Yesterday I took part in a meeting with approx 100 people from a multinational company. It was a regular meeting with regular outcomes but there was a twist. The meeting was held in a business equivalent of Second Life. 100 people from around the world immersed themselves in a virtual environment for 3 hours to chat, see presentations, hear from the ‘boss’ and to see how this technology could be leveraged to run large meetings/workshops.
Once inside the environment there was 15 mins of familiarisation by the waters edge before heading off to the main conference centre. The main presentations were shown in a large room with a podium in the middle. The presenter would walk over and control his PowerPoint presentation from there. Yes, PowerPoint in a virtual world….it doesn’t seem right for some reason. There were multiple screens where you could view the presentation, and if you stood on a blue circle you would see the presentation in full screen. As the presenters went through their slides they were talking over the teleconference (just like you would with WebEx etc). Attendees could ask questions via the chat panel at the bottom, whisper to each other or just sit back and watch/listen.
Overall I was impressed. Although it looked like a old video game, just seeing the other attendees move around and talk to each other made it feel like you were really there, all in one room. I even had someone whom I’ve never met, but worked with for a long time, rush over and wave at me before saying “it’s good to finally meet you!”
Elsewhere in the environment you could wander into break out rooms and watch videos that had been uploaded in advance.
Here are my conclusions from the virtual world meeting:
• people still rush over to the boss after a presentation to get his ear (seriously, it must be human nature)
• people feel more confident to speak up
• fooling around does happen but not like I thought and it was over with quickly
• someone needs to facilitate, it’s like any other meeting
• technical barriers were not really a problem (users on a whole got to grips with it very quickly)
• the likes of WebEx do the whole presentation thing a lot better
• the likes of WebEx lack the ability (at the moment) to make you feel like you are really with the other attendees
• drop the corny avatars (knights, princesses, cow boys etc) please – you just don’t need them in a business setting
• you do actually feel like you are in a real meeting with real people – something you don’t quite get in a telecon/videocon
• I can see companies really going for this kind of technology but not just yet
Technorati Tags: enterprise 2.0