When hip hop star Travis Scott performed in Fortnite in April 2020, more than 12 million people came to the show. That mind-boggling number of attendees may have been partially fueled by shelter-in-place orders in the pandemic, but the crowd served as evidence of an undeniable truth: The metaverse is here. And people are really, really excited about it.
What, you might ask, is the metaverse? Consider it a digital extension of the physical universe. No, it’s not another Zoom video call. Instead, it’s an opportunity to create a highly immersive virtual experience — so immersive that it doesn’t feel virtual at all. At the Fortnite show, for example, fans could spend their V-Bucks — Fortnite’s in-game currency — to buy Travis Scott-exclusive skins, or they could go spend a few seconds on the dance floor. The metaverse isn’t about watching. It’s about doing, interacting and feeling like you’re part of something.
Gaming and Grammy-nominated rappers might feel a world away from the next meeting or conference on your calendar, but Sandy Hammer, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Allseated, believes the metaverse will redefine the meetings industry.
“The future of events will be in-person and virtual combined,” Hammer — whose company has released a new white paper to help meeting and event professionals navigate the complexities of the metaverse — says. “You’ll start to hear so much more of ‘I’m not sure I will see you in-person, but I will see you in virtual.’ People will find it natural. It really will not matter which one you will attend.”
SXSW and CES: The Metaverse Is Already Changing Conferences
Ask a SXSW attendee about his or her favorite piece of the experience in 2021, and you’ll get a wide range of answers: drinks on the rooftop of the Contemporary Austin, hanging out in the Cedar Street Courtyard or swinging by the Paramount Theatre for a red carpet event, to name a few. The in-person version of SXSW was yet another casualty of Covid-19, so none of those activities happened in the physical spaces. They were part of SXSW Online XR, which involved virtual recreations of downtown Austin and opportunities to interact with other attendees via VRChat.
The conference industry’s dive into the metaverse is just beginning, even as face-to-face events return. At CES 2022, NFTs and blockchain-based currencies — two major components of the metaverse — will be a central part of the conversation, and ReedPOP recently unveiled a “Metaverse Memberships” subscription program that offers benefits for both physical and digital, in-the-metaverse Comic Con events.
Answering Demand from Attendees, Creating Value for Sponsors
The main reason the metaverse is here to stay is simple: Attendees are asking for it. A survey of more than 3,000 respondents conducted by Wunderman Thompson reveals that 74 percent of those who are familiar with the term “metaverse” are interested in attending a digital business conference. Even those who are still unsure of what the metaverse entails are curious. Fifty-five percent of respondents who have never heard of the metaverse still want to check out a conference in the unfamiliar territory.
As the audience grows, so do the possibilities for sponsorships at conferences and events.
“The metaverse world can feature anything, so this is when creative teams have an incredible opportunity,” Hammer says. “You have to think bigger than the real world. Think of television and film. You can create an enchanted forest to show off your brand, or you can actually get your products to open and build on the spot.”
Hammer points out that a shift to the metaverse “will not happen overnight.” However, she believes that technological advancement will accelerate, and more homes will have the necessary ingredients to maximize the potential of the metaverse.
“All the headgear that fuels augmented reality and virtual reality will be the norm,” Hammer says. “Over the next five years, everyone will own a pair of something that will transport you into a new world.”
Get Ready for the Future of Events
Before that world arrives, learn how to make the most of new opportunities in the metaverse. Download the Get Ready for the Metaverse e-book at Allseated. While you’re there, check out the company’s new EXVO HOME initiative, which Hammer describes as the first step in creating Allseated’s metaverse experience.