Virtual Events for Business: What are they and how are they different?

When you hear the words “Virtual Events” or “Immersive Environments,” what comes to mind?  Geordi from Star Trek? Perhaps a giant question mark since they sound so foreign?

Gina Schreck, Social Media for Business, Virtual events, technology speaker

I’m Attending a Virtual Event

Many of us participate in virtual events regularly via webinars and streaming video events, and if you want to get technical, even a conference call is a virtual event.  Now what comes to mind are probably visions of sleepy office scenes with participants multi-tasking while a speaker drones on and on in a monotone voice (no, I wasn’t on that call with you yesterday!).

Virtual events have become a necessity in business today, for meetings, learning and more. There are different virtual platforms for different uses and we tend to get stuck with one or two because it’s easier than learning how to use new technology.  I have used many webinar platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx, AdobeConnect and ReadyTalk.  While webinars do allow for participant chat, the platform is typically flat (few if any can run video clips without the possibility of hiccups) and we have all learned how to multitask during the webinar, only tuning in if we are called by name or asked to complete a poll or other activity.  I have found the platforms that allow for participants to use annotation tools and actually write or use draw tools on the slides can be more fun and engaging.  When I tell participants to “draw on the tech tool you use most” they go crazy, marking all over the slide.  It is fun to watch!  People will try to write with the freehand draw tool instead of chatting, which is GREAT because they are actually engaged.

I’ve also been involved using hybrid virtual event systems such as Unisfair, On24, and InXpo, where they combine video streaming with slides, audience chat, a few social engagement pieces, and some cool 3D conference entry points where you can see the different breakout sessions being offered.

Gina Schreck, virtual events, technology speaker, social media for business

Virtual Hybrids

These are extremely engaging for larger conference events where you have keynote speakers and breakout sessions.  Attendees can be both live and remote or you can host the event completely for remote attendees.  They allow participants to pop into the sessions they want to attend and skip the sessions that are not relevant to them.  These platforms are for one-to-many communication.  The speakers deliver the content and the attendees can interact via chat.

The most engaging, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the 3D immersive environments.  I say this for several reasons, one being the environments are so different from anything you have probably used, that your brain is trying to grasp what is going on.  You are hearing each person speak with 3D sound, which means the people on your right are heard on your right (if you are wearing a headset or have good computer speakers), and the person on your left is coming through in your left ear.  The person’s avatar who is standing further away sounds quieter than the avatars right next to you.  The avatars are gesturing when they speak and their little cartoon lips are even moving.   These avatars gather in conference rooms, open-air amphitheaters or possibly a build that resembles the inside of a computer as someone points out the changes that will take place in the new product roll out. Another reason 3D immersive is more engaging is the simple fact that there is so much going on visually.  Participants are not just looking at slides on a computer screen (although sadly many people load up boring slide decks in virtual environments just as often as they do at face-to-face events).  Participants are IN the environment.  They are moving their avatars around and taking in all the amazing visual surroundings.  All the other participants are avatars in the same shared environment and they are looking at the same documents, slides, or even white board.

Gina Schreck, Virtual Events, Social Media for Business, Technology speaker

Second Life for CREATIVE LEARNING

There are many different 3D immersive platforms and not every 3D environment is created equal.  I have found Second Life, Teleplace and VirtualU to be some of the best for business and learning events (many will have other opinions and by no means is this list comprehensive so please chime in with more that we should check out in the comments).  Without going into too much detail, here is why:

SECOND LIFE– Most people have at least heard of this platform, but many have only heard the strange social networking or personal gaming side of the platform. I love the flexibility of Second Life; the ability to change and create your environment to enhance your outcomes.  Avatars are more realistic looking and can be customized until your heart’s content.  This picture here shows an education conference that was built around a desert theme and the creativity was MIND-BLOWING!

Some of the downsides to Second Life are the intense graphic nature of the program (gaming computers are ideal, but most of today’s PCs have great graphics to run the program) and the fact that this “world” is most like our real world, in that anything that you can think of, you can probably find in Second Life somewhere.  I tell people that virtual environments are event and destination driven.  You log on and attend an event or go to a specific location and when you are finished you log off.  If you start wandering around and looking to see what else is in this environment, you will find some strange places and people, just like you would in our real world. (Trust me, I’ve been lost in New York before!)

TELEPLACE– This is a great platform for people new to the 3D immersive idea.  It is great for business meetings and is most like a webinar than any other that I have seen.  You do have simple business avatars (or you can choose a lego-man body with your photo in the square head-see photo of green lego-man here) and you enter the business office or conference center.

Gina Schreck, Virtual Events, Technology speaker, social media for business

TELEPLACE

The choices and customization of avatars is very limited and your environment is less flexible as well, which can be a good thing for some businesses, who are a little tech-skiddish.  With Teleplace, you download a small program (much like GoToMeeting) and within 10 minutes you are ready for your meeting to begin.  You can share video, websites, documents and slides, which makes it great for small group meetings and corporate training classes.

The downside to this tool is they are not set up for event pricing (one event this month, two next month and perhaps none the third month). They require annual licenses and it is a bit pricier than other platforms.

I believe we will continue to see greater adoption of virtual events as travel becomes tougher and budgets become tighter, but also as technology becomes more and more engaging to use.  Dive in, learn about these virtual options, but then attend one for yourself in each environment to see how you could use them.

We host regular webinars and meet weekly in our Second Life campus for business discussions, classes and professional networking.  You can join us for FREE on Thursday nights 6pm (PT)/9pm (ET) by clicking on this link to begin setting up your account-it will place you in our campus when you are finished with the set up. http://bit.ly/6aINpd

Gina Schreck, Virtual Worlds, Technology Speaker, Social Media Second Life, VirtualU

Gina Schreck

 

Gina Schreck

Let me know how we can help you and your organization use today’s technology to build your business or manage your brand.  Contact me on Twitter @GinaSchreck or email me Gina@socialknx.com

Fanning the Flames of Innovation

I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Tamara Kleinberg’s BlogTalkRadio show yesterday.  We discussed the importance of maintaining that sense of adventure and exploration in order to keep the flames of innovation burning bright.

Here is the podcast from our 30-minute chat-let me know your thoughts!

Adventures in Technology with Explorers, Skeptics and Cowards

There have always been explorers, from Magellan, Columbus, and Amelia Earhart to modern day adventurers like Robert Young Pelton, John Goddard and Jeff Corwin. And for every explorer there is a crowd of people shouting, “You are wasting your time! You are chasing a delusion! You are following a path to destruction…” (Okay, never mind, that was what my friends and colleagues have said to me!) Skeptics abound where explorers dare to dream, and the other crowd that gathers is the cowards. Those are the ones who say they will go AFTER the path is laid, After the path has been proven safe and AFTER there is a safe number of other cowards to walk with.

Exploring new business models or learning methods is no different. It takes an explorer to go first, to try new technologies, to dare to fail…or succeed! How many times have we heard, “Twitter is dead!” “No one will ever attend a serious business meeting or class in a virtual 3D environment!” “Facebook is on its way out and it is not a business tool!”? More times that we can count. The future depends upon those who will venture out into unchartered waters. Those who embrace the unknown or unproven to try something so radically different that others whisper as they walk by, “She’s the crazy one who has students using their cell phones in class!” “He’s the one who gives his product away for free and thinks he will make money…and what’s up with a name like Google?”

Last week I spoke at an event on a technology panel and a woman approached me after and said, “Isn’t all of this just hype? I mean Facebook is for teens to play games and talk about hating their parents. Businesses shouldn’t be wasting their time with these when there is real work to be done.” After I suggested anger management classes to her, I started to explain that we can no longer do business the way we used to do, and the new world of business requires new tools and then I stopped. I realized she would not be persuaded by such a lunatic as I. She would need to wait safely on that other side of the digital CANYON for the next covered wagon to come and get her. Ironically, that same day we read that Facebook reached an important milestone for the week ending March 13, 2010 and surpassed Google in the US to become the most visited website for the week. Yep, sounds like a waste of time for sure.

What waters must you cross to reach the new world in your business? Who is telling you it can’t be done? Who is saying they won’t follow you? Remember, the future is already here, but only the explorers are bold enough to enjoy it! There are oceans of opportunities waiting…are you an explorer, skeptic or coward?

~

Share your thoughts on exploring new worlds in your business or industry. Where is going? What are you doing to prepare?

Twitter: @GinaSchreck
Facebook: Gina Schreck
Second Life: GinaSchreck Denver

Speakers and Trainers are a CHALLENGE to Event Planners

I am attending a great conference today, The Virtual Edge, which is going on physically in Santa Clara, California and also being webcast and brought into several virtual platforms so that people can attend from all over the globe.

A planner from Disney was on a panel and he said that one of the challenges to pulling off successful virtual events is “Getting presenters or trainers up to speed with the technology.  Most are not there.”  This really hit me and made me sad to think that professional speakers and trainers are seen as a CHALLENGE to pulling off successful events using the latest in technology.

As professional content deliverers, we need to be leading the way, not chasing the bus!  Whether it is webinars, teleseminars, live video-streaming, or virtual world events, it is time to get out front and lead the way.  Quit being one of the challenges.

If you need someone to walk you through any of this give me a Tweet– a Facebook shout out or even an old fashioned email or phone call! 🙂 We hold regular MeetUps in our virtual world campus where you can practice as you learn to grow your biz–ask me for information on My VSTA (virtual speaker’s and trainer’s association)

Today’s Technology for BIG Learning Nuggets!

How do you create a learning event that has everyone engaged, excited and connecting BEFORE they even begin?  How can you keep the learning alive long after the classroom chairs are stacked and put away.  Combining today’s tech tools like Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Wikis, videos, virtual world platforms, and more, you can extend your learning events and raise the retention on any material covered.   LET US SHOW YOU HOW TO TRANSFORM YOUR LEARNING EVENTS and use the tech tools your teams are already using!   Connect with a Synapse 3Di Expert NOW.