The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in thousands of conferences and events being cancelled worldwide–in the tech sphere, these include Apple’s WWDC, Microsoft Build, SXSW, LiveWorx, Okta Oktane, E3, F5 Agility, and many more–and at the rate we’re headed, more are likely to cancel or postpone. Thanks to a slew of virtual conferencing platforms, many of these events impacted by COVID-19 have been able to transition online. But still, even if participants can view the presentations, a key element of the experience is missing: In-person interactions. 

A new global event engagement platform, Event Farm, is presenting a solution to the problem. The Event Farm platform can process registration and payments, and by teaming up with VirBELA, a virtual reality platform that built a digital event space, they are now introducing a new way for participants to experience a conference. After the coronavirus hit, “we started to look for a solution, and we came up with this about two weeks ago,” said Nate Mansfield, director of product at Event Farm.

In the Event Farm space–imagine you’re in a Sims video game–attendees are able to virtually network, attend meetings, and speak to other participants, just like they might in the real world.

Mansfield took me on a virtual tour. After downloading the software for the program–which can take up to 30 minutes if you have a slow internet connection, like I do–I followed him around the conference in my avatar, through an auditorium and different meeting rooms, walking, running, and even high-fiving other participants. (You can also shake hands, dance, wave, clap, and more, if so inclined). Like in the real world, as Nate walked closer, the volume of his voice raised, thanks to the Echo, which is an “events-experience technology,” Mansfield said.

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We walked up on a stage for a virtual event, and I could choose which way to look–towards the stage or the audience–and whether I wanted to zoom in or out on different presentations through different buttons in the interface. There’s also an exhibitor space, where customers can put logos and other material up on the boards.

When we stepped inside of a blue box, we entered a private meeting space. The display for ACME was on the board. I could have a private conversation with the exhibitor, if I wanted, in this space–there’s even the option of locking the door to ensure the conversation would be private.

Conference organizers can determine how many people to invite to each conference, or even each meeting space. Attendees have the option of recording the audio from within the app, if they want to return to the session later on. (In terms of privacy, it’s important to note that what you say in the virtual conference should be “considered to be like the real world,” Mansfield said. In other words, anyone else could be recording your conversation.)

Event Farm is already using this technology with Google, Facebook, Oracle, MSFT, and Nike, and other large companies. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the physical conference space, this kind of platform is a welcome solution to keep the workforce safe–and because it will help eliminate the need for traveling, could save companies money, as well.

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