Virtual Reality: What is the value for the Events Industry?
20th March 2017
Why should you care about Virtual Reality?
As young professionals about to enter the field of event management, it is important that we take an active interest in the trends that currently surround the industry.
The below vlog will not only enhance your understanding of this new and exciting technology, Virtual Reality (VR), but it will also inform you of the current industry and consumer opinions on the uses of VR in events. Through engaging in our debate, you will be actively contributing to a platform of shared knowledge, enabling you to stay competitive within the industry and keep up with current trends.
We hope you enjoy the video!
From the points raised in the vlog we want to know how you, as event professionals, use VR in your events.
How has VR provided you with a worthwhile return on investment?
If VR is not something you are currently implementing, what are your reasons for this? Do you see yourself using VR in a professional capacity in the future?
Thank you for your contribution!
Hi, I’m Lucy and I currently work as a PR & Marketing Assistant for a fashion jewellery and accessories brand. As part of my role, I am responsible for organising events that span from Press Launches with bloggers and influencers to running stands at exhibitions / networking events.
As a recent graduate, I am relatively new to industry. Engagement with your audiences is the most important value in any Events / PR role, particularly for me as we are a brand selling products to consumers. With the updates of social medias to incorporate ‘live’ options, I find that the demand for constantly ‘new’ and ‘entertaining’ ways to engage with your audiences are in high demand.
However, I can’t help but feel that though VR would in no doubt be entertaining at events, the costing for such technology outweighs the benefits of Virtual Reality (particularly for emerging brands). Also the physical appearance of VR headsets are still quite large and unattractive. Though I can see that there will be many benefits for VR, especially for businesses that can afford to utilise them, I believe there are further upgrades to go (as with any new consoles) before they will be fully integrated into events as an engagement tool, depending upon price, appearance and quality.
Great question and brill vid.
Thank you for taking some time to give us an insight in to your views of VR in events. We appreciate your opinion that VR is not suitable for all events due to the costs associated with the product and a return on investment that is not guaranteed. It is really interesting to hear your thoughts on this which have contributed to our understanding.
We recently attended a seminar at Confex where the future of VR headsets was discussed by a range of industry professionals. They suggested that it could eventually develop into glasses before later advancing into contact lenses. If it progresses to this, is this something you can imagine your industry benefiting from?
Thanks for your reply! Yes it definitely would be – as we head into the era of Web 4.0, such technology will be vital when communicating and engaging with stakeholders and the publics. As the technologies become easier to use and grow in popularity, they will be an important aspect for all industries, especially events, marketing & PR.
We completely agree. It sounds like you consider VR to hold great value for your industry in the future.
Thank you for engaging in our debate.
I tend to agree with the notion of VR being part of a “toolkit”. An option for your client depending upon what they are trying to achieve with their event. Haven’t we been here before when “experts” suggested that video conferencing would be the death knell of conferences…?
Hi John, thank you for your contribution.
Yes, ‘experts’ in the past have said that video conferencing will replace face-to-face meetings. However, this is not the case as video conferencing has been used to aid the process and make conferences more practical and accessible.
It was never stated that VR would replace live events. The message from this blog suggests that it would only ever be used to enhance it due to the technological advancements we now have. In your opinion, will VR ‘flop’ in its attempt to enhance the customer experience?
I’m not sure that it will “flop” necessarily and in certain event marketplaces it might well be a “boon” (such as exhibitions, where exhibitors will want to immerse potential customers in an experience), but in others marketplaces I’m not sure it will be appropriate. That said, as you point out I think that the toolkit approach is probably the correct one.
Hi John, you make a very good argument. Based on the research we have carried out, we would definitely agree with you there. We also believe that if more event managers took the “toolkit” approach on board, that it could actually become more successful than video conferencing as it is so diverse as a technological concept. Thank you for highlighting this as a comparison, it’s certainly useful to look at it from a different angle.
Interesting to consider virtual elements of live performances. We have worked on this with a number of music partners including Yamaha Music Europe and if you consider the growth of live streaming to cinemas in the theatre sector there is evidence of significant growth in demand. They key here will be individual’s perception of what a live experience is. Do you need to be ‘in the room’ and ‘smell the stale beer / greasepaint’ or will digital engagement be equally/more exciting?
Thanks for your contribution to our debate – you have made a really good point.
We’ve discovered that consumers can find VR insular and that they want to feel like they belong, as Maslow reiterates in his hierarchy of needs. VR at live events won’t necessarily be equally / more exciting, but it will be a different experience for consumers; our research finds this to be positive as consumers want to experience new things. With the technological advancement of VR in the future, it could mean that VR can be experienced by more than one person at the same time, making it more of a sociable experience for all of those involved. If there were such advancements of VR in the future that enabled participants to feel as though they were in more of a realistic environment, is this something you would consider investing in?
I review Event Management Plans for South Oxfordshire and the Vale of the White Horse, and for Oxford City, and represent TVP on the Safety Advisory Group to give advice to event organisers. I haven’t seen VR mentioned at all in any of these plans. Having looked at the video, I’m not sure they are the kind of events you are referring to. If it were to become used in a live music event, for example, I would be concerned about the security and welfare of attendees who would perhaps be unaware of their surroundings and may therefore be vulnerable to criminals who often target such events
Thank you for sharing your views – it is really interesting to consider VR from a different point of view than just those directly in the events industry. The security aspect is a current industry concern – when we attended a talk by industry professionals at Confex, they mentioned that the developments in technology could mean that participants can see both the footage and their surroundings in the headset. For example, this would allow people to know where their bags/purses are and where their children are and such like. If these developments were to occur, do you think it would help from a security aspect, or would people still be vulnerable to crime?
It is reassuring to learn that participants would retain some awareness of their surroundings. I would still recommend consideration of the vulnerability in any security or stewarding plans in place for the event. It may be that requirements change as the technology develops and more widespread use is tested.
That is a good point. VR still holds many constraints from a security and wider social point of view. Hopefully these risks will reduce as the technology develops as you suggest.
Thank you for engaging in this discussion with us.
There definitely are a lot of business implications of VR, but my experiences have shown it can be used very successfully by charities and and not-for-profit organisations at events to spread their message or simply educate in an interactive way. Depending on the idea companies are looking to spread, VR can be used to elicit both positive and negative feelings. One example I have witnessed is iAnimal, who take part in a number of fairs & festivals across the UK using VR to show the reality of animal agriculture nowadays. Another great example is Brittany Ferries who used a VR set on board last summer to promote their free whale-watching events during their crossings to Spain. I find VR is a great marketing tool, giving consumers a sneak-peak into an experience, rather than replacing it.
Hi Elena, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s really interesting to see more ways in which VR is currently being used, especially in the not-for-profit sector. It’s particularly interesting to consider iAnimal’s use of the technology. However, in your opinion, what are the ethical implications for this? Could this be emotionally damaging for the participant post-event?
From a PR perspective, being able to promote products through the use of virtual reality has many benefits. I work for an agency that represents kitchen and bathroom companies and when my clients launch a new product, or open a new showroom, virtual reality enables stakeholders to view something, whether it be a new kitchen design or even just a basin mixer, from every angle on a computer screen in the comfort of an office. No longer do people have to travel to a showroom or rely on a (dare I say it) low res 2D image.
Hi Clare, it is really interesting to gain an insight on how other industries are using virtual reality – in your case as a promotional tool. Have you found since using VR, that your conversion of sales has increased? Or is it simply used to add value to your client’s experience?
Obviously it’s difficult to tell if using VR as a promotional tools directly contributed to an increase in sales of a particular product or range however, what we have noticed is that it seems to be resulting in an increased amount for of media coverage.
Hi Clare, we agree it is difficult to measure the conversion of promotion to sales unless strategies have been put into place. However, it is fascinating to hear that virtual reality can increase customer awareness of a product and increase the amount of traffic to a website or footfall to a showroom, as well as enhancing the customer’s experience. Thank you for highlighting this aspect and for your contribution.
Through organising team building events, I am yet to come across any implementation of VR in the events I have held directly. However, I can see that it could be a really good source of entertainment and that it has the potential to help teams to colllborate through sharing an unforgettable virtual reality expierenece. It is always difficult to come up with team building events that are appropriate for all ages, genders and abilities and although cookery events seem to be my ‘go to’ option, I beilieve VR could suit a wide range of different delegates. Through constantly doing research into the industry as part of my job, there is a clear demand for advanced technology and this could make VR a very powerful mechanism in future events.
Hi Francesca – thank you for highlighting this angle. One of the main criticisms of virtual reality is that it is insular as an concept. How would you suggest implementing VR into a team building event in such a way that it could be a shared experience?
Delegates could have a virtual tour a chocolate factory and have professional virtual chefs going through the concept of chocolate making, this would then progress into teams creating their own chocolates as the team building element.
That’s a great idea. What would put you off actually investing in VR to create the experience you have just suggested?
VR is not something I have currently come across in events, and I don’t currently use it. As advanced technology I can see how it would benefit the events sector however I think it would be a difficult one to implement completely into events. Trade shows networking events and exhibitions are all events that you really need face to face interaction. However I do think there a plenty of other ways you can implement it within one of these events that would have a great response and thus possible create a successful ROI. Conferences and user groups would benefit from VR and may actually increase people’s reactions as there would be a level of confidence from not actually being face to face. I think VR may be a one hit wonder that will always be available but never a leading tool.
Hi Cara, thank you for your contribution. We completely agree that face-to-face interaction is fundamental for the success of trade shows, exhibitions and networking events whether as an organiser or as an attendee. We also agree that there are plenty of ways in which VR can be used to enhance the ROI. Using an airplane exhibition as an example, whereby the products and equipment can be too large for a venue or too dangerous and difficult to transport onsite, VR can be used as an alternative providing a realistic representation of the product and a better understanding than say a brochure, or a plain conversation. Using VR would reduce logistical issues, along with cost and adds further opportunity for exploration of the product which would otherwise inaccessible. Does this alter your opinion of VR in events being a one hit wonder?
Not completely no, its a great sales tool in those terms and it compliments what people may be trying to show or do at an event. It’s definitely beneficial in areas, but not vital
We agree that VR can be used as a sales tool in certain areas and it is widely acknowledged that it can be beneficial for some aspects and not for others. However, as the technology develops and becomes more advanced, maybe it would be a tool you considered using in the future if you were confident you could achieve a more valuable ROI?
VR isn’t something our company currently use, a lot of our delegates consist of elderly more ‘traditional’ businessmen, however as we move into a new era of technology it is important for our events to stay contemporary in order to stay attractive to potential clients. With a higher demand for engagement at events I think that, with proper use, VR technology would certainly engage audiences and add an interactive element to events that would be almost impossible to find elsewhere. I just wonder, should technology be based on the event purpose or the event audience?
Thanks Joe, that is an interesting comment regarding this issue.
We feel as though in some cases technology can be used for technology’s sake and therefore not provide an effective ROI. It seems that for your ‘traditional’ client’s this may be the case? However, as you have mentioned, it may be useful to keep up with the current trends for new client’s where VR would provide value to their experience. We believe that VR can be a really useful tool to draw an audience to an event and engage with it. So maybe it’s a combination of implementing the technology based on the event’s purpose and the event audience?
I work in the travel event industry and the VR system is not something we currently use. When selling our sports tours to staff we often find that they pick the destinations that they know and have been too. VR will be really effective to show the staff unknown destinations to make them feel more confident with the tour destination and taking children there. I also think that it would be a fantastic selling point for our company as it shows how advanced we are and that we have the customer at the core of our business. Love it!
Hi Jocelyn. You raise a great point! We have found that VR is being used as an effective tool for those who work with different destinations, as not only does it provide the client with an instant insight of that place, but it can save the company money by not having to arrange familiarisation trips which are a costly investment.
We completely agree that it would be a fantastic investment for a company that work with customers who need that extra confidence when making a purchase. You’ll have to let us know if VR becomes a tool for your business in the future!
I’m Abi and work for Newbury Racecourse within the Operations Team.
Currently, we don’t use VR in our events.
From a sales point of view, we have done a google walk-around for the majority of our spaces to enable customers to look around our site (link below).
This gives a great view of the site and would influence whether someone would book an event with us, or not.
On our racedays, we have done a 360 view video (link below), this shows the Weighing Room, Paddock, Corporate Boxes etc – which gives a good indication of what a day at Newbury feels like. It was well received and potentially influences people to attend future events.
As an Operator, it’s not something that I would necessarily think of as beneficial, it would fall under our marketing department. However, it’s not something I have seen widely used in the Racing industry – if it meant that people could experience the day without actually being here, it wouldn’t be worth our while as we benefit from onsite catering spend and betting. I think the costs to implement would probably outweigh its effectiveness as we wouldn’t use it as our primary marketing tool – it would be a “nice to have” but only in terms of getting people through the gates not instead of.
Thank you for your contribution to our blog! It is great to see how you are using new technology to give customers a truly interactive experience of viewing your venue.
We agree, VR does not necessarily work in replacing live event experiences, but more so in helping venues to provide a show-around and mapping element. We agree that if it was used to replace your live event experience, you would not achieve a return on investment. However, do you think you would ever consider using VR to sell your conference facilities to clients?
I currently work so an event venue in London and we use VR in our sales process.
The incorporation of new technology is essential in my view to create a competitive advantage in this demanding industry, VR is perfect for this.
The implementation of VR (head set) was a lengthy process, originally aimed to take around 3 months but ended up taking over 8! We worked with an external production company who helped us film live events at our venue which we can now show to our clients when they come for show round and the venue is blank. We faced difficulty in getting a good quality image which was what made the process difficult to begin with. Clients are always accepting of VR, something we were worried about to start with! We found corporate clients most interested in the technology, with our conference bookings increasing since we implemented this into our sales process.
Staff training is also an area for consideration when using VR for sales. Our sales team have never used this technology before, therefore extensive training was put in place to help them understand the technology and what do when it goes wrong!!!! (you know what technology is like!)
We also found that clients who were not planning on using VR in their actual event have enquired about using it, as well as our onsite production team, after seeing it on a show round! This was unexpected for us, but a great advantage and money maker!
VR is without a doubt essential in the industry and adds entertainment and content to events, however how long will this last? and do you think this is just a trend which will die anytime soon?
Firstly, thank you for your contribution to our blog, you’ve raised some very good points! We completely agree, VR is a great opportunity for venues to increase their sales through showing potential clients their venue in a completely interactive and visual way which sets you above your competitors.
You’ve highlighted that the process of implementing VR within your venue took up more time than expected, which included time taken to train staff on using this technology. Have the particular limitations that you have faced when implementing VR meant that it was not worthwhile?
We completely agree, VR adds entertainment; however is that a reason for investing? If you can use it purposefully then VR can achieve a return on investment as you’ve demonstrated. However, we believe if companies start using it simply for entertainment purposes, is it going to be valuable in helping the business to achieve the objectives for the activity in which it is being used?
If VR is used correctly and not as a ‘gimmick’ as suggested by some, the technology has the chance to be affective in the marketing and business environment, therefore lowering the risk of it becoming a short-term trend. Can you see VR being used long-term in your venue?
Thanks for getting back to me.
I think the time and effort it took to implement the technology was worth it, it was almost a side project during the production so it wasn’t something that caused too much difficulty.
I do not think entertainment alone is a reason for investment, it’s a pricey technology to incorporate with prices only increasing due to bigger media and tech companies jumping on this and trying to sell to event managers and venues. An event venue or manager is very lucky if they can pay the price simply for entertainment! There needs to be another purpose, whether it be to sell event space or educate/interact with event attendees.
I think event venues and managers need to work hard to make sure it isn’t just a ‘gimmick’. It needs a good use case, a reason for being there as mentioned above. I think that even if the industry is using well and receiving a return on investment, it will still eventually fade out.
In my opinion mixed reality is the next big thing, this is when (unlike VR) clients can still see individuals around them when using a head set, it mixes the virtual and real world, that’s what will knock basic VR off the table.
It’s really interesting to know that despite the prolonged installation of the technology and the training involved, that it was still a worthwhile investment. We agree with the point you made about mixed reality – we attended a talk at Confex during which industry professionals discussed mixed reality in some depth and it seems it will be the ‘next big thing’. You mentioned it was your corporate clients who were more engaged with the VR and it was the conference bookings that had increased – how do you think mixed reality will benefit you further? Do you think it will be any more attractive than VR to your private clients and help convert sales with them?
Using VR in events will definitely add a new dimension to the industry, for the future I see VR being used for things such as site visits abroad, seeking out new locations and to replace face to face conferencing perhaps.
I definitely do not see it as a gimmick with numerous industries able to see huge advantages behind getting on board with this technology.
Hopefully in the not so distant future VR will be more widely accessible and more content created- a ‘stumbling block’ behind it expanding quicker in my opinion.
I have previously managed a journalist product launch for a new VR headset which attracted large pools of interest within the events industry which is always positive. Event companies saw the potential to immerse their guests even further into the experience and create a USP, adding value to the client investment.
Thank you for your contribution – you have raised some really interesting points.
We agree that VR is successful for those who are using it in the correct way. However, the problem here is, not all companies are necessarily using it for right reasons. They may have every intention of delivering specific messages to audiences in an engaging way, however, audiences could simply view it as an entertainment factor – ignoring the message that is trying to be deployed.
During a trip to an industry exhibition, we found a lot of stands used VR to attract people to their stand. Instead of interacting with the VR and learning about the company, stand delegates seemed to show more interest in the entertainment of using the technology.
How do you think those wanting to implement VR at their events can avoid this from happening?
Interesting, vr has many possibilities in event management, not just in planning and preparation but for people who physically can not experience am event. I think the potentials are endless. I did media studies at uni and this shows just how far we’ve come in a short space of time.. It was all about interactive information screens. Interesting video. Well done ladies 👏
Thank you for contributing towards our blog. We completely agree, VR holds so many possibilities.
How would VR help in the planning and preparation stages of an event?
Also, you mention how VR will help people who can’t physically experience an event, do you think that there is a chance that VR replacing that live event experience would have a major effect on how the event was intended to be experienced?
Such an interesting topic. I had my first personal experience with VR not a too long ago and it was amazing! I definitely agree that it’s becoming a popular piece of technology. Do you
think, realistically, VR can be used in all areas of events? Or would it need to have a focus on one sector of the industry?
Also, I’ve always thought of VR technology to be quite expensive, surely this would limit the possibility of smaller businesses and events being able to keep up to date with this technology? How could this be combatted do you think? Or is my perception wrong, and is VR not particularly expensive?
I think it’s something that will eventually be everywhere and used frequently but will it effectively serve another purpose other than entertainment?
Hi there Caterevolution,
Thank you for contributing towards our blog! We are glad that you agree this particular topic is of interest, especially to the Events Industry. What was your first experience of VR out of interest? We did significant research on the variety of events in which VR is currently being implemented, which highlighted that it is primarily being used in sports, music, fashion and business events. The only events that stood out as not adopting VR technology were private, celebratory events. We believe that this is because it could not be used appropriately in such a personal and social event.
We completely agree with your point regarding cost limitations for smaller businesses. However, we believe that as the technology develops, the cost would decrease as with most technology trends (i.e. mobile phones). Meanwhile, smaller businesses can have access to VR technology through the cheaper headsets on the market (i.e. Google Cardboard).
With regards to your last comment, as mentioned in our vlog, in order for VR to be valued within the industry, it needs to be used in the correct way; using VR as another tool in the box will enable businesses to achieve a higher ROI.
Could you see yourself using VR technology in your future chosen events sector?
VR has so much potential, very looking foward to see it being used more not only in the events industry but also other industries.
Thanks for your comment Sharing Green Responsibility.
In what other industries can you see VR being used? Would you consider using VR in your events in the future?
Also, what did you like most about our video? It is great that you see there being so much potential in using VR – we’d love to know why you think this.
Comments are closed.