Way back in 1992, Hiro, the protagonist of Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Snow Crash, moved in and out of a virtual world created entirely by code. Stephenson called that virtual world the “metaverse” and, well, the rest is history — so to speak. The metaverse as we know it is no longer the dystopian, sci-fi landscape of Stephenson’s creation, but rather some version of that with a definition that continues to evolve along with our technology.
- The metaverse isn’t ready for widespread adoption by event professionals, but that could change quickly.
- Event professionals will be compelled to make virtual events ever-more immersive and
- Until the technology matures and costs come down significantly, we will incorporate aspects of the metaverse into our online gatherings.
- The promise of an immersive online experience will hold appeal for a variety of events.
Today’s metaverse is accessed via virtual-reality headsets and experienced with customizable avatars in real time. These days, one can play games, develop virtual real estate, even conduct financial transactions there. And some day — but not yet — the metaverse might augment the physical-events industry by providing a space for networking, connecting and interacting with virtual communities.
Are we there yet?
Is it time to begin incorporating the metaverse into virtual and hybrid event planning? In a word, no. But you should keep it on your radar, and here’s why.
In the spring of 2020, it took a matter of weeks for companies to shift events to an online-only format. There was a learning curve, and in some cases this shift was smoother than others. But it happened quickly, and within the year we saw the introduction of quite a lot of new technology into the online format.
Companies like ours invested in cutting-edge tech suppliers so we could quickly incorporate features for which there previously had been little demand on such a large scale.
Today, people are eager to meet again face to face, and the technology that the metaverse requires is still in its infancy, and still expensive. But does the future of events include the creation of 3D worlds, assets and avatars? Don’t count it out. It’s possible that the tech gap that currently exists between the metaverse and virtual events will continue closing and eventually disappear altogether.
Metaverse as a Verb
Until that point, I expect to see aspects of the metaverse drawn into virtual events as planners are compelled to make their online gatherings ever-more immersive and engaging. While many event professionals won’t have the resources to invest in the hardware and infrastructure currently required of the metaverse, they will still want to tap into the exciting idea of it. “Can we metaverse that?” might take on a variety of meanings, such as the creation of 3D imagery, the addition of an online-gaming component, the use of a VR experience with headsets, and the scheduling of an online workshop during which the community creates avatars. The promise of an immersive experience for people who aren’t physically in the same space has been alluring to us since 1992 — and 30 years later, the need for such engagement is greater than ever before.
Alon Alroy is the cofounder and chief marketing officer of Bizzabo, an event-technology platform for hybrid, virtual and in-person events.