From streaming to VR:

What’s next in the digital revolution?

In recent months, our entire industry has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. It has drastically changed how the trillion dollar business events sector operates. Massive events like Mobile World Conference, SXSW and Cannes Lions along with hundreds of others have either cancelled or had to improvise and move online. 

While in person events are a thing of the past (for now), thankfully advancements in technology — in particular in streaming, VR and augmented reality — mean brands have lots of options and tools at their disposal to create incredible and engaging events online.

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on how to take your virtual event to the next level, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite projects we’ve worked on as well as who we think is really nailing the digital experience revolution.

Look to cultural institutions for content inspiration

As cities go into lockdown around the world and galleries, museums and zoos have been forced to close, cultural institutions have turned to digital pathways to keep their virtual doors wide open. Enriching live streams and virtual tours have set a new standard for creating captivating content while providing unrivalled access for millions wanting to leave home without actually leaving the living room. 

Some of the standouts we’ve seen include the Guggenheim’s free virtual tours of its galleries, the San Diego Zoo’s animal enclosure live streams, and the Museu Picasso de Barcelona’s interactive map which invites users to explore his upbringing, check out early studios and visit his favorite bars and galleries. Another one of our favorite interactive mobile experiences is NASA’s free Space Center Houston app. It boasts astronaut selfie filters so users can picture themselves as astronauts, augmented reality experiences and it also includes a guided audio tour of its educational center.  What can we take from all of this? Your tech doesn’t need to be super advanced, but your content needs to be exceptional.

Focus on the off time

We all know the real reason we go to events is to network and make connections — they’re all about strengthening relationships. Serendipitous moments over cocktails at hotel bars or meetings on stairwells is often where major deals are made and the magic really happens. 

Yet when events are hosted online, this component too often gets overlooked and we lose out on what makes a live event so special — human interaction.

With this in mind, today there are tech offerings that can help bring relationship building opportunities to life online. Platforms like Run The World which can be likened to a hybrid of Zoom, Eventbrite ticketing and Twitch interactivity (according to its lead investor Andreessen Horowitz), encourage event participants to get to know one another after filling out a profile describing their interests. An algorithm then matches them to others and they can then “meet up” over virtual cocktails (the drinks are BYO of course). The platform’s features include some of the more stock standard services for event organizers including capabilities to livestream talks, discussions and panels making it a great all-in-one option. Another option that combines live streaming presentations with virtual networking is Hopin. It includes a Chat Roulette-style feature so that you can meet other people. 

While neither of these are quite the same as milling around your hotel lobby or working the room over canapés, they are great ways to ensure your event attendees feel a sense of community, even if they are tuning in from all corners of the globe.

Virtual reality versus augmented reality

Using Virtual reality at IRL events is great as you supply the hardware, however when hosting an event that takes place online, the shortfall is that the vast majority of people just don’t own a VR headset. Further to this, a conference hosted in full VR isn’t exactly sustainable as it will more than likely leave your guests feeling rather dizzy.

Augmented reality on the other hand is a great way to create an immersive and inspiring experience that can be brought to life from anywhere with little more than a smartphone camera and an internet connection. Long considered the pioneers in AR, Snapchat introduced the concept to the world in 2016 when it rolled out animated features — today AR is everywhere. 

3D AR assets need to look realistic and so they rely on the same tools to be built that are used to create video game characters and CGI movie effects. The technology is still fairly new and developers are continuing to learn. It’s not hard to see how endless the possibilities are for creating tech-forward, innovative experiences with both practical benefits and a chance to escape reality for a bit.

As we all scramble to adjust to the new normal in our industry, we are finding ourselves relying on technology more than ever to create better experiences using empathetic content that is both human and engaging. Sometimes it can feel like we’ve exhausted our options, but advancements in technology are a stark reminder that there are new digital tools and tech innovations coming to light every day that will again radically change how we conference.

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