Events on Lockdown: How to Run Your Conference Virtually
From Houseparty to Zoom to Microsoft Teams, technologies used to bring remote and scattered groups of people together are being used all over the world to beat the challenge of isolation.
Even before the global pandemic made this a necessity, virtual reality and augmented reality were already taking off in a big way. According to Statista, nearly 60 million Americans used AR at least once a month in 2018, up 90% from the previous year. What’s more, researchers predicted that this would continue to grow dramatically in the coming years; this Greenlight Insights report forecasted that the VR market will be worth $74.8 billion globally by 2021.
Meanwhile, video conferencing has been soaring in popularity, too. In a survey conducted by Lifesize in 2019, 98% of respondents said that video conferencing boosts productivity and helps build relationships inside and outside their company, while 89% said that they believed it reduced the time taken to complete tasks and projects. The survey also reported an 87% increase in people choosing to opt for video conferencing, compared to just two years before.
This is highly positive because it shows that AR, VR, video conferencing and other ways of delivering events, conferences, meetings and networking remotely aren’t just something people are being forced to do now, under the circumstances. People really rate these technologies, were choosing to use them anyway and are increasingly comfortable with tools that build on them.
That means switching your events over to this approach will be far easier and welcome than it would if you simply had no other choice. While, of course, you don’t currently have many other options for delivering events, you may find that this would actually have been the best solution all along.
So that’s why it makes sense to explore VR and related technologies right now. But how exactly should you go about it?
Let’s take a look at a few of the most intriguing approaches on the market right now.
This has quickly become a leading social VR platform, which started off as a way to play interactive games with friends but has developed into a way to deliver events to audiences spread all over the world.
The interesting thing about AltSpaceVR is that you can interact with other, real, people, all through VR. You can use all kinds of headsets and technologies to access the virtual worlds, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, Daydream by Google, Windows Mixed Reality and 2D Mode on Mac or PC. Or, for attendees who don’t have VR headsets, there’s an Android app that allows them to explore AltSpaceVR in 2D mode on their phones.
Businesses have now begun embracing this, too, by scheduling meetings, conferences and even B2B exhibitions of booths and stalls on the platform.
The VR element means that you feel as if you are directly interacting with others at the conference, even when you are actually all logging in from your separate homes, thousands of miles apart. Booths can be set up around the room, displayed as 2D images floating in the 3D space. These are “manned” by reps in their avatar form, who can then explain what you’re looking at, just as they would if you approached their stall at a real conference.
This is one of the longest-running providers in the virtual conference space, boasting one million attendees to 8,000 events in 20 countries. That includes virtual conferences, open days, trade shows and careers fairs, to name but a few possibilities.
The delivery replicates anything you would usually include in a conference or corporate event. You can still have guest speakers, presenters, panels and moderators. You can still give beautiful presentations and show videos. You can even provide interactive content like Q&As, discussions and webinars. It simply all happens online, while audience members stay put.
The handy thing about WorkCast is that, unlike VR, you don’t need any additional technology - no accessories, plug-ins or downloads - to get the full experience. It all happens in your browser. Plus, the company offers real-time reporting and analytics on your attendees, which is actually a major benefit compared to live, real-world events.
These are the biggest players in the industry, but they’re far from the only ones. Exciting, up-and-coming challengers like MeetinVR are experimenting with using VR to run truly interactive meetings that allow participants to do things that would previously have been difficult or impossible online. For example, presenting work that isn’t easily put into slides, reviewing 3D models and products, brainstorming, sketching and mind-mapping, and running team-building activities.
At the other end of the spectrum, don’t forget that tried-and-tested platforms like YouTube can be incredibly useful during these times. Take it from Jay, the English quiz-master who tried to cheer people up by taking his humble pub quiz online as the UK went into lockdown in March. Considering that a normal pub quiz might attract a few dozen people at most, it took everyone by surprise when the quiz, streamed live on YouTube from Jay’s living room, attracted nearly half a million viewers in its first week.
Social distancing doesn’t mean you need to cancel your events. You just need to be creative and open-minded about how to connect with your audience with the tools you - and they - have. VR, video conferencing and live streaming are great places to start.
At the same time, remember that this crisis won’t last forever. However long we all need to stay inside to wait out the pandemic, eventually people will be able to go to live events again - and after so long inside, they’ll be desperate to mingle in person again.
While you’re busy adapting your events in the coming months for online, make sure you take time to plan ahead for some knock-out future in-person events. That includes figuring out the best ways to access the right temporary power and utilities when you need them, so your next big “real life” event also goes without a hitch.