Cryptos, NFTs and metaverses are the talk of the town – but what do they mean for your events? Ahead of his keynote at the M&IT Summit on Wednesday 27 April, Fast Future CEO Rohit Talwar explains why these are more than mere buzzwords, and provide both an existential threat and an exponential opportunity to event planners.

We are living in a time of great uncertainty, says Rohit Talwar: It’s a time of existential threat, whether that’s economic, geopolitical, social, or technological,” says Talwar. “I look around and I can’t see a single business that I could invest in now where they could guarantee that it will be here in 10 years’ time.”

Before you run for the hills, don’t worry – it’s not all doom and gloom. Because for Talwar that uncertainty also provides a chance for new paths to be forged.

If you can update your thinking, build a deep appreciation of technology, and develop massive and unprecedented passion for your customer, you can create incredible opportunities,” he says.

Whether it’s NFTs, cryptos or metaverses, there are new possibilities being forged everywhere you look across the events sector and beyond.

You’re seeing some fun stuff with concerts,” says Talwar. “Kings of Leon have been selling front row seats to all their concerts locked in an NFT. Ariana Grande did a concert in Fortnite, and 78 million people watched it. You can start to think about scaling up your events in a way that’s attracting a new audience.”

Engagement

Metaverses are collective virtual open spaces where physical and digital reality converge and have been garnering a lot of interest from planners. For Talwar, the enhanced immersive experiences in a metaverse can make it a step up from virtual events – with a related leap in engagement.

It’s not just like streaming,” he says. “This is actually saying we’re going to create a full parallel experience to the main event – with different content based on who might participate. You can promote the two events together and target totally different audiences. Real time super high accuracy multilingual translation can remove barriers to participation wherever you are in the world and the experience can carry on 24/7 if the content is stimulating and the engagement is strong.

The nature of a metaverse event can shift the structure away from the organiser designing and curating the entire experience. A metaverse experience is one where you can create and facilitate a space where peopled can share their own ideas in a highly interactive manner and co-create content and experiences with other participants. The size of the venue is no longer a constraint on attendee numbers. Suddenly, you’re attracting a lot more people from around the world and you’re creating different kinds of engagement for the virtually savvy generations that are coming through. The pricing might need to differ dramatically, with the charge for virtual participation being a fraction of that for in person attendance.”

Experiments

At such an early stage in its development, there are still lots of experiments going on in metaverses – and event planners are exploring the options.

Rather than trying to do an expensive and logistically complex in-person city wide event, corporates are finding that if they do the event in a metaverse, they still can incorporate a highly interactive element where staff can join from around the world,” says Talwar. “They can then talk to their customers in the local destinations. We can do a lot more in metaverses than we can in physically experiences. And we can still bring in Beyonce or the Rolling Stones to entertain you.

Of course, we can’t replicate the benefits of human connection and serendipity at an in person event, but we are opening up the event to those who can’t or wouldn’t attend otherwise.”

For virtual exhibitions, metaverses offer the potential for real and rapid results.

Pretty much everything I’ve seen at exhibition stands for virtual events have largely been billboards, with a little bit of interactivity, which feel as clunky and limited as when we look back at 1980s video games” says Talwar. “With a metaverse, you can go from the billboard at the event, straight through to an exhibitor’s metaverse platform where you can connect with a much richer experience. A few minutes talking to a product specialist on the other side of the planet might turn a show enquiry into a more immediate sale or request for quotation.

Opportunity

Metaverses are starting to create enable new business models as well. You can have a lot more exhibitors and sponsors for the event because there’s a lot more opportunity for them to link with the delegates before, during, and after the event.”

And it doesn’t stop there.

As the new tech comes through in the next few years, we start to talk about being able to feel, taste, smell products in a metaverse using next generation, multi-sensory, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technology. You start to create richer and richer experiences and far greater revenues for exhibitors.”

It’s not just about the experience, there’s also a potentially significant financial reward from adopting this technological whizzbangery.

From a financial point of view, you can turn the event ticketing into something that becomes a collectible. You make the ticket an NFT. You can add additional streams of value long after the event ends. You can say to people, ‘Once you’ve bought this, now you’ve got access to the content for evermore, plus new and exclusive content that will be added over time.’ Imagine attending an industry event and each week receiving the opportunity to chat to other attendees and speakers on a regular basis – building deeper connections and relationships. That becomes a value in its own right.”

And there are even new revenue streams and opportunities available in the way people pay for their tickets.

Adventurous

“If someone wants to pay for your event in dollars or euros, you’d take the money,” points out Talwar. “So why not accept crypto and then convert it immediately to your normal currency? And with 350 million plus crypto users globally, and more and more people being paid in crypto, it makes no sense to close off this new revenue stream. The more adventurous can also potentially take a punt and say, well, let’s put 5 per cent of the crypto revenues aside in a pot (crypto wallet), and see what happens to their value. Maybe the value grows enough that it starts to give us the potential to fund innovative developments for future events.

If there’s a profit on top of the 5 per cent then you could share that with the customer and let them use their share as a payment against future tickets at a discounted rate. It’s a great potential model for associations to encourage long term member loyalty.”

Some planners will absorb these new technologies and ways of thinking into their events without a second thought, while for others it will be a more daunting prospect. But for Talwar, the key is in exploring the opportunities.

We want to encourage people to go through this learning,” he says. “Do the research, assess if it might be for them, decide what kind of experiments they want to do. and then take it from there. It’s an exciting time and we have a choice over whether to be scared or motivated by this next set of developments coming our way.”

 

Source: M&IT Magazine

The Meetings Show