Vaughan Rising Blog: Augmented Reality Altering Meetings and Events – Q and A with NexTech AR
Meetings, events and conferences are important ways business people network, learn and conduct sales. According to a Destination Canada report, more than 2,200 business events were scheduled to be held in 2020 prior to the restrictions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact was even worse than predicted. The Destination Canada report states, “As of the end of August 2020, losses incurred for events planned for 2020 by the Canadian business events sector topped $1.04B in direct spending alone, with the cancellation of 2,746 events representing 1.25M delegates.”
How event planning has changed since the pandemic
The report concludes, “The ripple effect of postponed and rebooked events will be felt in the industry for years. This includes tentative business that Canadian destinations were bidding on for future years, which will now be cancelled indefinitely or affected by postponed or rebooked events. Several international conferences are booked up to five years in advance.”
As an alternative to cancelling events entirely, many event planners have turned to Augmented Reality (AR) technology to continue to relay content and promote collaboration.
To find out more about Augmented Reality and how event planners can use it during the pandemic and beyond, Tourism Vaughan contacted Tim Whalen, CMP (Certified Meeting Professional), NexTech AR, to answer a few questions.
Tim Whalen, CMP, NexTech AR
Tim is currently a Senior Channel Manager for NexTech AR, having recently made the jump from in-person to virtual events. He is also Co-Creator/Co-Host of The Illuminate Project Podcast, which strives to shed light on event professionals who challenge the status quo.
An active leader with Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Tim is currently the Immediate Past President for the Toronto Chapter. His passion for implementing new ideas saw him co-create “the EVENT”, which brought together three MPI chapters to formulate a unique educational experience. Helping push the boundaries of the meetings and events industry, the EVENT was named a Rise Award Winner in 2019 for Best Innovative Educational Event by MPI Global.
Tim was inducted into the Meetings+Incentive Travel Hall of Fame in 2016 under the category “The Big Idea”. A graduate of Brock University, he earned his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Designation in 2001.
What is Augmented Reality?
Tim explains, “Everyone knows Virtual Reality…you know with the goggles. Virtual Reality is using virtual components to 100% replace the real world. Augmented Reality is taking virtual components and overlaying them in the real world.”
For example, Tim says, “We can place a virtual Ferrari in your living room or a full virtual tradeshow booth in your front yard.”
“For Virtual Reality, you need those funky glasses,” he continues. “To use Augmented Reality, all you need is your smartphone.”
How can Augmented Reality be used at an event?
Virtual event experiences can feel “flat”, especially when attendees have several events that are held virtually, such as during the pandemic. It can begin to feel like one endless Zoom call.
“Augmented Reality helps meeting and event planners design immersive ‘get out of your seat experiences,’” notes Tim. “Coupled with a strong virtual meeting platform, immersive experiences keep attendees interested and awake.
“People can experience products by interacting with them in their own space through the use of Augmented Reality. You can have an up-close experience with a product, walk around it and interact with it without leaving your office.
“As we soon move toward hybrid events, it only opens up more doors for increasingly imaginative ways to use this cool technology when we get together in person again.”
What are some of the challenges event planners are facing with Augmented Reality?
A lot of the challenges facing Augmented Reality are what Tim considers “perceived” challenges.
He explains, “The technology is so impressive, there is the perception that it is expensive. But now more than ever prices are in a range that are attainable for most event budgets.
“There is also the perception that the technology is hard to use, but advances have made the experiences accessible with only a smartphone and an app.”
What are you hearing from attendees about their AR experiences?
“Attendees are blown away. Think of having your CEO or President, in a hologram form, jump off the screen and give attendees a welcome. It really sets the tone for the event,” enthuses Tim. “It tells your attendees to get ready for something different!”
When in-person meetings start coming back, what will happen with Augmented Reality?
Tim predicts that the use of Augmented Reality will only increase when we get back to in-person events.
“Right now planners and attendees have been forced to embrace technology like never before. This has pushed the meetings industry to get comfortable with new technology. That comfort level will only support taking the best of virtual with us when we get back to meeting in person.”
Two worlds will collide – which will be a huge boost for the meetings and events industry!
What advice would you give meeting planners when they are looking for a supplier for AR for their event?
“Look for a company that not only has experience in Augmented Reality but also has a strong virtual events platform,” Tim advises. “The two go hand in hand and support each other when trying to deliver a top-tier attendee experience.
“Companies that are providing customized white glove service and that don’t leave you on your own to navigate their technology will provide you peace of mind as you deliver your event to your attendees.”
What event planning looks like for the future
The Destination Canada report predicts that events and conferences will return very slowly, and only after a proven vaccine or other treatment for COVID-19 is widely available.
The report notes, “Destination Canada’s most recent pulse check survey saw that event organizers are beginning to research 2021, 2022 and 2023 for new events, and 63% are considering Canada for these.
“Corporate business meetings across the globe have the strongest projections for recovery with incentive trips restarting last. It is anticipated that those sectors which are thriving will drive demand in 2021. These sectors include healthcare, financial services, telecommunications, technology and education sectors. Canadian destinations are well positioned to target future conferences in these thriving sectors.”
The report warns, “The ripple effect of postponed and rebooked events will be felt in the industry for years.” Augmented Reality is a creative, interactive and productive way to offset the negative effects of these cancelled or postponed events and forever change the face of event planning.
For assistance with planning your next meeting in Vaughan, please contact Feiona Gobin, Tourism Development Officer, Tourism Vaughan.
Tim can be reached via the coordinates below:
Tim Whalen, CMP (Certified Meeting Professional)
The information presented in this article is provided solely for the purpose of bringing ideas to the attention of the business community, as a service to the businesses of the City of Vaughan.
The City of Vaughan does not, whether directly or indirectly, endorse, sponsor or sanction the opinions expressed in this article, nor any services or products that may be offered by the contributor/s in their normal course of business. The City of Vaughan does not intend by this article to recommend the contributor/s nor to promote them as subject matter experts over any other business persons employed or engaged in similar lines of business.