What You Need to Know about the Metaverse as an Event Planner

In this eventplanner.tv episode Kevin looks forward with trendwatcher Tom Palmaerts to what the Metaverse could mean for the event industry. A must see!

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Hi Tom, welcome to the studio.

Hello Kevin.

It's a yearly ritual that we see each other. Talking about the trends for the upcoming years to come. And this year, we prepared a little by email, you came up with two very interesting trends.

Metaverse and non-fungible tokens.

Maybe we can start with the metaverse. Can you explain to us what it is about?

Most people will hear about metaverse because of Zuckerberg. From Facebook. Because he said, last summer, that he wanted to go into the metaverse. And that's why he even changed the name Facebook to Meta. Now, in his opinion...

What is the metaverse for him? It is the next step. We're now, all the time, looking at a screen. And he wants to jump to a virtual world. He already has his glasses. And I think he wants to sell those virtual glasses cheap. So we all can get it very fast. And that we can enter this virtual world that he assumes is going to be the future.

Now, for me, that's interesting. Because that's a shift. The metaverse is a trend that I've been looking for for the past, I don't know, fifteen years, something like that.

I think it was fourteen years ago, or fifteen years ago, that I did the research on Second Life.

Yes, I was just thinking...

I had a déja vu with Second Life there.

Yes, it was an incredible world. Where you can walk around. And actually the ideas of the metaverse he's now talking about is actually Second Life. But then the difference is, if you look back to Second Life, that was fun but all the time it was crashing. All the time your avatar was like frozen in some kind of wall and it was terrible. That time...

That technology was not...

I don't know if the technology today is really, really there yet. But you see that the past years companies like Epic Games, like Google, Microsoft were investing in doing a lot of research on the metaverse. And now, of course...

You see this all the time. If you look at the future. If you look from a trend perspective. Most of the time the future is already here. So, the research is being done. The investments are being done. The creators are doing. But it grows very slowly and it's almost steady. But then you need like a growth of demand of people. And that all was happening but not from a commercial point of view, but from a Crypto point of view. Within the blockchain, you see the growth of enormous metaverses that were being created. So you see the growth of the amount of people that are actually interested, fascinated by this.

On the other hand you see games like Fortnite. Where young people were playing those games and were really into another world. Because they were their avatar. It was...

By the way, something interesting in psychology, you're now...

Most of the time you have Teams-calls and Zoom-calls. And we're doing this as well. Like a virtual call. But the audience or you, when you're working together, you get tired by watching a screen. Because you see the other but you don't feel proximity.

But will that proximity change? Because eventually, you're in a virtual world. You have glasses on. Bill Gates said this weekend that he expects the Office to be in the metaverse in the future. So we won't go to the office anymore but go to a virtual office where we meet each other. I can, very hardly, imagine that that is the same as meeting people in real life.

When we go way more into technology the meeting people in real life will be a new luxury. But if you go back to that same example of youngsters playing Fortnite, they see each other because they see each other's avatars. But for them, they go into the mind, into that avatar. So for them, they actually feel the proximity, because they are that avatar. Now this is just watching a screen and having an avatar there. So if you now already see that people can go inside that avatar and then feel the connection. Imagine if you go into a virtual world with virtual glasses or other technologies. So you can enter that virtual world and then you will definitely feel the proximity. And you will get less tired and, for me really important, you will feel more connection with each other. Because we're all connected today but we don't have a lot of connection.

And that's what really going to help us. Kevin, the past years I almost never talked about technology. You know that. So I'm not the one that says technology is going to help us all. But you see the past year and a half, the past two years, just working on a screen doesn't make sense. It's really difficult. It's really difficult to find a group feeling. To find connection. To really be like: togetherness. If you're friends, if you're family, if you're colleagues, It's really difficult. And then, I understand what Bill Gates means.

For instance: Microsoft is doing really great work to change, maybe, the Teams-setting to this virtual reality. So, wherever you are, you can connect with your colleagues and can really work together. But you're an avatar, of course. But for me this is a very interesting phenomenon because it's not something new.

It's not something like: oh, Mark says something new and now we have to jump on it. No, the moment he says something like that, that's maybe something that helps us to grow at the end. Because it's not only his voice. Microsoft is doing incredible work. In the blockchain-world there are so many metaverses being created, today. It's enormous. It's very interesting. To see how much research and development there is, today.

So, we're going to need to give it some time. Definitely. But I truly believe that this idea of a metaverse will grow. And a metaverse, in my opinion, is not just a virtual world. Because with a virtual world, we always think about those glasses. But virtual glasses are just one tool. If you talk about internet, you don't talk about iPhone. You can enter internet with other...

You can enter internet with a computer. Or with your watch or something like that. But we'll see what kind of tools are getting important in the future.

But it is a multiverse. We talk about metaverse but it's actually a virtual multiverse. There are a lot of virtual worlds out there. And I hope that not one company will rule them. I hope that it will be fully decentralized. And that Facebook is going to be one world within the metaverse. And maybe Teams is going to be one world. But your event is also going to be one world.

Yes, because that's where I wanted to go.

Suppose we're at the phase that people actually go in a virtual world to the office. Then the step of doing virtual conferences and thing like that is very small. Why should we need to fly to Spain, for example, to have a conference there, if we can all go virtually. You see the speakers on stage there and have the same proximity feeling.

Okay, I know there are some other disadvantages. You don't have the chats in between and so on. But that step will be very small. And maybe there will be a time that we will be organizing events in those metaverses.

There are already a lot of events now happening in those metaverses. I just did an entire lecture in a metaverse. And I followed an art exposition in a metaverse last week. So there's a lot of things happening.

I think metaverse is going to be a place where we indeed work. Or where we gather. But where we also find entertainment. And where we consume. And where we consume for our virtual worlds. But where we also consume for our real world. So you can go to a conference and maybe buy a book of a speaker there. And you will get it, immediately, virtually. But maybe you can choose to also get it delivered to your home, in real life. So why not go to a virtual world of H&M and buy yourself some clothes for your virtual character? So you can walk around at your next conference, Kevin, with those clothes on, as a virtual character. But maybe you really like that t-shirt and you just also buy for your real life.

So we've been talking the past five years, maybe longer, about the phygital world. Where physical and digital comes together. I think metaverse might also be an evolution of this. Where you can work together online. Where you can meet each other online.

Because you said there is no chat. There will be chats. Definitely. Because you are in that world. And if the speaker or when the entertainer, the concert stops, you're still there. And that world won't stop. It's not like a game where you log out and the game just freezes until you just enter again. No, the world will keep on evolving.

So if you have an eventplanner-event and I will enter it and after thirty minutes I go to another world and two hours later I come back, people are still there, people are still discussing.

If you look at internet and evolution of internet and mobile internet. For me metaverse is just the next step. Is it thé future? It's a future. It's a future evolution. And there's going to be a lot of conferences, events, entertainment, shops, education, within those different metaverses. Different worlds. But it doesn't mean that it is going to be the only one.

I think if you're going to create your real life, events are going to very valuable. And if metaverse is going to be the biggest trend, your in real life event is going to be just luxurious.

But for me, what's really important for the event industry, but of course not only for the event industry, is that you find people who are actually fascinated by this. And are going to try stuff out. Same thing when you look at e-commerce.

In 2008 I was talking about e-commerce. And a lot of: it's not interesting. But if you, at that time, start playing, experimenting...

It's all about having a future mindset. Not just reading, like: okay, Mark is saying this. Ha, ha, ha, ha, we'll never do this.

But it might be possible that we're going to do this. And actually: it is, now, already happening. People are playing games within a metaverse. People are going to concerts in a metaverse. I do lectures in a metaverse. There are so many opportunities there. And it is just starting out. So, if you, like...

It's a hype now. Because of Mark. Because of Facebook. But the hype will pass. Definitely. But the research, the money going into these metaverses, please follow it. Understand it. And have fun. Experiment.

Why not have your next management meeting within a metaverse?

Why not have your next client conversation in a metaverse? To just see how this...

What kind of impulses you receive and what the possibilities are.

Sorry for interrupting your very interesting episode, Tom. It was so interesting that it took over 45 minutes. And we decided in the editing room, to cut it up into two different episodes. That's why we will end the first episode here. And next week we will show you the rest of the interview on NFTs.