By Barrett Cordero, president of BigSpeak, a leading global speakers bureau representing business icons, bestselling authors, thought leaders and celebrities.
We know virtual meetings and events are here to stay because our Fortune 1000 clients are booking for 2022 and beyond — and Zoom and Google Meet are not going anywhere. But how will this technology evolve, and what does it mean for meetings?
People have adapted to the recent work-from-home paradigm shift. We’re not far from the next iteration, which I believe to be immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). It’s the natural evolution of video abilities.
Augmented reality technology provides an interactive and immersive experience that enhances real-world objects in your environment with added visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory or even olfactory components. On the other hand, virtual reality technology can simulate a completely different world or mimic real-world experiences.
Millions are already using AR/VR daily via smartphones, from Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok filters to playing Pokemon Go. To repeat, the technology is here. It’s now a matter of when the tipping point occurs for mass application and adoption.
You might be wondering, what’s the point of AR/VR technology, and how could it possibly be valuable for keynote speakers, businesses and society as a whole?
Believe me when I say AR and VR are applicable to any industry or business, including live entertainment, events, education and meetings. Surgeons are using AR/VR to practice highly technical surgeries, therapists are using it to desensitize patients from phobias, businesses can use it to provide virtual tours or to allow customers to test products and even car manufacturers are using it to give virtual lessons on how to repair your car. Airline pilots have been using it for decades! It’s now just starting to go mainstream.
What makes AR and VR valuable for the events and meetings industry is their hands-on nature and ability to simulate live experiences. With AR/VR, audiences can learn about, explore and see things up close that they would otherwise have to travel far and wide for. After being cooped up inside due to the pandemic, people want nothing more than to actually experience instead of watch.
We passively watch our TV, computer and phone screens all day long, but we crave something newer, more exciting and more interactive than that. Most keynotes, whether in-person or virtual, aren’t interactive. People watch and listen but don’t do anything. AR and VR could take a simple online webinar or regular event and transform it into an immersive and more memorable experience.
Like laptops, PCs and smartphones, I predict VR headsets will be the next addition to the modern workplace. For example, Oculus Rift by Facebook (now discontinued) is around $300. That’s the same price as an iPad, but it delivers a fully immersive experience. Think about that: a one-time investment of $300, unlike the average airfare ticket to an event for $400 plus the cost of ground transportation, meals and a hotel.
What’s so great about AR/VR tech for events and meetings is that anyone can use it from anywhere in the world, including the comfort of their home, eliminating expensive travel and venue costs. For Fortune 500 companies, it’s a no-brainer. VR meetings will be more cost-effective, good for education and massively accessible.
For example, you could have your entire 50,000 person workforce attend, as opposed to just your top 500 leaders who then typically go back to the workforce and share what they learned. Instead, everyone in the company attends the immersive experience and hears the messages and interacts in real time, the day of. Plus, the company doesn’t have to incur the cost of travel both in dollars and time. That’s remarkably powerful — that’s game-changing!
As a speakers bureau, my company knows keynote speakers will utilize AR/VR in their presentations to adapt to the marketplace. It’s more dynamic than a standard Zoom call or in-person presentation. Think storytelling through scent, visual and auditory channels; we envision something like Disneyland’s “Soarin’ Around the World” or “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” rides. AR and VR tools could also be used to teach hands-on lessons or simply for entertainment during meetings. There is so much room for creativity and interaction.
When exploring the potential of having our staff implement AR/VR in our meetings, we imagine we’ll play some games, and we’ll all do it from the comfort of our home, not having to travel in the middle of winter, or from the East Coast or wherever.
In some instances, AR/VR may replace in-person events; in other events, it may be supplemental. In-person events will always have relevance and will continue to be more experiential, yet VR meetings will rise and eventually may be the vast majority of gatherings.
Now is the time for companies, event planners and speakers to start thinking ahead about the potential of augmenting their audience’s experience with virtual reality — and for businesses to take advantage of this cost-effective, highly engaging, entertaining and futuristic solution to meetings, trainings and events.