The last few days have marked the massive bust in virtual events: Verizon closed down BlueJeans, Run The World bought by EventMobi, and Hopin’s event management platform was acquired by RingCentral.

Hopin was valued at $7.6 billion and now appears to be valued at around $400 million.

Verizon paid $500 million which is now effectively written off.

Run the World raised $15 million including from Andreessen Horowitz. While a sale price wasn’t disclosed Techcrunch noted that there were 500 events recently listed, down from 15,000.

What went wrong?

Not dissimilarly to the dramatic back-to-office shift after Covid remote work, now that we are able to do events in person, demand for virtual events has plummeted.

Akin to “travel revenge”, everyone is keen to get back to in-person events. My professional speaking was for two years entirely virtual. This year I have been back to travelling around the world, with only one remote presentation all year.

But another important point is that none of these platforms ever created a compelling virtual event experience. They were all largely based on physical event metaphors, and while there a handful of interesting innovations, none brought them far beyond a glorified video call.

Will we get to a point where we can have engaging virtual events in the Metaverse, using avatars and next-generation glasses?

Probably, but the timeline on this, including people becoming comfortable with the new environments, is likely 5-10 years.

In the meantime virtual events will still be significant and a gradually growing proportion of overall events. But virtual event platforms are unlikely to be a massively lucrative sector.