Cameron Roberts explores how NFTs can be used to benefit events
The events industry is emerging from an era of digital only events to return to the live setting. But there is no escaping that the online world is now tied to events businesses, and ground-breaking technology will shape the future of events.
This symmetry between the digital and physical world is echoed in the use of a non-fungible token (NFT), which look to replicate real world value for digital files. I spoke to Monique Morrow, senior distinguished architect emerging technologies at Syniverse about how the technology can be used by events businesses.
What is an NFT?
As with any emerging technology, often the first barrier to entry is cutting through the selection of acronyms, tech-jargon and pie-in-the-sky theories that surround the idea. We’ve seen it with blockchain and AI, but NFTs are remarkably simple due to parallels in the physical world.
Possessing an NFT is like owning a collector’s item. So, in the same way one might own the only copy of a painting, NFTs give exclusive rights to digital files. Similar to artwork, in the real world NFT art can sell for eye-watering amounts, with Beeple’s ‘Everydays — The First 5000 Days’ going for a reported US$69m.
Morrow said: “When something is fungible, it can be exchanged, it’s essentially cash, if something is non-fungible it cannot be changed. So, a non-fungible-token (NFTs) is the digital representation of a physical object, it cannot be exchanged but it can be invested in, and it has value.”
For decision-makers in the events space, the question may not be if they can use NFTs, but how. The practical applications of the technology in today’s market are relatively simple, which might be what’s needed for early adopters to lead the way.
Morrow details uses in the short term, saying: “Think about the application whereby you can have a digital ticket to an event that becomes an NFT. One of the problems with ticketing is that scalping occurs, so if it becomes an NFT and you use blockchain it become more immutable, so that’s a prime example of how to use the technology in events.”
By combining NFTs with blockchain, organisers can not only track the movements of the digital ticket, but also create intrinsic value in the online file as it is the means of access to an event.
While purely practical uses for NFTs might be appealing for organisers looking to adopt the technology in its early stages, Morrow spoke about the potential uses being more linked to attendees’ emotions.
She said: “Having been an attendee to many events, I have a whole host of conference badges, and having them as an NFT is an interesting avenue for me. Why do attendees collect badges? Because there is an emotional attachment to events there.”
As well as being used to create an emotional attachment to online files, the technology can also be used to gamify the attendee experience to retain delegates and reward those who attend multiple events.
Morrow said: “If the events industry at large adopts this use of NFTs then organisers can start gamifying the experience; say you’ve collected three badges from an event series, then you could have access to an exclusive speaker or session. Now your badges have become a token.”
As events increasingly have a digital presence and utilise the omnichannel model, it’s natural that any show will exist online in some capacity. NFTs could be the answer to creating an engaged audience in the virtual space when we finally return to live.