up building just that.
Introducing Our No-Code Venue Editor
Just like a marketer today uses modern Marketing Automation and CMS tools to launch campaigns and edit websites easily (without the use of developers), our Venue Editor allows Digital Event Managers to easily craft Virtual Experiences within a fully customizable Virtual Venue. And this is what our editor looks like:
A virtual venue can be of any design. Our Venue Editor fully supports 3D virtual venues as well:
Virtual Venue & Virtual Experience
Just like a physical event happens at a physical venue like a Meeting Room, Hotel Ballroom or MICE Convention Centre, a virtual event happens at a virtual venue.
Just like you would fully customise and craft the event experience at a physical event by putting up signages, backdrops, catering for coffee, lunch, and having different rooms for breakout sessions and networking lounges, in a virtual event you equally need to craft the virtual experience.
One of the mistakes we still see Digital Event Managers do is to simply use a tool (or as we call it, a virtual venue) out-of-the-box without attempting to make the most out of it. For eg, Zoom is a virtual venue (as per our definition). Granted it is a rigid venue with very little customisation capabilities. But you can (and should) still spend effort and craft a reasonably good virtual experience on it – eg, by leveraging on the chat feature to trigger conversations, and the polling feature to understand more about your audience. Did you know that you can even have multiple audio tracks to cater for live translations within Zoom?
Now even though we made a direct comparison of a virtual venue with a physical counterpart, in the virtual world, a virtual venue can take any form. It needs not necessarily be a representation of an actual physical space. A virtual venue that looks like a physical space is great when you want to build familiarity and build brand affinity for a physical space or country for your audience.
Design-Agnostic Virtual Venues
One of the guiding principles of our virtual platform is that it is design agnostic. Are you opinionated on whether your virtual venue should be in 3D or whether it should be a more pragmatic 2D experience (like Hopin)? We’re cool with any approach. GEVME allows you to unleash your creativity and build all sorts of virtual venues:
What we are terming as “2D” is probably the types of virtual event venues that are today the most popular among the out-of-the-box virtual event platforms. Here is an example of President Biden gracing one of our virtual venues during a recent virtual Advocacy Awards from Research!America:
A Faux 3D virtual venue design is one where the whole experience looks 3D. But, it is all an image with hotspots. This is lightweight, works on most browsers without any issues and is easy to implement.
A 3D Tour design allows you to view a venue in 3D on the web, navigate around and interact with certain components.
Here is an example of a sponsor booth in a 3D Tour format:
A 3D Immersive virtual venue is pretty much like a game. You can immerse yourself within a whole 3D world, have your own avatar, navigate around and interact. This is an active area of development for us. The plan is to support the most popular 3D engines. Here is an example of what’s possible (built by one of our tech partners):
A Catalogue of Virtual Venues
As a platform, we have designed GEVME to be agnostic to the design of a virtual venue. When creating a virtual event on GEVME, you can choose the type of venue you want to use for your event:
Once a virtual venue is selected, it can then be customised through building blocks. We have built the blocks to be generic enough for you to be able to easily create any type of virtual experiences that you can imagine:
But the blocks are at the same time specific enough to be very relevant to virtual events. For example, the Speakers block allows you to simply pick and choose a speaker that you want to showcase on a page without having to worry about the look and feel:
Our Venue Editor is a No-Code tool – i.e. you are not expected to have any background of coding to be able to use it. You will not be required to write any code to fully exploit the tool and build highly customisable virtual experiences. We built the Venue Editor with the modern Digital Event Manager in mind.
Low-Code Venue Builder
Our Venue Builder is a Low-Code platform. We built the Venue Builder with a modern Web Developer in mind. We did not want the experience of building a virtual venue to be as difficult as having to build a fully custom website on WordPress and having to figure out about security and scaling. Instead we wanted a Web Developer to only have to worry about the look and feel and the virtual experience of a venue, while everything else is automatically taken care of by our platform. Advanced Web Developers can still extend and build fully custom functionalities. However, the Low-Code paradigm makes it such that our Venue Builder is ideal for a junior Web Developer to get started.
Our Venue Builder integrates with GitHub:
Warning: The following section is slightly technical. But these are important concepts to understand if you want to embark on a journey of building virtual venues and understanding how to manage a team implementing it for you.
If you’re not familiar with GitHub, here’s a quick intro: rather than saving your money under your pillow, you would rather securely put your money in a bank. Think of GitHub like a bank for source codes. And source codes are the actual codes that are required to build a customised virtual venue
This means that you are able to build a virtual venue, own the venue, and safely keep it under your own GitHub account.
A virtual venue, by definition, is a reusable and customisable digital space that you can use for as many different virtual events as you need. So, you have the possibility to build and own as many customised virtual venues (be it 2D or 3D) as possible. And on GitHub, you can then expect to own repositories like this:
The Rebar Template Language
Rebar is pretty much HTML, but augmented!
Here is an example of how simple the complete source code of a full-blown interactive page looks like:
Rebar supports what you’d require to build custom logic: variables, expressions, conditions, … Here’s an example:
Rebar also supports widgets that can be included using pre-defined tags like these:
The Road Ahead
We are pretty excited with this release. If you have made it this far, you will understand that more than a Venue Editor, we have built an entire platform to build and power pretty much any type of virtual venues. Our ambition is to empower you to shape the future of virtual events, and what they look like.
You can find out more about this release on the product page.
If you are an agency looking at digitally transforming your company and building your own proprietary assets, I think we have the solution for you. Get in touch.
If you have made it this far and are excited with what we are doing and want to embark on this adventure we are on, join us!
We will soon be publishing our formal developer documentation about Rebar and we will be making our flagship virtual venues Open Source. Watch out for it. We feel that this is going to make it easier for developers & designers to go crazy and build whole new virtual experiences that we have not seen yet.
If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s connect!