Conferences and events have historically presented excellent opportunities for businesses of all kinds to get out and network and learn from industry experts. They enable collaboration across topics of all kinds; from branding and lead generation to industry education. During an unprecedented pandemic like what the world is currently experiencing, we need to look to new ways to approach these events that enable the same kind of innovation and relationship building while being mindful of everyone’s health and wellbeing.

The costs often associated with both planning and attending industry events can be staggering. They often take a year or more to line up. For businesses, it can really add up between buying booth space, travel expenses for teams, and developing the collateral to present. It’s often one of the largest line items in a marketing budget. As marketers get more and more pressure to keep costs under control and show ROI, event participation has come under more scrutiny.

There have been many attempts to do more digitally by offering videos and virtual events such as webinars. But these tend to be one-off experiences that don’t provide all the social and collaboration benefits of in-person events. Until recently, this social element has been very hard to replicate digitally.

Augmented and virtual reality have the potential to bring valuable change to this industry by delivering highly immersive, collaborative digital experiences with all the social benefits of events. These technologies are able to gather detailed data that can be used to personalize event content and participation for each company or each participant segment. Like many new technologies, AR and VR went through an early phase when the cost and complexity of implementing solutions for use cases such as events were prohibitive. It often required significant development budgets and large ongoing maintenance costs just to produce one application that wasn’t always scalable. However, today’s fully productized immersive solutions offer highly accurate and precise AR technology plus administrative tools and flexible business models that make it easier to implement, manage and scale.

With the right combination of VR and AR software, any event venue can be transformed into an intelligent digital environment and once digitized, can provide event marketers with the ability to inject an ongoing stream of new content and immersive experiences. Not only are AR events immersive, but they can also be much more efficient to produce & manage. Once a venue is digitized, content can be injected into the space remotely, access can be managed via an administrative tool remotely, and administrators gain detailed data analytics that can serve to improve content, customize experiences and create event efficiencies.

Another huge benefit of digitizing a physical venue with AR and VR is that it creates new digital real estate. This new digital space offers many opportunities for new monetization models, which can be particularly helpful for industries whose revenue streams have taken hits in the current economic environment. This could include new digital advertising and an endless possibility of promotions that combine the digital and physical world. The detailed stream of data that is gathered from AI/AR applications combined with these new digital spaces gives event marketers a high level of control over these new monetization opportunities. As AR evolves and the physical and digital continue to merge, event marketers can reap the benefits of these new revenue streams that may one day exceed the physical ad and promotion revenue.

The COVID-19 crisis is setting the stage for a new era of events and conferences as businesses look for alternative options to travel. We are at the point in development that business ready AI/AR platforms exist and can offer real value for event marketers that want to offer highly immersive digitized experiences and gain access to detailed analytics to create efficiencies and personalize content.

To garner the full benefits of AR, event marketers should seek fully productized software platforms that leverage existing hardware, offer flexible business models, and provide the ability to automatically scale to multiple events and locations. As AR continues to proliferate, event marketers may find that it’s a cost-efficient way to offer new experiences that complement their physical events and conferences. Businesses may find that AR events are a more cost-effective option that provides a higher ROI, while still offering all the collaborative and learning benefits.

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The article Can Immersive Tech Save Industry Events? by Emil Alon first appeared on AR Insider.