Creating a trade show entirely for the digital space presents so many more opportunities than simply just attempting to move a traditional trade show model into the digital space of the Metaverse. The digital world of the Metaverse is still in the very early stages of development, and we have yet to be able to fully experience the Metaverse as it is intended (or theorized) to be. However, events that are produced for and are experienced in a digital environment are very much happening today, and we as a society are already becoming increasingly accustomed to virtual and hybrid experiences.
A trade show designed entirely for a digital world can be a completely different experience than an onsite one. A trade show in the Metaverse could be more dynamic and more engaging - if it is produced with intention and approached with expertise, of course. At Happily, that would mean forming a Happily Team of specialists from all five of our studios: Experiential, Web, Broadcast, Creative and Strategy.
Firstly, think of time globally, rather than just nationally. The moment any event is placed on the internet, it becomes accessible to a worldwide audience. So suddenly the trade show floor is not just open from 9am to 5pm for a Pacific Time Zone audience - it can seamlessly move across time zones to continuously welcome a range of attendees and audiences, if you so wish.
On that same point, time no longer means that a venue space has been hired for two days and that is the set duration of the trade show. The trade show floor can be available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for as long as desired. It could even be a permanent virtual space, where communities or individuals gather on a regular basis.
On the same notion of time, the idea of the physical venue dictating the number of attendees, of exhibitors, of zones - is gone. Instead of finding the ideal onsite venue, a custom venue can be designed in this digital environment. A venue that accommodates an endless and dynamic list of international exhibitors, with various zones and stages. The function, flow and programing of the trade show can enform the venue, and not the other way around.
Creativity and design rule the Metaverse. The money spent by organizers and exhibitors for a trade show in the Metaverse would be allocated and spent differently. “The metaverse is a great equalizer. You just have to find really creative designers and have a good imagination. You have to spend more time in pre-production and really designing out all of the stages, interactions, experiences and layers before you ship. But with all of that, you can have a much more interesting experience than what you would have on the trade show floor.” - Sarah Shewey, Happily Founder and CEO
The implications of both these loose concepts of time and space in the Metaverse would also come with advancements in opportunities for programming, sponsors, and exhibitors. None of these things would be limited to a few days, and could be rolled out and rotated over weeks or months.
The benefit of having a whole new world to create an event in, means that you have the opportunity to reevaluate the whole experience. Start by determining what real world experiences are meaningful about these events for attendees. The rituals embedded in how humans experience events, how we engage, how we start conversations, are still important to the success of a digital trade show.
These rituals may be as basic as entering a space via a lobby area, collecting a lanyard, having to ask someone for directions, deciding where to sit, or interacting with strangers while waiting in a line. Think about how those moments contribute to the overall experience of an event.
Then you can translate the rituals that resonate, cross out those that lack overall meaning, and then craft new rituals specific to the new virtual space. The deciding factor between what to bring over and what to drop, is determined by which engagements are transactional, and which are relational. Which interactions are purely logistical, and which can we use to build a relationship and connect with a fellow human in a meaningful way.
Don’t think of booths at a digital trade show as simple 3D replicas of an onsite trade show. A booth in the Metaverse can be a mini venue within a venue, it can be a mini show, within a show. This is the space for infinite creativity to represent your brand with an experience for attendees to connect with.
Any trade show booth experience - whether in the Metaverse or in real life - needs to captivate attention, generate a memorable experience, provide product information, create personal relationships, and achieve meaningful interaction. As long the Metaverse booth experience ticks off these things, there are no rules on how they are accomplished.
One of the main and many reasons events are so important is that sense of collective experiences that they create for us. That feeling of shared memories, and that energy that builds in the atmosphere knowing that you are experiencing this together and in that moment you feel connected to all the other attendees.
Designing this feeling in the digital space is a challenge. However, anyone who is a ‘gamer’, who is part of an online gaming community and platform - such as Twitch - will know that it is absolutely possible and a wildly fulfilling space to build meaningful connections through a collective virtual experience. In this respect, the gaming industry is much more advanced than the events industry, with years of preparation, huge budgets, expert design language for world building and intimate knowledge on how to design interactions to create a collective consciousness and central sort of high.
In the world of virtual events, pre-recorded and live content each have their own place and their own advantages. In the Metaverse and all this talk of a detailed designer experience, let us remember that having some live content can still be an important element for human connection.
The very nature of live content means that it will at times be less polished and a little clumsy compared to pre-recorded content, however, those are the moments of relatable vulnerability or charming awkwardness that allows the audience to know that they are right there in the moment with you - just like a shared experience.
The one thing onsite trade shows still have over a virtual one, is being able to enter a space and completely gauge an overall vibe. To overhear snippets of conversations, to absorb the laugher or emotion of voices in the collective audio of the space. To be able to quietly observe something or someone from far away so you can understand if you want to get closer, or how to approach further. To eavesdrop from behind a door or around the corner and decide if you want to enter and participate.
These real-life ‘threshold’ moments of being able to appraise the environment and let multiple sensors guide your journey is an underdeveloped piece of the puzzle. We are aready seeing it being developed in virtual venue platforms such as NOWHERE, however, a complete mastery of spacial audio technology in the Metaverse will be essential to creating that atmospheric buzz and energy of events and trade shows.