Julia Streets

The Metaverse holds significant importance for event producers and organisers due to its potential to revolutionise the way events are organised, executed and experienced. From gathering enhanced data and analytics, to extending global reach and increased engagement that could significantly increase the bottom line, the Metaverse is here and is a huge opportunity for us to expand our event portfolios. But where do we start?

We talked to our very own trailblazing conference emcee, and host of “Metaverse, What Matters?”, Julia Streets and asked her to give her ground-breaking insights into the Metaverse following the launch of her chat show filmed in the Metaverse and published on YouTube featuring Dr Catriona Wallace, an award-winning AI technologist & founder of the Responsible Metaverse Alliance (RMA)

First things first, please can you explain to us what the Metaverse is and how it is being used in event activations currently?

 It’s a great place to start and the Metaverse is defined as a network of interconnected virtual worlds with the key characteristics of presence, persistence, immersion and interoperability. 
Many technologies come together to create very powerful experiences in these worlds. Today many of us are talking about artificial intelligence (AI) but this is just one part of the equation. 

There are 160+ Metaverses bringing together extended reality (a catchall term for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and everything in between), decentralised ledger technologies (known to many as blockchain), neuro-technologies, optics, bio-sensing technologies (think biological recognition as one aspect of this), improved computer graphics, powerful hardware and extensive network capabilities.  
For a more plain language definition, I really like Dr Louis Rosenberg’s definition. He’s the chief scientist at the Responsible Metaverse Alliance and describes it as

‘persistent and immersive simulated worlds that are experienced in the first person by groups of simultaneous users who share a strong sense of mutual presence’.

So when Dr Catriona Wallace and I meet in the Metaverse and record the show we sit side by side as 3D avatars. And Dr Rosenberg’s right, we have a very strong sense that we’re actually sitting side by side, even though she’s in Sydney and I’m in London. It’s incredibly powerful.
There is a natural lean towards imagining this is most relevant in the world of gaming, but the Metaverse potential extends so much further. Just think about how it can bring access to education. Today it’s being used in delivering medical support and training, commercial and municipal services, travel experiences, events and so much more.

For me the key is to follow the money. According to McKinsey in 2022 alone, more than USD 200 billion was invested in the Metaverse and it’s estimated to generate more than USD 5 trillion of value by the turn of the decade.

It’s already being used for meetings and also large-scale events. Artists are hosting concerts and events in the Metaverse. Travis Scott attracted an audience of 48.5 million people, Ariana Grande 27 million, so early mover artists recognise that they can extend their reach and a single event can attract audiences from right around the world.

In our discussions on ‘Metaverse: What Matters?’ Dr Wallace shares her expectations that this will be the dominant way in which we’ll live, play and work within the next 5 to 10 years. To my mind events and conferences sit firmly within the realm of work and some starting right now.

At the same time, organisations are developing private Metaverses for their employees, customers and communities and within this they’ll be wanting to find ways to bring people together in an engaging and compelling way. Today they largely do that through webinars, imagine the potential of meeting as avatars, just as Dr Wallace and I do in the show, only on a larger scale

Julia, you have already been called upon to host, curate, chair, moderate – even voiceover – a wide variety of Metaverse discussions, shows and forums, do you see this becoming even more mainstream as industries recognise its value?

Absolutely. Whatever their attitude, I believe every organisation’s digital and innovation division will have the Metaverse somewhere on their horizon. There does seem to be a rather split opinion right now about the pace and scale of adoption, but use cases are emerging and in June I’ll be curating and hosting the Metaverse stream at the Fintech Week, London conference talking about how the industry is adopting and adapting. 

As with all technology developments the edge will be found in the user experience (UX) and providing a service that solves for a particular customer challenge. So if the cost of bringing your communities together is prohibitively high and/or you’re concerned about the carbon footprint of your event, you can begin to see the value and potential. It’s true that face-to-face in real life matters, but do all your events need to be flesh pressed when you can high five (and yes, you can) as avatars?

But where there are opportunities, conversely risks exist and I weave these into our many discussions. I really like The Responsible Metaverse Alliance’s charter framework as it’s a great way of anchoring these key considerations. 

Briefly, there are four pillars:

  • Responsible Metaverse practices
  • Responsible Metaverse Platform Regulation
  • Responsible bridging of virtual, digital and real worlds
  • Ensuring Inclusiveness in the Metaverse

We need to have a very rigorous discussion about consumer protection, standards, regulation, policy and governance, inclusion and best practices, and these must be weaved into every discussion on every physical or virtual stage. And the industry is responding. 

Do you agree that the metaverse will support events in becoming more transformative and inclusive, and can you give us an example of this?

On the one hand I’m very optimistic about the potential to reach communities around the world, but of course the risk is that it becomes the preserve of the digitally enabled.  As I write I’m mid-flight back from having been the emcee for a Latin American payments conference in Miami. A really key element of the payment’s discussion is how to reach the ‘unbanked’, i.e. financial and, therefore, digital inclusion. So digital empowerment is really important. 

Also, we must ensure that inclusion is embedded into every aspect of creators’ design and development processes. We must ensure that products and services are designed to be fully inclusive, bringing the very best diverse brains to the table. 

I know from hosting DiverCity Podcast (divercitypodcast.com), one of the worlds’ leading diversity, equity and inclusion podcasts, that diversity drives better commercial results. 

Whatever your sector or field, enlightened leaders all know that there is a competitive edge to be gained from bringing together truly diverse talent. 

There is a clear need for education, awareness and engagement right now. How do event producers start their journey to planning in the Metaverse and where do they go to learn more about the Metaverse?

I know I would say this, but do check out ‘Metaverse: What Matters?’ This is filmed in the Metaverse and published on YouTube to be available to all. We started it because I was so keen to learn more and I’m so delighted to feature the work of Dr Wallace and her team. She’s a legend in the field, who has just been signed as a new shark on the hit show Shark Tank Australia and has a very strong pedigree in ethical AI.

Also, get involved. Get a headset. Start participating. Read, learn and study. There’s a lot of research out there. The functionality and content will continue to develop, and the equipment prices will eventually fall, but I say why wait? Do you really want your competitors to steal a march?

To view Julia’s Metaverse: What Matters? Episode 1 click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GClIc9IZFQ0&t=23s

For more information about how to moderate in the metaverse, Julia or anything conferenceecmees.com related, email [email protected]