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Coronavirus Crisis: How virtual events are transforming the events industry after the COVID-19 outbreak
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Huriya Khan 14 Apr 2019 - 4 min read
COVID-19
  • The recent disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the virtual events industry as several companies are turning to the alternative option of going virtual.
  • Several organisers have decided to go virtual-only and continue with their agenda while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing people to participate remotely.
  • With the transformation from money saving to money-making platforms, virtual events are reshaping the B2B events industry landscape.
The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus around the world is having an unprecedented impact on the events industry. The ongoing disruption has forced countless events to be postponed, cancelled or switched to virtual platforms. The global pandemic is reshaping the working culture, many companies are implementing remote working policies and are using virtual platforms to host meetings and coordinate with employees working from home. As social gatherings have now become limited to digital-only platforms, several organisations are experimenting and seeking new creative ways to keep the business going. While there are many advantages of in-person events that can't be replicated in digital form, the virtual events also present distinct opportunities that might be helpful for organisations in the long run. Now, with the coronavirus prompting travel bans and event cancellations worldwide, virtual events have never been more timely. Several organisers have decided to go virtual-only and continue with their agenda while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and allowing people to participate remotely. Events like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Adobe Summit, Google’s Cloud Next, and tech conference Collision have decided to shift panels and discussions to various streaming platforms and apps that would allow attendees to participate virtually. Previously many successful events have been held virtually including Apple’s iPhone 11, Pro Max, and Pro launch event in September 2019 which kept 1.8 million people glued to their screens as the event was live-streamed. The recent disruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the virtual events industry as several companies are turning to the alternative option of going virtual without compromising on quality, networking, business opportunities, and most importantly, safety.
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is a multi-session and highly interactive online event that involves people interacting in a virtual environment, rather than physical space. Several technologies provide a suitable platform for virtual conferences, live trade shows, seminars or any event that features multiple presentations and discussions to engage with the target audience. Virtual events can be as small as a webinar or as extensive as a virtual trade show or conference. In a virtual event, networking, meetings and all other activities are done through live streams and other collaborative tools. Virtual events like webinars, webcasts, workshops, and seminars offer highly engaging platforms where attendees can choose to attend or download sessions from the available series of sessions. Virtual conferences or virtual trade shows allow the host and the audience to enter a virtual 2D or 3D space, where attendees can join meetings, live webcasts, visit trade show booths, display their products & services, explore break out rooms, and interact with each other in private chat rooms in real-time. With the transformation from money saving to money-making platforms, virtual events are reshaping the B2B events industry landscape.
Types of Virtual Events:
Webinars
Web-based seminar or webinar is a live event, conference, presentation or seminar held via the internet which is attended by an online audience. Webinars are considered to be more cost-effective than in-person events. These events allow the audience to interact with the host and send & receive information in real-time. Webinar platforms support interactive participation by offering services like Q&A session, live chat, screen sharing, live streaming video or the ability to pre-record the webinar and publish-on-demand later. Professionals can charge attendees to join using online payment services or can be offered free of cost. Various platforms including Cisco Webex and Zoom provide cost-effective and easy-to-use platforms for webinars, video conferencing and online meetings.
Virtual Conferences
A virtual conference is a conference that is hosted over the internet and allows participants to engage and share information in real-time from any part of the world. These conferences offer several advantages including cost-effectiveness and wider audience reach. Much like in-person conferences, virtual conferences include discussions, presentations, keynotes, sessions, and more. These conferences are built around an agenda and feature interactive tools that allow audience engagement.
Virtual Trade Shows
A virtual trade show is a type of virtual event, where exhibitors and visitors connect and display their products and services in a virtual environment. These trade shows are visually captivating and recreate the whole physical trade show experience including exhibition halls separate conference rooms, booth set-ups, seminars, and meetings in real-time. Depending on the technology, attendees can walk around the virtual exhibition floor, meeting rooms and navigate from booth to booth through their computer screens. Some platforms even support an instant-messaging interface that allows exhibitors to interact with attendees. Virtual platforms like LogMein, Zoom, InXpo, and ON24 offer virtual networking and breakout rooms for participants to use throughout the event.
Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are conferences, trade shows, or seminars that allow both the physical as well as the remote attendees to come together and participate in the same event at the same time from different parts of the world. A hybrid event represents an in-person event taking place at a physical venue which can be attended by a live and interactive online audience via audio and video technologies. Live events can be integrated with virtual platforms for added marketing impact. One of the advantages of hybrid events is that they provide an opportunity to expand the audience reach as these events are not bound by geographical or physical limitations. Because of the interactive services offered by various platforms, online attendees can easily participate in meetings, seminars, polls, and surveys.
Benefits of Virtual Events
Health and safety
As long as the coronavirus poses a threat, limiting in-person attendance reduces the risk of spreading the virus.
Cost-effective
Virtual conferences can be more cost-effective than in-person ones. Hosting attendees online can eliminate many expenses associated with traditional conferences including venues, hotels, setup, travel, and more.
Reach
Virtual events allow organisers to reach a wider pool of audience as these are not limited to regional or geographical barriers. Professionals can participate remotely from around the world without disrupting their work or personal life.
Revenue
Virtual events reduce the overhead costs that are usually associated with a physical event such as travel, accommodation, venue and other expenses. Thus, with fewer expenses for expanded reach and lead acquisition, the overall revenue is increased.
Data and lead generation
Virtual conference platforms can be used to track the behaviour of attendees like which sessions they attended and for how long, or which booths they interacted within the virtual exhibition hall, and more. These insights are invaluable for developing targeted content and for making the next virtual conference even more successful. Virtual events are still in the nascent stage and there are still a lot of unimaginable aspects of these events that might become the reality of tomorrow. Emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality are revolutionising the events industry in a number of ways and if done right, virtual events would emerge as the conquerors of the events industry in the upcoming years. Moreover, when social gatherings pose a threat to public health safety or the environment, the events industry must find virtual alternatives to continue working amidst the global catastrophes.
Tags: #Coronavirus, #COVID-19, #eventsindustry, #webinars, #conferences, #virtualevents, #virtual_trade_shows

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: The Future of the Events Industry
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Huriya Khan 14 Apr 2019 - 4 min read
COVID-19
  • With the introduction of several telepresence tools, it is easy to include remote audiences in an event.
  • AR and VR technologies centre around the idea to create immersive experiences that are beyond the traditional 2D interfaces.
  • With virtual reality tours, the need to spend time and costs for travelling to different locations can be eliminated.
The events industry has come a long way, due to several factors, but mainly because of the noteworthy technological advancements. From improvements in event marketing tools to introduction of online event management platforms, technology is driving the events industry because of its fast-paced ability to get things done.

With new technological trends and innovations shaping the industry, virtual and augmented reality have become key catalysts for the technological uprising in the events industry. The introduction of these technologies have taken the events industry by storm. The concept of attending an event has changed drastically, especially with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 360 Video. AR and VR technologies centre around the idea to create immersive experiences that are beyond the traditional 2D interfaces. As companies are seeking new ways to increase audience engagement at the events, these innovations are leading the charge in creating unique and singular experiences for attendees. With these technologies continuing to expand and evolve, VR and AR are undoubtedly shaping the future of how people attend events.
What is Virtual and Augmented Reality?
Virtual Reality uses computer technology to construct a simulated environment that transports a user to a three-dimensional computer-generated environment Users usually need to wear VR headsets or compatible gloves to be able to effectively interact with the virtual world. By wearing a VR headset, users can perceive the physical environment in its totality and interact accordingly. This completely changes how users attend, discuss and interact at events. If attendees are not able to physically attend an event, they can gain full access to it by using VR technology. Various platforms including the telepresence tools allow event attendees to connect and interact with other people, just as if they were present at the physical venue.

Augmented Reality is the combination of interactive computer-generated elements like visual overlays, haptic feedback, or other sensory projections and the real-world environments. With AR, viewers interact with graphical overlays as they move within the real world. Augmented Reality hit the headlines in 2016 when Pokemon Go generated $1.6 million in revenue from the iOS store per day in less than a month. Since then, other industries such as the events sector are using AR technology to explore the imaginative and powerful ways of using these new technologies to increase engagement among attendees.

Unlike VR, augmented reality does not create the entire artificial environment to replace the real one. AR changes the perception of reality by superimposing sounds, videos, and graphics to it with the physical real-world environment. It can be through an AR computer-generated graphics, mobile app, or wearable smart glasses.
VR AND AR APPLICATIONS
Virtual Venues
The advantages of virtual reality are not limited only to the attendees but can be utilised by the event organisers as well. For any event, venue selection is one of the key points. Usually, the organisers visit the proposed venues physically so that proper analysis can be done. With virtual reality tours, the need to spend time and costs for traveling to different locations can be eliminated. By using tools like 360-degree images and some development know-how, a physical venue could be recreated into a photo-realistic virtual reality version. A virtual tour of the event venue can provide a complete idea about the size, space, available facilities, convenience and the overall appropriateness of the location for the event. VR technology enables the staff at the venue to interact with event organisers by touring the venue with them. Several platforms including 360-degree video, Google Cardboard viewer can be used to transport the event organisers inside the building halls and rooms for choosing the best one for their event.
Virtual Conferences
A virtual conference is a conference that is hosted over the internet and allows participants to engage and share information in real-time from any part of the world. These conferences offer several advantages including cost-effectiveness and wider audience reach. Much like in-person conferences, virtual conferences include discussions, presentations, keynotes, sessions, and more. These conferences are built around an agenda and feature interactive tools that allow audience engagement.
Virtual Attendance
Virtual Reality at events is completely changing the way attendees experience conferences and exhibitions. With the introduction of several telepresence tools, it is easy to include remote audiences in an event. VR technology allows visitors to attend the event virtually from around the world simply by putting on a headset device. Breakouts and meetings can also be run using VR conferencing tools like 360-video or Facebook Spaces. By transporting the audience in a virtual space, concerns about the size of the venue and the tasks of displaying large products in a restricted space can also be eliminated.
Virtual Exhibitions
Venue spaces for exhibitions often need to be cavernous to accommodate all the products on display. VR and AR technology could make the need for giant venues a thing of the past. With these technologies, the sensory reality is augmented to align with the space created by the software which allows users to perceive their surroundings in vivid detail. Several events including the TECHSPO Technology Expo and GITEX Global are using these technologies to showcase products and services virtually. The audience enjoys the enhanced driving experience which boosts the popularity of these shows and the brands participating in them.
Event Gamification
With the revolution of event technology, event gamification has become a new popular trend. AR brings a whole new creative avenue to the networking possibilities at events. Event gamification allows organisers to boost audience engagement and build excitement around their events. Organisers can set up friendly competition stations for attendees to face-off in an augmented reality gaming experience. Networking games can be used to infuse engagement among the event participants.
VR and AR Trends in 2020
Some of the virtual and augmented reality trends set to shape the events industry in 2020 are:
  • Property walkthroughs or tour and enhanced virtual venue booking systems.
  • Superior learning programmes through VR-based training systems.
  • Higher-specification VR headsets with increased resolution up to x 100 to match the acuity of the human eye.
  • Increased adoption of AV via mobile devices due to advances in smartphone technology.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are two of the most exciting technological developments over recent years, and their implications are having a huge impact on the events industry. Considering the current VR and AR trends, it’s likely that conferences and trade shows will become less reliant on physical objects while demonstrating products, which in turn could save events companies from transportation and setup costs. Both technologies present opportunities for event organisers to create immersive experiences and revolutionise the way people attend events.
Tags: #Virtual-Reality, #augmented-reality, #virtual, #artificial, #VR, #AR, #events, #exhibitions, #technology, #innovation