Will the Metaverse Change the Way Association Professionals Meet and Network?

The Metaverse is real now, so how will your association keep up?

By Jorge Luis Rivera, CAE, IOM

Shot of a young businessman using a virtual reality headset in a modern office, metaverse

At the end of 2021, tech giants, led by Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg company’s keynote, started talking about the future of social interaction on the web, most notably the building of the metaverse. 

Defining the metaverse can be an exercise in vague explanation, since it is only now being built, but the concept generally involves connecting existing and newly created online worlds to create a virtual reality that exist even when users are offline. The stated goals shared by creators is the ability to bring people together in a shared virtual space.

As with many online tools, the metaverse will be associated- at least initially- with gaming and entertainment, but what can association professionals look forward to on this next iteration of technological connectivity? A few thoughts come to mind when looking ahead:

A New Way to Work from Home … or Anywhere

We have gotten used to working using conference video tools, like Zoom or Teams. The metaverse promises to take that 2D environment and transform our meeting from interacting on camera to being fully present in the same room. Current iterations use VR headsets allowing users to collaborate with tools, such as whiteboards, in real-time, and even the ability to bring in your current workstation, with the appropriate compatibility, with you to the virtual workspace. Individuals are represented using avatars and cross-compatibility with conference video tools enable those without headsets to take part as they would today.

Virtual Conventions

After a two-year hiatus, conventions and in person meetings are back and while not quite at pre-pandemic levels, there has been a pent-up demand to meet in person.  Many doubt the metaverse will replace the human interactions anytime soon. Co-existence is the most likely scenario, similar to what we are experiencing now with virtual and hybrid conventions, events and exhibits. Companies are hard at work to create the tools to build these environments  which will allow participants to interact and attend virtual environment that will mirror much of the real world with the addition of overlaying digital tools. Imagine seeing the specs of a new product in a trade show simply by tapping on the product or talking to a prospective member at a convention who may speak a different language but having it translated in real time. These tools can transcend current limitations we face, giving association professionals added tools in our networking portfolio.

Movies Featuring the Metaverse

We can think of several movies that feature a virtual world akin to the metaverse. Here are a few our editors came up with. If you have more to share, sound off on the FORUM thread in MyForum’s All Member Meet Up!

Increased Participation

For the promise of the metaverse to be fully realized, improvements and decreased costs for the hardware, as well as correlating with an increased adoption must occur to get the widest participation possible.  With enough adoption it will make sense for creators and event organizers to invest and host successful events. Previous challenges in real world events, such as budget or time constraints, hesitation or commitment to attend a live event, or issues with international travel will become less of a hurdle if readily available lightweight headsets were all that was needed to participate. That can help create a more inclusive and collaborative way to share our organizations’ vision.

The idea which involves our next convention, exhibit or meeting in the virtual world might still be years away, but as younger generations grow up in the world of Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite, the idea of being comfortable in creator generated spaces will become second nature to the next generation of the workforce.  And while serious issues have already become prevalent, and must be addressed,  thinking about the possibility now that these tools may have for the future of associations can help us become part of the creator class and not just the spectators.

About the Author

Jorge is the director of membership development for the National Roofing Contractors Association and a member of Association Forum's Content Working Group.

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