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Though initially isolating, the coronavirus pandemic has spawned a whole new world of digital parties and get-togethers. People stuck at home are finding innovative ways to socialize, participating in everything from virtual beer tastings to online book club meetings.

While the event landscape has been permanently altered by this shift, people and businesses continue to develop new ways of having fun.

"I personally have been loving virtual parties," Catherine Cardona, CEO of Party HarDIY, told the E-Commerce Times. "I can put my daughter to sleep and don't need to find a sitter. Plus, [there's] no commute or having to worry about picking a designated driver or getting a cab. "It's also great for friends and family that don't live nearby. We rarely get to hang out with a cousin in Colorado, but with virtual parties it's like she's right there," she added. "It's also great because you don't need to worry about crowds or reservations. Everyone hops on when they can, and leaves when they want. They can stay on for 10 minutes or all night -- the choice is theirs."

Endless Possibilities with Virtual Reality. Ever wanted to play a tennis match with the likes of Maria Sharapova, or save the world with the Avengers? VR technology has made the impossible possible, thanks to amazing content now available to let users virtually experience stuff they could only dream of. With the help of add-on features or accessories, such as a surround sound audio system or gloves with attached sensors detecting hand movements along with wands and treadmills, VR enthusiasts can enjoy an alternate reality and an entirely different world.

The Art of Digital Events

Digital parties take some degree of planning to be successful, though in many ways they can be more informal and relaxed than in-person events. "Luckily, you don't need much to have a successful virtual event," explained Cardona. "I think there are a few elements that make it better. A good internet connection is one, along with using a quality program like Zoom. This ensures that everyone can get into the event easily and that there isn't a lot of lag. "For bonuses, I think a theme is great. Ask everyone to wear Hawaiian clothes or dress like a cowboy. It's also fun to see people use backgrounds for themes, too."

One key to a successful digital event is to foster a sense of connectivity and engagement among the participants.

"To make the party enjoyable, I think it's important for people to be connected to the party," Cardona advised. "You wouldn't go to a bar and just stare at the TV the whole time, and this is no different."

This kind of engagement is important for more formal business or professional digital events, as well.

"Like in-person events, virtual events demand connection with audience members who require a variety of engagement techniques," Lee Frederiksen, managing partner of Hinge Marketing, told the E-Commerce Times.

VR isn’t all about Games and Entertainment. Virtual reality is being used in the healthcare field to treat depression, anxiety, autism, PTSD and even nicotine addiction with Mindcotine.

"You can hook some audiences with stats, others with stories. Support your content with a balance of both and make them more memorable and personal by folding in sound bites," Frederickson suggested.

Just like with in-person events, planning ahead can be key to the success of digital get-togethers.

"Planning ahead with your guests always makes a virtual tasting run smoothly," Michael Bottigliero, founder and chief sommelier for the virtual-beer-tasting company Bottles Nation, explained to the E-Commerce Times.

"As we ship guests their wine, beer or whiskey in advance, we aim for a 14-day lead time to ensure deliveries get there in time. For us, a successful tasting is when we see the smiles on the faces of our clients. Nothing makes us happier than being able to spend an hour with a group of people, while providing some insight into what they are drinking," he noted.

Virtual 'Kid-Togethers'

Digital events have been especially important for kids, who need to be engaged with each other and the world even when they're physically isolated.

"The number one thing kids miss with remote learning is their friends," Anna Fader, founder and CEO of Mommy Poppins, told the E-Commerce Times. "Playing with other children isn't just fun; it's incredibly important developmentally. When in-person gatherings aren't available, virtual interaction is the next best thing."

A successful, kid-friendly digital event -- like events for adults -- benefits from some degree of planning and organization.

"A little bit of structure is really important," said Fader. "Otherwise, children may just all talk on top of each other, and nobody can really engage. The instructors and performers on our platform have learned how to keep kids engaged remotely and have enough structure to allow kids to have interaction without it turning into chaos."

As with every creation in the universe, there has to be a humble beginning for everything and VR technology was no exception. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the father of this amazing technology, history suggests that it could have been the innovation of not one but five key individuals. First, Morton Heilig for giving users the very first interactive film experience which can be take the credit as the beginning of 3D content. Then, there’s Jaron Lanier, the first person to credit the term “Virtual Reality”; Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse and laid the foundation for the modern user interface; Ivan Sutherland, inventor of the first head mounted display (HMD); and Myron Krueger, a computer graphics and audio wiz.

Within those parameters, there's a universe of possible virtual events for kids -- from birthday parties to circuses -- and people are developing new ideas all the time.

"The amazing thing is seeing how much creativity and variety there is," Fader continued. "People are coming up with so many different ways to create virtual events, from concerts and movie series to classes and parties. We've turned the regular Mommy Poppins local events calendar into a calendar of virtual events, and we have dozens of events every day."

Parties of the Future

Though digital events took off initially because of the pandemic, they're likely to become a significant part of the landscape going forward.

"Virtual events are here to stay," predicted Hinge Marketing's Frederiksen. "As bandwidth improves , and more people adapt, these events will become routine."

As people adapt to the new normal wrought by the pandemic, digital parties will likely become second nature.

"We think more consumers will be comfortable with taking part in these events," said Bottles Nation's Bottigliero. "Being on camera is more the norm these days than ever. As people may limit their airline travel, and as corporations continue to look for ways to get their teams together, we see virtual tastings continuing to grow.

VR Headsets models are moving from computer and phone powered to standalone (no other device needed to jump in VR).

"Our clients continue to recommend our services to their colleagues and friends. It's been a fantastic experience to shift our real-life events to virtual, " he added.

The future might also see a shift toward more hybrid events, which blend in-person and virtual elements.

"A transition from virtual to hybrid is inevitable," Bob Vaez, CEO and founder of EventMobi, told the E-Commerce Times.

"The first step will be having speakers and hosts present live on stage, instead of from their bedroom or home office. Next, small, in-person audiences will be integrated alongside remote attendees. Finally, new technologies that enable increased interactivity between remote and/or in-person attendees to improve group networking and in-session interaction will create truly interactive online sessions," he said.

The future of digital events will likely be as varied and unpredictable as the contemporary world itself -- serving, ultimately, as evidence of the adaptability of human culture and society.

"I hope that virtual events continue to happen long after quarantine ends," said Party HarDIY's Cardona. "I'm excited to see how they adapt to changing times."

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