Contributing Bloggers

Virtuality Is Reality

Connected-ManBy Diane Julien We are living in a world where Internet of Things (IoT) devices now officially outnumber humans. By 2020, the number of IoT devices is predicted to escalate to double that of the human population. This “virtuality” trend moves event production expectations beyond the simple two-dimensional to a new level of customization and personalization that we, as planners and suppliers, must find a way to incorporate.

The new event attendee

Event goers are already beginning to insist on being viscerally immersed in your experience. Most importantly, they are also looking to be in control. Instead of being presented with a premeditated, formatted viewing experience, our new participants want to be able to choose their own path, navigate their own way and make an experience wholly their own.

The new event participant wants to be CONNECTED, IN CONTROL, LIVING THE MOMENT and HAVING IT THEIR WAY.

Their expectations are changing, rapidly.

As event creators, we need to provide more individualized experiences to satisfy this new demand for uniquely personal moments that are worthy of sharing (if you create them, you also have to facilitate sharing them).

More than ever, one size will not fit all.

Technology is our friend

Technology is the connection to help us deliver the industry’s new reality. All the usual suspects come into play here — virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, 360° video, live video and VR streaming, holograms and, more recently, chatbots, gesture interactivity and other artificial intelligence (AI), VR meetings … the list goes on. There’s been a lot of hype about the limitless potential of it all, but, to date, our ability to use much of this technology at our events has been limited because of budgets and accessibility. But that is evolving. Game-changing, easy-to-use and accessible technology and apps that address this trend are (and will be) literally at our fingertips.

Here are some examples of this:

  • We can connect with friends in virtual reality with Facebook Spaces – this app allows users to hang out with pals in a fun, interactive virtual environment as if you were in the same room. Facebook Spaces launched for Oculus Rift and Google Touch in earlier this year and can be downloaded from the Oculus Store. It really doesn’t get much simpler or affordable to live stream in virtual reality. Super fun!
  • We also have Snapchat’s Spectacles to play with. “Specs” allow users to easily make a 360°, 10-second recording of what they are actually seeing in real time and broadcast it on a supporting device. Think of how fun it would be to pass out a few of these at events for participants to use and share! All it takes is a pair of $130 glasses and a Snapchat account!
  • Apple’s ARKit already offers a framework that allows you to easily create augmented reality experiences. The company’s last couple IOS releases have also made iPhones AR-ready – a game-changer for event planners! This means that a whole slew of fun apps will be available as part of our event tech plans in a way that will already feel natural to our participants.

Delivering a new perspective

One of the most compelling things about the virtuality trend is how it speaks to multiple perspectives and our desire and ability to see and experience things in different ways. Activities like dine in the dark and escape rooms reflect this trend by putting audiences in the driver’s seat. Alternative meeting formats like five-minute talks that represent different points of view on one topic, chat rooms, or unstructured living room-styled meetings speak to the demand for peer-based information exchange and solutions.

For those who don’t have AI-size budgets, try things like delegate match-making using non-technology techniques. For example, bring in handwriting analysts to quickly pair up or group participants using simple signatures and unique qualifiers. Or create name badges that display details, gathered at registration, on what the delegate is “currently” listening to, watching, reading, loving, etc.

An important note

Finally, avoid making the mistake of thinking tech activations are just for the younger crowd. Just because your audience is older it doesn’t mean they aren’t open to new, fun technology. The key to making it successful is making it accessible. Have a tech concierge on hand to help as required. The goal is to give your participants control and allow them to shape their own personalized experiences worth sharing.

Diane Julien

Diane Julien, president of The Really Fabulous Event Co, has been creating event experiences in Canada for over 30 years. She has a keen knack for spotting trends and staying ahead of the curve. Her company provides inspired event design, planning and implementation services to corporate organizations and associations.

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