Role of virtual events in the ever evolving events industry: Fawaz Syed
The future of the events industry lies in virtual events; Such events can be as impactful as real-life ones and are less expensive to create writes Fawaz Syed, Director and Co-founder, Digital Jalebi.
The COVID-19 pandemic came out of the blue and brought life to a virtual standstill. Gatherings of more than a handful of people are banned in many parts of the world because with too many people in one place; the virus may spread. Huge events, like the Olympics, which were to be held in Tokyo this year, have been cancelled. Every business is suffering because customers are in lockdown. Quarantined in their homes, consumers only venture outdoors to buy the most vital things. Places, where people gathered like malls and parks, stand empty.
Events, where businesses showcased their products, stand cancelled. The probability they will resume when the lockdown ends is low. In all likelihood, significant events will remain cancelled for months if not longer. Social distancing and quarantine measures won’t be suddenly abandoned.
But it is not all gloom and doom. Humans are a versatile race capable of making the best of even the direst situations. They are using technology to connect with people in virtual worlds and to experience virtual events.
The advantage of virtual events
Virtual events are held online. So while people are quarantined at home, they can still visit and explore virtual events. The coronavirus may have disrupted society yet in some aspects, it is moving people and businesses in a new direction, and some would argue but to a more progressive direction. Much was happening online already, after COVID-19, the pace at which people will adopt online technologies will only quicken.
At a virtual event, there is no fear of contracting a deadly disease. Technology is robust enough to make walking through a virtually created world effortless and enjoyable. High-speed internet makes it possible to send and receive gigabytes of data in a matter of minutes, even over mobile networks. For this reason, the virtual exhibits through which people traverse can be incredibly rich and detailed. The 3D environments created online can be as mesmerising as any produced in real life.
While just five years ago only a fraction of people could have visited rich virtual worlds because data was so expensive, this has changed as data costs a fraction of what it did a few years ago. Inexpensive data and hardware allow even those living in the most remote parts of India to visit virtually created events. One could argue that if the rapid technological advances made over just the past five years are any indication, then what lies just over the horizon will be breathtaking.
Immersion in virtual events
Deep immersion in virtual worlds is possible using augmented reality. With a lockdown in place, people will gather in virtual worlds where they can see beautiful imagery, converse, and experience products before buying them. There is no stopping the rise of virtual events. People’s behaviour has been irrevocably altered. Social distancing will become the norm for some time, perhaps even years.
The events industry will have to adopt holding events in virtual worlds. Thankfully the events industry is up to the challenge of doing so. Advances in hardware allow peoples’ gestures to be understood. With such potent technology, businesses will be able to understand whether consumers like the products they see inside virtual worlds.
A furniture manufacturer will be able to understand how well received its products are by mapping the facial expression of people as they glance at the company’s work in virtual environments. Visitors to virtual events will be able to roam through gorgeously designed virtual environments from the safety of their home. Inside such a world, they will interact with others and take notes about exhibits that piqued others' interests. The fascinating feature of such interactions will be that it will be only a step or two away from real-life meetings. A group of people meeting in a virtual world will be able to not only communicate verbally but also understand the impact of their words on others by reading their gestures.
Virtual events can happen on browsers
In addition to happening in immersive virtual worlds, events can also happen over a simple internet browser. People who don’t own a virtual reality or artificial reality headset can experience virtual worlds on their laptops or smartphones. Hardware is sufficiently powerful to display striking images on even the most low-end devices.
The future of the events industry lies in virtual events. Such events can be as impactful as real-life ones and are less expensive to create. While reserving an ample space in a prominent event may setback a business by several crore rupees, creating a virtual event will be far less expensive. Furthermore, a virtually created program can be reused in all future events. Hence the cost savings of a virtually created event are significant. Another huge advantage of creating a virtual event is that it can be visited at any time of the day from people living in any part of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a hugely disruptive event. It has led to a tremendous loss of life and changed permanently how people will live. Despite being disruptive, it will give an impetus to people spending more time in virtual worlds. Shortly, people will expect to be able to do much more in virtual worlds than they could in the past. There will gradually be a migration of events to the virtual space and businesses that can build sharp worlds online will be in demand.
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