Is the Metaverse Right for Your Event Strategy?

Is the Metaverse Right for Your Event Strategy?

Who would have thought, two years ago, that we would be talking about the metaverse in 2022?

But what is the metaverse? The metaverse is a “universe within a universe” – or, to put it into context for corporate events, it’s a virtual space where people can meet and interact in virtual reality.

Many believe that the metaverse will one day become the norm for virtual events, as they offer a more personal, immersive experience of online events and meetings. This hot events trend allows attendees to create animated avatars or use photos to customize their virtual persona before interacting with other attendees in various virtual environments such as exhibitions, meetings, or seminars.

While the metaverse has huge potential for the future of events, it may not be right in every situation. Read on to discover everything you need to know to determine if the metaverse would suit your event strategy.

Will your attendees “get” the metaverse?

Before diving into your ambitious plans for events in the metaverse, first think about your attendees. Are your attendees particularly tech-savvy, or are they keen to return to in-person events? If it’s the former, great! The metaverse might be right for you. Now may not be the right time to invite your people to a virtual, avatar-fueled event if it’s the latter. It may be a complete turn-off for the wrong audience, so think carefully about what your attendees tend to look for in an event.

Equipment and resources for metaverse events

For a truly immersive metaverse experience, your attendees will need a virtual reality headset, such as the Oculus Quest or the hotly anticipated Apple headset. These are expensive, and they are not yet mainstream devices, meaning that either your attendees will need to obtain a headset of your own or you will need to provide (and ship) them, potentially adding thousands to your metaverse events budget. Haptic gloves are not strictly necessary but add to the immersive nature of metaverse events. Attendees will also need a great internet connection for an uninterrupted event, which may prohibit some from joining.

One alternative could be using the highly cost-effective Google Cardboard for your metaverse events, which turn your attendees’ smartphones into VR headsets. However, the quality may not be as high as with a dedicated headset designed for video gaming.

Types of metaverse events

 The beauty of the metaverse is that you can create virtually any event you like. There is no need to spend months finding the perfect venue – you can design it all yourself or amend one of the many metaverse event venues being designed right now.

Types of metaverse events you might consider include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Industry exhibitions
  • Conferences
  • Product launches
  • Company meetings
  • Networking events
  • Training workshops
  • Corporate parties

Your attendees can navigate the metaverse as they would a real-world event: a busy exhibition hall with vendor booths, a giant lecture theater with guest speakers, or a virtual meeting and interacting with colleagues halfway around the world. This leads us to our next point.

The metaverse for global event audiences

A major benefit of metaverse events is that they can bring together global audiences in a more immersive, interactive way than a simple Zoom call. An attendee in Texas can “meet” a peer in the UK without ever stepping on a plane while talking to an avatar, a photograph, or even a live video stream of the other attendee for more engaging conversations. If you tend to host large-scale events with global audiences, the metaverse could be a fantastic way to bring people closer than ever before from the comfort of their own homes (or workplaces). 

If, however, you host smaller, more local events, you are likely better off sticking with in-person events. The expense, time, and effort of setting up a metaverse event is not probably worth it if you host an informal, intimate meeting for a dozen attendees in the same city.

Sponsorship opportunities for events in the metaverse

If you are looking for event sponsors, a metaverse event could be a very appealing prospect for many sponsors – especially large global brands or those in the technology space. This is because a metaverse event can be promoted to and attended by people worldwide, which increases brand exposure exponentially over a typical in-person event.

Additionally, you can get much more creative with metaverse branding opportunities. If you wanted the entire venue floor to be covered in a sponsor’s logo, you could do it. If a sponsor wanted to double the size of their “booth,” it’s perfectly possible. In theory, the sky is the limit with branding and sponsorship opportunities within your metaverse event – and if another exhibitor wants to join your event at short notice, you can easily create extra space for them.

Sustainable events in the metaverse

For organizations prioritizing sustainable events, hosting events in the metaverse is ideal. This option allows you to minimize travel and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your event, along with eliminating waste from booth builds, décor, and physical materials.

The metaverse is also great for welcoming expert speakers and trainers to your event. That Australia-based expert in your field suddenly becomes a lot more accessible if they can attend your event in the metaverse without having to fly halfway around the world – and as a bonus, it will be easier for them to fit your event into their busy schedule if they don’t need to allow time for travel.

Ready to take the next step into metaverse events?

We’re right there with you! Contact American Meetings today to discover how you can welcome your audience into the metaverse for your next event.

The Future of the Global Meetings and Events Industry

The Future of the Global Meetings and Events Industry

Andy McNeill, CEO of American Meetings, Inc. was a recent guest on the Tourism Entrepreneur Podcast, where he shared his knowledge and expertise on the state and future of the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry and tips for success. The following article is a Q&A derived from the podcast.

Q: What is the current state of the MICE industry?

A: There is no doubt the MICE industry was hit hard in the last 18-months. But, through adversity comes opportunity, and the shining star has been the solidification of hybrid meetings in the global meeting and events industry. Because of this, the MICE industry is poised to come back roaring, releasing the pent-up demand for business travel. Corporations discovered the true potential and power of virtual meeting technologies this last year, and many of them also saw the cost savings and positive environmental impact. However, they also know the personal value of face-to-face meetings, visiting amazing venues, and the power of incentive trips. This means hybrid events are here to stay.

Q: What tips and tools can you suggest for hosting hybrid meetings?

A: With the win-win experience of hybrid meetings, managing these effectively will be key in the coming years. Using the right tools is paramount. This past year’s huge demand for this technology initiated a giant leap forward in capabilities, accessibility, and security.

Suppliers who offer support around streaming capabilities, online technical support, virtual speaker and presentation management, online registration, virtual attendee experience, engagement analytics, and production are in high demand. Today’s technological capabilities provide the opportunity to deliver high-quality live, virtual meetings that rival in-person—including keynote and large general sessions for trade shows, breakout sessions, team collaboration, and classroom training rooms. Broadcast-quality production is possible over the internet and is more accessible than ever.

Q: How can destinations and venues stand out?

A: Destinations and venues still serve an important purpose to provide experiences that can only be properly expressed in person. In order to stand out, many venues are turning to creative solutions, such as amazing design, state-of-the-art technology, and sustainability measures to attract audiences. Some are using incentive gifts as a way to attract groups, whether offered onsite or as gift certificates for future use. Promoting venues as the perfect place to hold charitable trips is another great idea to bring people together to support community and environmental efforts and provide a way for guests to give back.

It’s important that the right people know the special things you are doing to create exceptional experiences. This means seeking out groups of like-minded professionals where you can share ideas and have access to potential buyers in the space. The American Meetings Network is an organization that brings the MICE suppliers together to network, generate new ideas, and connect companies with planners and sourcing managers with millions in meeting spend.

Q: What is the future of the MICE industry?

A: The pandemic has shown us the environmental value of reducing our carbon footprint. Corporations reaped the benefits of reduced costs and emissions by holding virtual events. This calls out the importance of sustainability.

Sustainability must be our focus moving forward. We’re all in this together—work with partners who stand with you to reduce waste and are making a concerted effort to provide “greener” solutions. So many great ideas have already been generated, with venues and event services suppliers working together on food donation efforts and providing products and services that support the community. Hybrid meetings have played a major role in supporting the “green” meeting movement, and this is the main reason why they have become so popular.

Q: What encouragement can you provide to those in global travel?

A: Many travel agencies are struggling right now, but it isn’t the first, nor will it be the last downturn the industry will face. Within the last 20 years alone, we have endured 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 recession, and now COVID. This industry continues to rebound. The best advice I can give is this: hang in there, control expenses, and keep your passion for the hospitality business.

At AMI, we are seeing business returning to a more ‘normal’ cadence. However, ‘normal’ is looking a little different these days. To all in the MICE industry, stay positive, build a strong network, be willing to make shifts when you need to, and things will get brighter.

Listen to the expert guest interview of American Meetings, Inc. CEO, Andy McNeill on the  “Tourism Entrepreneur Podcast”. Listen now.

The Future of the Corporate Events Industry

The Future of the Corporate Events Industry

On a recent podcast, “The Future of Tourism”, American Meetings, Inc. CEO Andy McNeill shares his expertise and forward view of tourism as it relates to the MICE Industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions), a corporate events industry that heavily relies on travel and venues to thrive. Over the past 18 months, both industries have faced huge obstacles that threatened their existence.

The following article is a Q&A derived from the podcast.

The corporate events industry has been slammed by travel and gathering restrictions, but the need for meetings hasn’t gone away. In 2020, nearly $1.4 trillion dollars in international business travel spend disappeared resulting from travel restrictions. And, with today’s continued uncertainty, it’s been predicted that it will take five years or more to recover. Bill Gates believes that it will never fully bounce back and estimates only 50% of business travel will return.

With this in mind, we look at the future of tourism and the corporate events industry.

Q: What did 2020 look like for AMI (American Meetings, Inc.)?

A: It started really well. We were on an economic high with everyone making money and growing. I was at a conference in New York City when I first heard the word “COVID.”  Our target market is Fortune 500 companies, which tend to be risk-averse, so we knew we had to make a quick change. We were lucky that we had been supporting virtual platforms with a few of our clients. While it took a few months, we were able to transition to all virtual events, all the while not knowing when live events would come back. This was when hybrid meetings were born.

Q: When did it hit you that everything going forward was going to change in the event industry?

A: I was on a strategy call with one of our bigger clients when we received a call from their travel officer, who informed us that these critical employees were restricted from traveling. We knew at that moment we had to adjust and get ready for a new way of doing business. It was critical that these people meet, and we knew we had to support that any way we could.

Q: What was the hardest part of making this shift?

A: Our biggest challenge was trying to figure out which software to support quickly. There were so many options and in the past, we would offer solutions to the IT department of the company hosting the virtual event and let them pick. This time we had to choose a few that matched the greatest needs of our clients while also providing the compliance, security, and bells and whistles they required. We had to pick a few and stick with them. We made the investment, and it paid off. We started 20 years ago as a live meeting organization, and now we are supporting meetings through technology. We always knew technology would be part of the mix, but it’s bigger now and here to stay.

Q: What do you see as the biggest benefit of hybrid events?

A: Our society is changing, and sustainability is more important than ever. Reducing the carbon footprint of travel has been on people’s minds, and this is going to continue. Large corporations often take on sustainability efforts, but they don’t know how to really make events feasible in the hybrid format. Now, they have seen that they can save money by reducing travel and accommodation costs and still have a successful event.

We all know live events are important because we are social beings and some components still really need to be done face-to-face. But, people are still unsure about meeting in large crowds, and venues are uncertain about ever-changing restrictions and regulations. This has created a strong case for hybrid events.

Q: What do events of the future look like?

A: Interaction tools. Avatars. AI. We are always looking for ways to enhance the experience for all guests, whether live or virtual, and these tools help create a one-world model that brings everyone together.

Technology exists that allows the speaker, who isn’t anywhere near the participants, to be seen and interacted with including receiving eye contact as though it is face-to-face. The price still needs to come down on some of this technology to make it more accessible, but there are existing solutions that bring in 3D holograms or similar into a space to make it seem like we are all in the same space, even though we are half-a-world apart. It’s time for organizations to develop content with AI in mind and build it into their programs.

Q: What else are you seeing in the industry that is a benefit?

A: Data. We’ve been spending time educating our clients about the data and reporting that is available. This information now comes in real-time, so being able to digest it quickly and make changes to support the attendee experience is an amazing skill and benefit. In the live environment, we could take polls and look at the information later, but now, we can see exactly who is engaging with content and when we are losing the audience and immediately adjust.

Q: With all this virtual and AI, what are destinations to do?

A:  The destination is an initial factor in what the attendee experience will look like. Before we talk about break-out rooms, we decide what venue will be the best host. Generating a memorable experience is what matters, regardless of the type of meeting. A board meeting on a golf course, an incentive trip with the family, a sales conference on the beach—they all allow the attendee to have time away from their usual day-to-day and smell the smells, see the sights, and taste the foods where they are visiting.

Today we are looking for ways to expand the experience for both virtual and live guests. Destinations that embrace this and take it to the next level will be successful. Travel still matters and if a virtual attendee has a great experience, they may feel more comfortable taking a trip to the venue in the future. People still love to visit new places, so do what you can to improve your brand in their minds, whether virtual or live.

Q: What have you learned?

A: I’ve learned that no two meetings are alike and there is a lot of training going on. There is a learning curve for new virtual technology, even for those who think they are tech-savvy. Give it time.

Overall, it’s been a rough year, but stick to it, it’s going to get better.

Listen to the expert guest interview of Andy McNeill, CEO of American Meetings, Inc. on the “Future of Tourism Podcast”. Listen now.

 

How the Pandemic Changed Live Events for the Better

How the Pandemic Changed Live Events for the Better

As the Founder and CEO of American Meetings, Inc. (or AMI,) Andy McNeill was invited to speak on the Destination Marketing Podcast. Overall, this podcast supports tourism marketers in staying up to date on industry trends, technologies, and strategies to be the most effective they can be despite being typically understaffed and overworked.

Involved closely with the events and meetings industry for over 30 years, Andy has successfully navigated industry fluxes through the September 11th terrorist attacks, subsequent recession, and the recent 2020-2021 Covid-19 pandemic. His company, AMI, focuses on large corporate events across 60 countries worldwide and will be celebrating 20 years in business in January 2022.

In this Destination Marketing Podcast episode, Andy shares why hybrid events are so attractive in the face of recent pandemic and work-from-home challenges, and how we can leverage these changes to grow. There is nothing better than face-to-face meetings in beautiful destinations, but hybrid events make sense, and they aren’t going away.

“We just went through a global pandemic and some people are just not wanting to get on an airplane. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a great event; it just means we may want to plan on offering it virtually (as well).”

Andy McNeill, AMI Founder

Check out the podcast for tips on how to incorporate virtual elements into live events and why. And hear how one corporation got creative to build value and connection with a multi-location event.

3 Steps for Saving Money on Your Next Conference

3 Steps for Saving Money on Your Next Conference

 

Saving money is always important, whether you have a large budget or not. Saving money in non-essential areas can help you invest those dollars into things that can make a difference. For example, one client saved $800,000 by making a few adjustments – a cost savings of $2,000 per participant – and used it instead to give participants a truly creative and fun experience.

While not every company has that much to spend or to save, there are certainly very achievable ways to make your next conference one to remember without killing your bottom line. Here are 3 for your consideration:

Consider a Virtual Event

One of the ways the previously mentioned client was able to save so much, was by limiting travel expenses and using webcasting to communicate to their 400 attendees in four locations. While not every meeting can be virtual, using virtual elements, such as webcasting, can help reduce expenses over an in-person event.

Staying open to technology efficiencies can help lower costs, increase attendance, and streamline processes.

Work with Professionals

Expertise may seem expensive, but anyone who has hired someone new to save money often regretted it in the long run. Experienced corporate meeting planner professionals know the tricks that can save money, including having established relationships with vendors. They can anticipate problems before they arise and know what steps to have in place to sidestep them or adjust on the fly.

Inexperience is always more costly than expertise.

Be Clear

Being clear about your mission and values, as well as exactly who you are reaching with your event will help decision-making. This focus will allow easy cost-suckers to slip away while your guiding values make the more aligned choices.

For example, if the audience consists of those passionate about green principles, the decision to incorporate eco-friendly strategies is a no brainer. It immediately directs you to sustainable practices, green venues, earth-conscious products, and local foods. This shortens the time it takes to find vendors and locations, saving time and money.

Clarity is your compass.

If you are considering a live or in-person event, trust AMI to provide the knowledge and professionalism you need to make it a success.

Customer Experience Post COVID: How Meeting Industry Suppliers are Making it Work

Customer Experience Post COVID: How Meeting Industry Suppliers are Making it Work

 

As Meetings Industry suppliers are slowly beginning to re-open their doors across the United States and around the globe, we are seeing a variety of new health and safety protocols and innovative strategies that create a safe environment for attendees and guests, while still providing exceptional customer service experience.

We spoke with some of The American Meetings Network, Prime Supplier members about what they are doing in the face of the current challenges.

Limo Corp Worldwide

Image Courtesy of Limo Corp Worldwide

Wasif Bhatti, President of Limo Corp Worldwide, is working on keeping the same feel of a luxury service, but adding in some critical additional safety guidelines. Those include educating the chauffeurs on the new protocols, so they understand what to look for in themselves as well as passengers. They also communicate to passengers about the safety standards they have in place, educating guests who are likely traveling to the area about the local mandates and recommendations.

  • Staff or passengers who are showing signs of illness, or who have travelled to a “hot spot” region are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before reporting to work or hiring their services.
  • Chauffeurs are wearing masks and gloves and take temperature checks before and after every trip.
  • Vehicles are sanitized between rides and hand sanitizer and wipes are provided for both guests and drivers.
  • Electrostatic sprayers are used to disinfect the vehicles twice per day, allowing deeper sanitation even in hard to reach areas.

Social distancing is also in place, including in the office. Vehicles have a limited seat capacity, and passengers are no longer allowed to ride beside the chauffeurs.

“We are still opening and closing doors for clients, but are asking a lot more questions to gauge customer boundaries. For example, rather than simply grabbing the luggage, they ask if the client prefers to carry it themselves, and then maintains distance,” said Bhatti.

Finally, all water, mints, magazines and extras have been removed. If a guest would like water, the drivers are offering bottled water before the ride begins and offers it protected by a disinfectant wipe.

Image Courtesy of Limo Corp Worldwide

Thread LLC., Atlanta, GA

Thread LLC, a promotional products provider, is also reflecting on how events will look post-COVID. Co-founder Michael Lumpkin said everything now is about taking greater precautions.

Providing corporate gifts have taken a back burner putting safety first, for good reason. However, as live events come back, and virtual event popularity grows, event organizers will want to get creative to bring back the huge value that corporate gifting provides.

Live events pre-COVID often had a check-in table to have guests register and be handed a name badge and swag bags. This was a standard that allowed for sponsors to connect with participants, while also inviting them into the experience of the event.

Without live events, hosts will now need to get creative. Virtual event sponsorship is very different, yet the importance still exists. Rather than spending money on travel, companies will need to explain to shareholders how and why they are reinvesting this budget into creating a great participant experience.

Image Courtesy of Thread Logo

Suppliers have already started offering free or reduced shipping, a trend likely to continue. It is expected that organizers will be mailing swag bag type gifts directly to participants to encourage engagement with sponsors and the event itself.

Fundraising events are anticipated to shift from event-based to product- or goods-based. Charities and businesses are already buying promotional products, so it is likely that fundraising will look more like a bake sale than, for example, a walk-a-thon.

Getting participants to feel the value and comradery of the virtual event will also take some creativity. Expect to see registration information and corporate gifts sent via mail prior to the event. This can allow for more customization, such as having participants register with shirt sizes or candy preferences. Asking participants to all wear their provided logo wear on virtual event conferencing may be the way to really pull them into the event.

“Once live and hybrid (live/virtual) events are fully back into play, personalized kits with everything the participant needs, such as stationery and pens, or no- touch tools, will be sent ahead of time or be packaged and delivered in a way that follows safety standards. Safety signage, dividers and hand sanitizer stations seem to be one way that sponsors will be contributing to events,” said Lumpkin.

While the event industry quickly adapts to some fairly large changes, and further adjustments are likely to continue for the ongoing future, organizers and providers are demonstrating both creativity a willingness to go above and beyond across all functions of their services in order to create not only the legendary customer service experiences that your attendees expect – but most importantly, a safe environment for your meetings and events to take place.

AMI’s PPME for Meetings Program

To support the events industry, AMI has created a program to provide high-quality products shipped directly to your live meetings or events. These products are offered at an affordable price by working with our partner suppliers, such as LimoCorp, Thread Logo, and others. AMI continues to innovate by offering this additional support to our Meeting Champions to make it safe to attend live meetings once again through our new PPME for Meetings Program.