Virtual events are maturing. In spring 2020 the conversation was about pivoting. Since the fall, we turned to transitioning events from in person to virtual. In 2021 the focus will be on the experience. Technology is changing the way we experience programming through artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and improved platform features. These technologies will impact how we integrate virtual programming, engage attendees, and inspire actions.

The recent CES show in Las Vegas clearly highlighted how times are changing. The 100% virtual event, one of the largest events in the world, shifted away from product demonstrations to technologies that provide experiences, encouraging interaction and networking to improve the way we do things.

Dana Drissel, VP Marketing of Kaon Interactive, said it best in a recent article: “Rather than investing in a virtual booth, exhibitors need to invest in reusable and extensive customer engagement experiences that support a personalized buying conversation.”

AI, and AR in particular, are transforming every industry, from retail to B2B. It’s no wonder that they have a big role to play in transforming digital events into high-engagement moments that deliver powerful experiences to attendees.

Digital Events Demand AI Solutions

With just a passing glimpse into the future, we can see that the future of digital events will rely heavily on AI solutions. Solutions like AR and holographic technology are already transforming the delivery of ecommerce and B2B businesses. Even digital events incorporate these technologies to create a deeper, more personalized experience that significantly increases attendee engagement. According to a Markets and Research report, the global AR market will climb to $70 (Statisa)-$120 billion (KBV) across all business segments by 2026, with almost $10 billion coming from virtual events, education, and training.

“Augmented Reality (AR) technology has come a long way, and now, it is all poised to disrupt the future of multiple industries, including events. AR will revolutionize the event experience by offering personalized and enhanced attendee experiences like never before.”

Evan Gappelberg, Founder and CEO of NexTech AR Solutions.

Augmented Reality Transforms Digital Events

AR can improve how to explain, visualize, and tell a product story. It creates unique experiences by superimposing digital information into learning, working, and entertaining experiences. Thanks to this technology, it is quite possible to deliver experiences that provide engaging content for your virtual conference or trade show.

Even as the pandemic winds down, hybrid events will dominant the landscape. While online events may never replace in-person events, advances in AR and holographic technology will provide more engaging, focused content and support the needs of many who are not able to attend in person.

Event Industry Disruptors

AR is a hot topic these days, especially as the industry is expected to grow to $120 billion (Statista) by the end of 2022 In the event space, AR will be most effective with virtual events, education, and training.  Imagine taking a 2D flat product, an event, a tradeshow, or other assets and creating an immersive experience on your desk, kitchen table, or couch that brings these products and events to life.

The Drum, a Scottish media outlet known for delivering news and information for the modern marketing segment, confirmed in a research study that “AR can capture people’s attention for over 85 seconds [and] improve interaction rates by 20 percent.” With stats this powerful, AR will grow exponentially across most business segments including events.

“People can experience products by interacting with them in their own space by using augmented reality. You can have an up-close experience with a product, walk around it and interact with it, without leaving your office. It opens more doors for increasingly imaginative ways to use this cool technology.”

Tim Whalen, CMP, Senior Channel Manager at NexTech AR Solutions.

Another important reason for AR’s growth is that today’s technology can be run on a web browser. Attendees do not need to download an app. A simple scan of a bar code or a click to a website allows attendees to view on any device.

Bring Your Products to Life with Augmented Reality

With more people shopping online (B2B and B2C), brands need something that sets them apart to increase engagement and conversions.

We can’t just create an event and expect people to engage. The use of AR is changing how new product are introduced and creating a reason for people to engage. Virtual product experiences have been an area of real challenge for trade shows. AR is changing that perception by bringing products to life in virtual spaces. AR allows people to:

  • Explore angles, rotate, or zoom in on products
  • Navigate through events
  • Place products in an office, a medical space, or a home to see how they fit or look
  • Recommend products that fit best in a given space (AI required)
  • Bring products off screen and into an office, home, or other space

Adoption of AR to Increase 12% in the Next Year

While ecommerce is leading the way, events need to adopt AR technologies. AR can personalize attendee experience, boost engagement, and increase sales at virtual trade shows, conferences, and training programs. According to Statista, the use of AR in events will increase by 12% in 2022, to $5.1 Billion.

With growth that fast, event planners should be integrating augmented reality into their experiences. “If you augment your physical space, then you are no longer limited to it [and] your value proposition changes,” said Yau Boon Lim, the president and managing director for Asia Pacific at NexTech AR Solutions. “An interactive platform creates an integrated experience as a whole.”

Imagine an exhibitor showcasing a Ferrari in your living room or a blender on your kitchen counter. You could watch a concert or preview a new vacuum in your bedroom. AR allows events to extend the experience off the computer screen, transporting it into a space where you can interact and engage with the product. Even B2B companies will use AR to demo products in a customer’s office. These are many possible scenarios with augmented reality.

Holograms Transform Event Experiences

Holograms represent another way to engage virtual event attendees. While AR focuses on products, holograms create a “wow” factor by bringing a speaker, performer, or team beyond the computer screen. Technology has significantly improved since Princess Leia’s message was first revealed by R2-D2 in 1977. Today’s technology can replicate real-life interactivity in virtual settings. Imagine a CEO speaking to customers and employees, a professor presenting a lecture, or your favorite musician playing in your living room, all of them represented as 3D holograms. An even better advantage is that statistics show that holograms can aid retention and engagement.

Holographic technology broadens your reach, because your speaker can be in multiple locations at once. Because the technology has a minimal delay, the audiences from all over the world can interact with the speaker and even ask questions and get answers in real time. This will revolutionize keynote addresses, event speaking, and engagement.

Holo Technology Is on the Rise

These types of innovative technologies will permanently transform the event industry forever. And holographic technology is on the rise. According to a report from Technavio, “the holographic display market size has the potential to grow by USD [$3.5 billion] during 2020-2024, and the market’s growth momentum will accelerate during the forecast period.”

In a time when many event planners are concerned about attendance, retention, and engagement, technologies like WebAR and holograms make a difference. While the desire to return to in-person events will always be high, it is no longer the only way. New technologies will continue to disrupt the event space and create unique, engaging, and stimulating virtual experiences.

According to Martech, 66 percent of marketers say they won’t attend an in-person conference until there’s a proven vaccine in place. 62% of event planners continue to include virtual options. Even as COVID-19 vaccines begin to roll out, it will easily be a year or longer before things begin to really settle – and there’s no going back. Too many people have discovered the joy of attending a conference without having to book hotels and flights or be away from home for an extended period. The industry is forever changed. The question is: Will you be a part of the future?

While developing a digital event strategy is a time-consuming and sometimes difficult task, its importance cannot be overlooked. Strategy is the backbone of every successful digital event. So start early, plan comprehensively, and be flexible. As a digital event strategist, I can help your event team reevaluate your event strategy and help you prove value for your events. Let’s talk about how Grow Your Events can help you. Get in touch.