During intense uncertainty, we have never been more certain about the power of community to drive meaningful connections. Dan Roberts, a psychotherapist, says that “Humans are born wired for connection – it’s in our DNA, as strong as a need as food, water, and warmth.” Because of our innate desire to belong to a tribe or group, events and conventions will eventually find their place post-pandemic, but in a new way that will be closely related to gamification.
Global Paradigm Shift to a More Sustainable Future
Because of the disruption caused by COVID-19, we are being forced to evolve into a new way of defining work, play, and everything in between. As I watch the news channels, scroll through social media posts, and listen to my colleagues, I am witnessing the global population experience a paradigm shift, or a fundamental change in assumptions, of what is best for people, planet, and our prosperity.
As we adapt to our current situation, we are altering our habits and switching from face-to-face interactions to online connections, working remotely, and managing virtual meetings with business partners. This shift in behavior is laying the groundwork for the future of sustainable events. Event planners and corporations will want to protect the well-being of their stakeholders, as well as their financial investments by creating high-end and hyper-connected digital experiences that offer a way for stakeholders to foster relationships, make money, and have a one-of-kind experience – all from the safety of their homes.
The Event Industry Will Thrive in a New Way
Many corporations and event planners lost a lot of money by quickly having to cancel conventions, concerts and events as COVID-19 took us all by surprise. According to Allied Market Research, in 2018, the global event industry was valued at $1.1 Billion. Service and product providers in this industry are very motivated to keep this revenue stream alive. Aside from the obvious hotel or convention center revenue, there are other providers that rely on the event business for income – like equipment rental companies, entertainment performers, car rental companies, and office/promotional products companies. They can all transform into the new sustainable event model by creatively pivoting their offerings to fit into the digital world.
Technology is Ready, Are We?
Virtual events will be tailored even more specifically to each individual attendee, travel-related greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced, and personal connections will still be meaningful, by creating high-end events without sacrificing revenue. We have the technology available now.
Imagine registering for a virtual conference that offers a tier-ticketing strategy.
- Tier One – pre-recorded videos of panel discussions and keynote speakers that are available to view any day and time. Streaming when it’s convenient to the attendee ensures a more pleasant and inclusive experience. As a value-add, attendees could watch a keynote or an interactive online panel at a scheduled time for the opportunity to ask live questions.
- Tier Two – an interactive gaming-style event hosted in a virtual hotel or convention center. Each person is identified by their avatar and can be moved throughout the area by using a generic gaming controller. Attendees can move and communicate freely, using a microphone and headphones, just as a gamer would while playing Fortnite with friends. This level would require the desired attendees to be online at the event simultaneously.
- Tier Three – each attendee at this level would be given a pair of virtual reality (VR) glasses and a motion-controlled device for a truly immersive, first-person perspective. Participants would both experience and influence their environment by being completely immersed in the middle of the event. You can shake hands with a potential investor, walk around and look at vendor tables, purchase products or books, trade virtual business cards, or schedule one-on-one meetings to pitch your product. The possibilities are endless at this level.
How Can Revenue Be Achieved?
Hotels and convention centers can license their virtual space by creating an exact replica of their floorplan that can be uploaded into the virtual event platform. This would be used for tier two and three.
Event planners can pair up with data science collectors so they can use interactive segmentation criteria to create different types of experiences for specific audiences. They can also draw on detailed profile information, prior to content consumption to enable any virtual attendee to be more productive during a digital event than they would be at a physical conference. Companies are no longer limited to just a one-time event; they can combine a wide range of activities into a holistic digital experience.
Vendor space would be available to the attendees that pay for tier-three tickets. Vendors could also be offered the opportunity to send attendees swag upon request via the event planner marketplace. Swag would be shipped to a specified warehouse, where custom boxes would be curated for each attendee based on the checklist that they filled out that lists the vendor products.
Instead of renting tables, chairs and linens, rental companies would be responsible for providing the virtual devices. These companies will team up with office supply stores for pickup and delivery methods.
Entertainment, as well as wellness opportunities such as yoga, will be a huge part of sustainable events. Luckily this portion can be prerecorded and licensed by the artist. Attendees can gather together to watch or interact at a designated time.
Admittedly, I have not found a way for car rental companies to collect their share of the event industry revenue in this new digital format. In an ideal sustainable and regenerative world, people will not hop in a plane to fly five hours to attend an in-person event anymore. This eliminates the need for rental cars.
Gamification is the Future of Sustainable Events
While recent event cancellations have left many of us feeling uneasy, we have immediate access to alternatives. The technology is waiting for us to use it. Some in-person events will still exist, but as the world recovers from the current crisis, we will come out of it with a new appreciation for what technology can do for us. Our preferences for attending digital events will be stronger and companies must be ready for this shift and behavior. When corporations invest time and attention in virtual reality technology, they will be setting themselves up for a successful and sustainable future.
As the Founder and CEO of World For Good, Jennifer Moreau-Chick helps readers learn about how to elevate social and environmental sustainability in the business community so companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors. She has been featured inConscious Company Magazineas a leader in social impact, in Conscious Magazine and has worked as a Marketing Director for 3 certified B Corporations for the past four years. Visit her blog here.