Tips From A Successful Virtual Conference

EricadriverBy Erica Driver

Last week, I delivered a presentation about the recent report Web3D: The Next Major Internet Wave at the vBusiness Expo in Second Life. I'll share some of my experiences and observations, as I'm sure that during the coming year many of you will be invited to present at or attend virtual conferences and meetings -- if you haven't already. These tips may prove helpful.

  • Virtual-only is a lot easier than mixed reality meetings. The vBusiness Expo took place only in Second Life, meaning that everyone at the event -- speakers, staff, and participants -- were there virtually. We didn't have to worrry about streaming video of speakers or panelists from a physical room into the virtual meeting room, or displaying the virtual meeting up on the wall in a physical presentation hall.
  • Carefully select your voice technology. For this presentation we used Skype, not the built-in Second Life voice feature, and not the telephone. I know I'm a dufus but even a dufus should be able to use this stuff, right? I always have trouble with Second Life voice -- whether it's the quality of the sound, my ability to mute myself, being clear about who can hear me, or the ability of everybody in a group to hear and speak when they want to. I had a far superior experience with Skype. The conference emcee and I connected to each other a few minutes before showtime and we were good to go. Even though the hardware mute button on my brand new headset doesn't work (grr), I could use the Skype software mute function with no problem. Sound throughout the event was loud and clear with no apparent delay.
  • The "physical" space for the virtual meeting makes a difference. This conference was put on by a company called Clever Zebra, which also built the virtual space where the conference was held. They made a few really smart moves to make navigating the virtual environment easier for presenters and attendees alike. Prior to my presentation, the Clever Zebra folks gave me a "landmark" (think of it as the Second Life equivalent of a Web page URL) to a meeting spot in the presentation hall (see Figure below). Literally, X marks the spot -- see the gray intersecting lines on the floor? You can't get easier than that. Also: rather than attendees having to figure out how to get their avatars seated, they just had to click on a huge billboard that said, "Welcome! Click me for a seat!"

X_marks_the_spot_001_2

  • Plenty of support staff were around to help during the event. I couldn't get the virtual laptop on the virtual podium to move from one slide to the next (because I didn't join the speakers group -- doh!) so the emcee jumped in immediately and advanced the slides for me. Clever Zebra staff kept track of time and communicated with the audience via local text chat when there were delays, or to solicit questions. Volunteers wore red virtual shirts and kept an eye out for stragglers and helped people in the audience get seated.

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