From Webinars to WebARs: Evolving trends in virtual event experiences.

Move over webinars! There’s a new kid in town—AR, or “augmented reality.” While this technology isn’t exactly new, it’s growing significance is. Like many others, virtual events are taking over the event industry, and AR is a primary factor in this transition. 

AR is busting open the doors to the creative potential for virtual and in-person events. It’s not an overstatement to use the word limitless. Since events offer unique opportunities to merge the physical and digital worlds, it’s the perfect playground for AR. Whether you’re looking to elevate product demonstrations, increase brand engagement, or find new ways to foster connections between attendees, AR has an unconventional solution.

Virtual Reality Ar GIF by David Altizer

What is AR? 

Augmented reality is a technology that allows digital information—3D images, text, etc.—to be seen in or projected over the real world. This is accomplished using tablets, smartphones, and other similar technologies with cameras. Recently, Apple unveiled their VisionPro goggles which use AR to project the visual display we’re all familiar with onto the real world. Imagine seeing photos of Yosemite floating in your kitchen! 

The advantage that AR offers is immersion. Remember in 2016 when Pokemon Go had thousands of people wandering streets and parks looking for digital monsters? This is the power and the creative potential of AR. It’s only gained popularity since those early days and it seems like its going to make a big impact. 

By the end of 2023, projected AR device users are set to hit 1.4 billion, and 67% of advertisement agencies have increased AR use. AR is spreading far and wide and now’s the time to get in on the ground floor. By adopting early, you’ll make your events stand out. Say goodbye to regular old power points and webinars and hello to unique offerings!

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Increase engagement.

Not that kind of engagement. We’re talking brand engagement! AR unlocks new potential for attendees to connect with your brand and event, even before the party starts. You’ve probably already used AR face filters on Instagram or Snapchat. Create a custom, brand specific filter that attendees can play with to add a touch of fun to event marketing.

User generated content—like photos or videos made using AR filters—perform 2x higher than branded content and have a near 7x engagement rate. This is the power of leveraging earned media via AR filters. 

Smile, these filters also provide an exciting new sponsorship opportunity! Give potential sponsors the chance to interact directly with customers via an AR filter. Attendees will create personal content with that brand’s imagery, sharing it among their friends and followers. Use this in sponsorship proposals to add a unique value proposition. They get exposure, attendees have fun, and you’re the one that made it happen. Everybody wins! 

AR is more than just another marketing trick. It fosters increased engagement at every level of your event. Attendees can interact with products in the virtual landscape, gain information on fellow attendees or speakers in real time, and even navigate your venue with greater ease; but we’ll get into all of this in the following sections. The point is, AR makes your event and everything in it more accessible. 

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Elevate attendee experience.

A common challenge in conferences and trade shows is communicating information without boring your attendees. The more complex the subject, the harder it is to foster a connection with the information. This is where AR comes in! It’s already being used in schools to aid in education, creating a more immersive engagement with material. 

Here’s an example; if your event focuses on sustainability initiatives, use AR to visualize the impact of these initiatives on the environment. Attendees can use their phones to explore digital recreations of green architecture or revitalized coral reefs—right in the venue! This elevates information from dry facts to a visual and visceral “reality.” 

Create your own Pokemon Go buzz by designing an AR scavenger hunt for attendees. This is a great way to help them get to know your venue or to add gamification to information. They’ll wander your venue, unlocking videos, 3D models, and more using their phones. 

Another common challenge with events is navigation. Venues turn into mazes with attendees wandering in search of the right conference room—or worse, the bathroom! AR streamlines venue navigation while saving money (and materials) on signage. Attendees can select their desired destination and follow a colored line, projected onto their camera’s view of the space. Just don’t bump into fellow attendees on your way to the restroom! 

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Products & presentations.

Presentations come to life with the help of AR! Imagine a speaker discussing a new building strategy who can encourage attendees to pull out their phones and see, right there on the stage, a virtual rendering of that exact construction. This not only adds clarity and novelty to a presentation, it fosters more direct engagement from the audience. 

Attendees eager to learn more about a speaker can find extra info in real time. Simply by pointing their camera at the speaker, all relevant information can be programmed to “pop up” right next to them. Creative speakers can leverage this to add interactive moments to their talks, further increasing engagement and understanding. 

What if you could bring a whole car into your event without taking up any space? This isn’t fantasy when using AR. Attendees can see 1-to-1 digital renderings of products, from cars to decor, right in front of them; simply by looking through their phones! This is a miracle for trade shows where physical space is limited. Attendees can also engage with products directly, similar to what Gucci did with their “try on” feature. 

AR allows attendees to engage deeply and directly with information in presentations as well as products, all while saving space in the venue for other things, like traffic management. 

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Next-level networking.

Take attendee badges to a new level! There’s limited space on badges, but this isn’t a problem when using AR. Attendees can scan the badge of a recent contact and download a “token” which contains all relevant information. There’s no limit to what this information can include; phone number, email, CV, even a personal video introduction. 

Combine networking with gamification by including topics of interest in each person’s scannable profile. Attendees can effortlessly find areas of common interest in order to foster communication. Provide fun little ice breakers to get the conversation started! There’s nothing like a playful “would-you-rather” to encourage new friendships. 

Awkwardly standing in a corner will be a thing of the past with AR as the ultimate wingman! 

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The future of virtual events.

AR may not have the same popularity as VR (virtual reality) but it has even wider potential for creative use. It can deepen brand engagement from marketing to the event day, it can connect your attendees quicker, and it allows for direct engagement with presentations and products. This is to say nothing of the money and space you’ll save!

The future of virtual events isn’t limited to the computer, it expands outward into the physical space. The best part? Almost everyone has the technology required to take advantage of AR—their phones—so there’s no material obstacle to instant adoption. 

The future of events may be virtual, but with AR, you can bring the digital world into the real one. By doing so, you’ll elevate the best part of the event experience, gathering together to connect, learn, and enjoy those delicious pigs in a blanket!

August 23, 2023

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August 23, 2023

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