At Swell Fundraising's after-party following the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference, guests tried out a virtual-reality booth from NotionTheory.
Photo: Clyde Jones
Virtual reality and augmented reality activations have a built-in wow factor, as guests put on a virtual-reality headset and are immediately transported to a different world. But in addition to just being fun, a VR experience can also align with the overarching goals of an event. Here are some how event planners and VR companies are reinventing ways this constantly evolving technology can be incorporated into events.
Incorporate sponsor branding into a virtual-reality experience.
Three virtual-reality exhibits ran simultaneously at the NotionTheory Tech Showcase, held on March 23 at Washington, D.C.’s MakeOffices K Street location. One game created a full-body VR experience as guests contorted into Tetris-like shapes while wearing feet controllers and a haptic body suit that triggered vibrations in real time. Guests also tried out a haptic VR glove in one exhibit and played VR basketball in a game with live video capture for social sharing.
These VR experiences also included the branding of the events’ sponsors, including MakeOffices, Red Bull, and local companies like Duke’s Grocery, Denizens Brewing Company, and Edelheiss Wine. Stephen Kae, lead growth engineer at NotionTheory, says that the company’s engineers are able to take brand logos and images from sponsors and incorporate them into the virtual environment. “It kind of triggered some lightbulbs,” Kae says, referring to the executives who tried out the games. “They really got to see how virtual reality can be used as this new medium for experiential marketing.”
Make virtual reality entertaining for a crowd.
With a virtual-reality headset strapped on, the VR experience can be a very individual pursuit. At the Washington Business Journal’s Book of Lists party at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in February, Snap Entertainment created an immersive virtual-reality experience for all 800 guests simultaneously. The exhibit projected images from the headset onto screens surrounding the top trussing so attendees could see the user’s view.
The design of the event’s VR Immersion Cube, from Jeremy Hinds at We're Having a Party, also fit in with the event’s high-end feel. “You want it to be very inclusive,” says Snap Entertainment’s Nick Muzzatti. “It’s going to engage the guests who are watching.”
VR can be more than a game.
New event fund-raising software Swell Fundraising chose to incorporate a VR activation from NotionTheory for its cocktail party on March 24, following the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference. Dubbed the “Future of Event Fundraising,” the event showcased the Swell Slides program, which engages guests through a screen as they compete to be the most social and to raise the most money. Swell Fundraising marketing director Maria Davis said incorporating virtual reality fit with the party’s futuristic theme.
In addition, Davis wanted to introduce nonprofit executives to the innovative ways they could use virtual reality to tell a story and reach donors. “If you're a hospital, could you do VR where a donor is walking through the hospital to experience what it's like for your patients every day, or how you're touching their lives,” Davis says. “I think the most strategic nonprofits will start to use it, and use it in a way that shows their donors how their mission impacts the community, in a bigger way than they can through commercials or even face to face, one on one.”