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The event industry’s changed a lot in the last twenty years.

Mobility has streamlined administration and event organization to an unprecedented degree. Cloud computing has brought with it scores of apps that make attendee engagement, remote attendance, and information management easier than ever before. And social media has brought with it an entirely new marketing paradigm, one which every event organizer worth their salt must understand.

What if I were to tell you that stuff’s all small change – that today, we’re on the verge of the biggest evolution yet?

I’m talking about virtual reality – the capacity to send someone to an entirely different world with the push of a button. For event management and beyond, its potential uses are nothing short of revolutionary. Today, we’re going to talk about just a few of the ways you can use it to enrich and enhance your own events – and why you should.

“Virtual reality’s most obvious benefit is that it puts prospective clients, including planners, into any physical location—without viewers having to be physically present,” Reads the Smart Meetings Blog.  “Businesses are using VR in two major ways: They are handing out inexpensive branded VR headsets to potential clients. These headsets work with smartphones to allow viewers to easily browse the location, destination or event of the headset distributor. The goal of this type of giveaway is to stay at the top of clients’ minds by virtually connecting them to a physical place or experience.”

Let’s go over just a few of the ways integrating VR into event management could change the entire industry.

A Vendor Experience like No Other

Vendor demos are more or less intrinsic to trade shows – and many other types of conference. Vendors from all corners of the industry come together to strut their stuff and hawk their wares, hoping to give attendees a reason to make the leap from prospective lead to loyal customer. Virtual reality offers those vendors the opportunity to engage attendees like never before.

A robotics firm could give guests a chance to experiment with a virtual model of their machines. A marketing agency could wow potential clients with a fully-interactive, three-dimensional services pitch. A fashion line could give people the chance to virtually ‘try on’ some of their products through a combination of VR and 3D body mapping.

In short, the potential uses here are almost limitless.

“A virtual reality demo can be used to give people a fully realized and immersive experience, “showing” them in the truest sense of the word,” explains the Cievents blog. “Some other usage examples include exhibitions, for showing ideas that are too big to rely on people’s imaginations alone. Architecture plans, for instance, would no longer need to be pitched in paper or model form; a VR experience could be created to guide people around the completed project in incredible detail.”

Virtual Venues

An enhanced vendor experience is only the tip of the iceberg here, of course. In the near-term, virtual reality (and its close cousin, augmented reality) can be used to augment existing events, giving attendees the opportunity to interact with the event space to a previously unheard-of degree. And in the long-term?

Three words: completely virtual events.

Imagine if instead of having to manage travel expenses, lodging, and venue management, an organizer only needed to pay for server space. Imagine if they could craft a custom-tailored, virtual event venue that was a perfect fit for their core objective in every way, shape and form. And imagine if all it took to explore that venue was putting on a headset.

“In the future, virtual reality could provide attendees an amazing experience with a lot of physical products being brought in,” explains Inc. contributor Murray Newlands. “Virtual reality could also make it possible for people all over the world attend and experience an event without physically being there.”

This isn’t simple science fiction. The technology to accomplish this definitely exists, even if it’s still in its infancy. Orbulus, for example, is a mobile VR app that allows users to explore a wide range of physical venues.

An Exciting New Frontier

So what’s it going to take for us to get from wearable tech and augmented experiences to virtual, digital events? What needs to happen in order for event organizers to craft beautiful venues that exist entirely in the digital realm? Truth be told, it’s already happening.

“The most common question businesses and intuitions ask when considering virtual reality is, “How do we get virtual reality into our customers’ hands?” This is a fair question, but one that is becoming irrelevant,” Says Smart Meetings. “Myriad VR headsets are hitting the market. For example, Oculus announced that Rift would be available in the first quarter of 2016, which industry insiders are pointing to as the tipping point for virtual reality and the time when businesses will need to fully adopt this technology.”

True virtual reality might still be a decade or more off. But at the same time, there’s no denying that it’s coming – and that when it does, it’s going to change the face of event management like nothing else ever has. It just offers too many benefits not to.