If there’s one thing we have learned from this year it’s that swift adaptation is a crucial survival skill in the business landscape. While it’s been an immensely challenging few months for most people, it’s vital to be able to look to the future, think of ways that your business can evolve, and to constantly ask yourself: what else is possible?
Without the ability to host in-person gatherings, event planners, and marketing managers across the globe have turned to the virtual space as a fabulous alternative under the circumstances. Now, as the world starts to open up more and more, hybrid events are set to be a big trend. Hybrid events have the potential to be incredibly valuable, mainly because of the ability to capitalize on both the benefits of in-person events as well as the data and reach of virtual.
Hybrid events will pose a new challenge, however: ensuring event attendees are excited and engaged, regardless of whether they are joining physically or virtually. But how can we ensure that? One idea would be to make use of AR and VR technologies.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
One of the best ways to truly WOW your audiences—no matter the event format—is to integrate augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) into your production. Often confused or used interchangeably, these two technologies can each enhance your event in extraordinary, albeit in very different ways.
AR technology centers on real-world environments with superimposed images or elements, and typically requires less equipment than VR. For example, for a physical or hybrid event, you could use an AR screen to overlay an image of a product in a showroom without needing to have the physical product. You could also make use of an AR app and prompt attendees to use their phones to view the “products” at certain strategic points of the event. Examples of AR include the Pokemon Go game (the use of a phone to find the characters “in” the real world) and even social media filters.
VR technology, on the other hand, immerses you in an entirely different world to the one you are in and can be used to enhance a physical, hybrid, or virtual event. With VR, you might be transported to a virtual space or a real-life setting that has been filmed in 360 degrees. The experience generally requires additional equipment, such as a headset or Google Cardboard, and in some cases even special gloves, controllers, and headphones for an unparalleled and immersive experience. By placing attendees in “new realities”, you trick their brains into thinking that what they are experiencing is real—this can inspire far more memorable and persuasive experiences than simply seeing something on a 2D screen.
How to use AR and VR in events
These two technologies are beyond exceptional and have the power to add a real touch of magic to your events. Here are some of the ways to incorporate them in hybrid and virtual events:
If lockdown taught us one thing, it’s that people crave human interaction, even if it’s simulated. While it’s highly unlikely that physical events will ever fall away entirely if there are any “second waves” or instances where some people can’t be part of an event physically (high-risk attendees or limitations because of travel restrictions), then using social VR as part of your event is an unbelievable alternative. Social VR centers on virtual, almost game-like, worlds, where attendees would take the form of avatars that can move around and even speak to each other.
With social VR platforms such as Glue, High Fidelity, and AltspaceVR, you can take your virtual events to the next level. The software allows attendees to feel as if they are inside a wholly virtual world, where you can host your entire conference, with integrated video, speakers, and more. Typically, attendees would need the use of a headset (with speakers and a microphone), and receive an access link to a special virtual space. They might also have to fill out a profile for themselves and choose an avatar. They would then enter the specially created world for the event.
The best part about social VR is that attendees technically share the space with each other. They might even be able to move from one room to the next as well as meet and connect with other real-life attendees. To ensure your event attendees get the full experience, consider sending them branded Google Cardboards or full headsets (and instructions). Make sure that the app you are using is compatible with a Google Cardboard before going that route.
Social VR may end up on the expensive side, but it’s bound to be a memorable and transformative experience.
Show, don’t tell
Banquets and galas are always exciting affairs but they must achieve their overarching objectives. Long speeches and calls for donations are tired tactics—why not show attendees exactly what they would be contributing towards with VR instead?
Brands can use footage that has been captured in 360 degrees VR along with high-end headsets to show their audience the plight of rhinos in Africa, or what tangible difference a charity has already made and why it needs more support. Imagine being able to watch a rhino dehorning program as if you are there or seeing people drink clean, fresh water for the first time in their lives. There’s something undeniably compelling about being thrust into the heart of the action and watching something unravel for yourself from a unique, and immersive, perspective.
Virtual product launches
VR can be leveraged for exceptional hybrid and virtual events. But they can also hugely enhance a physical event. Imagine being able to let both online and in-person attendees feel as if they are experiencing how a luxury car is made, and what it “feels like” as it drives, or being able to show attendees the process that goes into brewing your beer. With VR, you can transport your audiences to places or things they might not be able to experience otherwise.
If you wanted to do a virtual product launch with VR in person, you could create a safe, intimate space where people can enjoy the multi-sensory possibilities of this tech to the full. Not sure what we mean? Take a look at how Budweiser did just that at SXSWi.
AR Google Glasses
VR is an amazing technology, but it typically requires significant investment and planning. AR is generally a little more cost-effective because it doesn’t require the full set of equipment that VR does. Imagine being able to offer the use of Google Glass headsets at a networking event, when bigger events are allowed once more, that would pull up attendee details via facial recognition technology. No more awkward we’ve-met-multiple-times-but-I-can’t-remember-your-name conversations.
AR displays can be used in clever and thrilling ways to delight in-person attendees. You can add event decor with incredible augmented displays, let people play around with iPads to look at amazing “hidden” decorative elements or even product placements, as we mentioned earlier. This technology can be used masterfully and creatively to add to the overall experience. That’s what a museum had in mind when they used AR for their art exhibition.
Product feature demos
Car shows can be incredible, but to properly showcase every single variation or customization of a car requires a huge amount of space, which is costly. Instead, you can turn to AR to overlay the possible customization options on a single car at the event itself. For example, you could use AR to overlay different colors or add certain accessories instead of having all the different car color and accessory options on the floor. AR can be used to show an array of different options for almost any brand, which might make it a valuable addition to your hybrid or future in-person trade shows.
The possibilities of AR and VR in events are practically endless. You can utilize the different technologies for experiential marketing, trade shows where attendees can ‘try’ the product, demonstrations, training sessions, interactive virtual meetings, games, branding experiences, and more.
While the technologies themselves are not new, the rate at which they are evolving is astonishing, and as the technology advances, it offers a greater number of possibilities. When it comes to using these technologies at your events, apart from the question of cost and feasibility, you will also need to consider how to sterilize the equipment between uses and how to ensure attendees feel safe when they are in an immersive VR environment.
Are you looking to plan a memorable event? Then contact us. With almost three decades of experience in the industry, ensuring our events—physical, hybrid, or virtual—are seamless, valuable, impactful, and ultimately, successful is what The Event Production Company does best.