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Why Most Virtual 3D Events Fail

Ever since the pandemic put the kibosh on real-world events, tech platforms have tried to bring back 3D experiences that try to mimic the cavernous conference halls and keynote sessions. Here’s why they miss the mark.

We’re in a phase in the industry where everyone is trying to figure out the meaning of hybrid. It could mean a conference in 3D or omnichannele-commerce, depending on the type of event.


However, the “hybrid” concept has served up some curiously baffling executions.


If you were to tell someone that going forward, events would mean sitting on a computer and speaking to other people in a tiny rectangular box or walking through a 3D exhibition hall, would you feel excited about the future?

When do 3D Experiences Suck?


They Try to Replicate the Real World

Conferences are designed for meeting like-minded people and industry peers. It’s no surprise that virtual conferences try to recreate the feeling of just bumping into each other at the hallways with 3D renders. But do people really want to be at the same exact version of Moscone Center online? They really don’t offer much from a digital experience other than interesting-looking skin for 2D content. Some examples of these Half-brids are vFairs and Meetyoo. Attendees can easily get bored after exploring for a few minutes.

They are glorified Zoom presentations

Attendees are expected to spend $2000 on a conference, don’t expect a slide show on zoom where they “Sit” next to other attendees. The experience needs to be significantly different than what they would find during a status call.

They Turn Attendees Into Strange Real Life Avatars

3D technology is still trying to catch up with the conference circuit providing somewhat cartoonlike experiences. Instead of feeling inspired to connect, attendees can feel the awkwardness and digital fatigue. What they need is a refreshing alter-ego.

“I play as a 7ft tall Viking called Avril who is nothing like me. I wouldn’t want to be myself, a 43-year-old woman from Catford.” says Ellie Gibson, a games journalist and host of the Extra Life gaming podcast,

When do 3D Experiences Work?



When They Feel like Magic


The VR experience with the Dali exhibit Dreams of Dali is a good example of an immersive experience that is unlike anything possible online. The mistake conferences make is to create Avatars in conference venue settings when VR could do so much more. With the new emphasis on the Metaverse vision, this is a ripe area for innovation.

When They Suspend Reality

In the digital space, you could be transported anywhere. No rules. No gravity. No reason to live underwater. You can have a conference in the Lost City of Atlantis or Mars. Why limit yourself to Moscone Center?











When they are designed for a conference, NOT a trade show

Consider 3D if you’re doing a Conference — focused on consultation, education, exchange of information, or discussion with a formal agenda.On the other hand, if you are doing a trade show which is an exhibition for companies in a specific industry to showcase their latest goods, e-commerce and leads are more important. 3D feels gimmicky.

If you can get all the pieces to work together, then attendee engagement would increase. We were panelists at Hopin, a virtual platform for a Payments conference. While our panel presentation was recorded, attendees could chat with us during the conference.But the fact is, nobody is actually planning on doing digital events any longer than they need to. And they’ll skip out when you go half-brid instead of hybrid.

When you Should Skip 3D

When You Are Complementing a Physical Show

Trade shows can be inefficient, frustrating, costly, and even frivolous in certain ways, but they work. So the goal should never be to replace the physical show. The goal for digital is to add deliver what IRL cannot, in terms of experience and revenue.


When the Focus is on the Exchange of Goods

While some shows are focused on networking and education — for example a career fair — the objective of a home or toy show is sales. Orders are typically written on an order form or facilitated via email. The process can be streamlined if the trade show can manage the ordering process. In this case, a 3D booth or avatar experience is frivolous.


When You Want To Expand to Your Remote Buyer Base

Buyers may not be able to attend a show for several reasons. They may have conflicting show dates, or their department may have budget cuts.In this case, online closes the gap. If your trade show can attract 250K attendees to the show floor, you could easily double or triple that number with an online component. But they don’t need to float around like avatars. One of our customers, Shoppe Object saw 60% of all registered buyers attended the show online and an increase in private video meetings.

When You Need End-to-End Commerce

In a survey of 5000 retailers by Joor, 74% buyers are now ready to buy goods worth $50K online. 24% upto $500K. This is money on the table which show operators and exhibitors do not want to lose by clouding in a 3D walkthough.


When You Need to Provide Private or VIP Access

The advantage of digital is the ability to create exclusive moments for high-profile buyers. It could be early online access to the physical show 3 days prior to the event. Or they could get a sneak at the new collections online. They could engage in video conferencing. Again no 3D required.

When Success is Measured by Volume of Purchase Orders

Most show operators where physical goods could go on retail shelves, the number one metric is sales followed by seamless experience between buying in the physical and digital world. In this case, an onsite order writing, online commerce takes precedence over 3D.The root of the problem is trying to create a digital replica of the physical space online. This is what we call a Half-brid experience. A half assed attempt to make attendees feel like they are at a real event.

To Summarize:

What 3D virtual events have you been to that blew your mind?

Vinit Patil is the CEO/ Co-founder of Ribbon, a modern platform for Tradesfairs and Art Fairs, and Showrooms. To request a demo visit meetribbon.com/digital-shows

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