Clever Carly’s Next Hot Topic: Immersive Telepresence (aka Virtual Reality)

Enter event planning’s next digital frontier

Hi there, my esteemed Event Planners! Clever Carly here.

As planners who do what we love day in and day out, we really are a spoiled bunch, aren’t we? But let me recall a time when loading a webpage with pictures was a five-minute ordeal, all of us agonizingly watching each photo load (pixel strip by strip) down the page. It’s hard to imagine that the speed and convenience of things we are now accustomed to would come so fast, but technology is like that. And the truth is that this progress is still in motion—and now, in different directions. 

That’s why it’s important that we stop and look at something coming at us, something that—if history has showed us anything—will be the norm much sooner than we think. It’s called Immersive Telepresence, or virtual reality, the ability to create or remotely create a heightened emotional and physical experience through digital means. (If you’ve ever played Wii and created an avatar to look like you and walk around and talk to other avatars, this could be the apotheosis.) It’s where content consumption is going and, as we and our attendees are content consumers ourselves, where the event industry will certainly follow.

There’s already evidence of the trend cropping up, from remote control surgeries to The New York Times’ new virtual reality app, which plops readers right into news stories across the globe. Even some event planners are ahead of the curve, using Telepresence robots, which essentially are iPads mounted on Segways, to give users the ability to feel present in (and often move about) an office from anywhere in the world. When these examples become the norm, not the exception, our appetites for content will change—perhaps even to the point of equaling in-person exchanges in terms of preference.

So what does this mean for event planners? For one, we’ll have to assume that in-person meetings are not necessarily the default. We’ll need to craft experiences that are just as appealing for someone watching remotely through a headset or a screen. This could mean employing 360-degree capture cameras, or other specific technology far beyond a webcam projecting a garden variety boardroom. 

As this technology becomes more affordable, venues, too, will become a showroom for experiencing new immersive telepresence technology, partnering with suppliers for the latest gadgets to amplify the experience. But more critically, because the focus is on the virtual, it will often take finding several venues that are adequately equipped to connect our attendees remotely. Maybe we’ll shy away from naming an official “location” altogether—it can alienate remote attendees and turn them off, and plus, in no time at all, we’ll have a whole new world to call our own.

Check back in two weeks for more helpful tips. You can find me on meetingsimagined.com, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Until then, happy planning! 

Always your guide, 

Clever Carly