Popular virtual reality (aka VR) headsets offer a world’s worth of experiences. Literally! In VR you actively explore a three-dimensional, 360-degree environment around you, feeling like you’re physically there. Wearing a headset you can visit the Louvre or the Great Pyramids, explore the Great Barrier Reef, watch an Adele concert from the front row and or even walk the surface of Mars.


In case you thought this was only reserved for video games, Silicon Valley is demonstrating that virtual reality can be just as powerful for business as it can be for pleasure. Especially when that business involves meetings and events, which is on the cusp of a new era in planning.


Although it’s still in the early stages, VR has tremendous potential as a long term partner in the meetings industry. The major technology companies -Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook- have all invested billions of dollars into virtual reality.


As this technology becomes a regular part of consumer’s lives, it is going to naturally work its way into events. When it does, the applications for meeting planners, exhibitors, and attendees will be numerous.


Meeting planners can put themselves ahead of the curve by experimenting now.


Site Inspections: Venue previews and tours will only become more sophisticated and immersive with VR, thus saving planners significant time and money by allowing them to create a list of venues without always physically visiting them. They’ll see up close the types of events a venue can produce. Organizers can view virtual experiences of conference halls and venues to get a life-like idea of what holding their event at a specific location will be like. And, hopefully, feel the energy and excitement behind it.


Event Marketing: In the same way that destinations and venues can use VR to market themselves to planners, meeting planners can use VR to market their events to attendees. By capturing previous events in VR, organizers can better market to potential event guests, speakers, and sponsors in a way that still photos and videos just cannot accomplish. Virtual reality puts the guest in the middle of the event and allows them to control what and how they explore it.


Product Demonstrations: As we now know, VR puts you in places you could never be otherwise. So now exhibitors will be able to get into the game at their conferences or trade shows. There is a near future where these exhibitors could use VR at events to promote products and services they previously could only tease with websites and brochures. For example, SpaceX could take customers inside its latest spacecraft, while Nike could take them on a tour of its training headquarters.