The SLENZ Update – No 59, March 21, 2009

SL training & orientation

Business meetings: a lesson for teachers?


The experience gained from doing business and holding business meetings in Second Life are sometimes denigrated by academics as not being applicable to the education or learning situation.

However, the recently published IBM case study demonstrated  that  internal meetings  work well within Second Life  while  the work of  Trade Promotion Management Associates (TPMA) has shown  that  even “complete newbies”  from around the world   and a variety of enterprises can have a worthwhile experience on a first time visit to Second Life, if that visit is properly managed.

Amanda Linden, after noting in  her Linden blog that the technical, cultural, and usability challenges faced by the TPMA “brownbag event” had the potential to wreck the  160-avatar/participant Second Life  conference last month,  said it went off without a hitch due largely to the work of Grondstedt Group, TPMA’s in-world partner.

The key to the success? Proper orientation and training.

Grondstedt, Amanda Linden said,  had led all participants – from  manufacturing, retail, and industry analyst firms – through a 30-minute training session and all speakers and exhibitors through a 60-minute training session to ensure that when the conference day arrived, everyone was ready to walk, talk, text chat, and participate in this new virtual event experience.
Her three-question interview with Diane M. Berry (pictured), the CEO of  TPMA, detailed just how valuable  The Gronstedt Group’s  technical experience and know-how, MUVE training, Second Life beach-themed island ownership and  building skills had been.berry-diana-m

The Gronstedt Group, Berry said, had removed all of the technically challenging aspects even though on the non-technical side there was still a lack of knowledge and awareness of Second L ifewhich created a “bit of a hurdle for  speakers and sponsors.

She added, however, that the TPMA meeting had been more productive than any virtual conference that the Vendor Compliance Federation and TPMA had attended or run, including webinars, because “it is such an immersive experience; attendees have the responsibility of responding to their avatar’s surroundings, including other individuals, so there is some “social pressure” to pay attention.

“The entire experience approaches the value of an in-person meeting,” she said, but added, “there really is no substitute for developing relationships through in-person, shared experiences, and I believe these must be mixed into every organisation’s marketing program.”

According to Virtual World News, Gronstedt  estimated the industry savings from the free event  to be more than US$200,000, made up through the elimation of  hotel costs, flights, and other expenses. There also was a considerable time saving involved, despite the need for training.

After holding the IBM Academy of Technology Virtual World Conference and the Annual General Meeting in a secure environment in Second Life, Joanne Martin, president of the academy, said, “The meeting in Second Life was everything that you could do at a traditional conference -and more-at one fifth the cost and without a single case of jet lag.”

The  200 plus IBM participants were offered pre-conference training on the basics of Second Life to make them comfortable communicating and navigating within the environment.

IBM estimated the ROI for the Virtual World Conference was roughly US$320,000 and that the Annual Meeting was executed  at one-fifth the cost of a real world event.
“IBM has been making a significant investment in VWs now for two years. …. it’s time to take it from research to reality, ” Karen Keeter, an IBM marketing executive, said.

But there are risks …


Nick Wilson (pictured), of Clever Zebra, has also weighed in on  “why Second Life rocks meetings” but he has also delivered a note of caution about the “very real risks associated with Second Life events and virtual events in general” suggesting ways  one can mitigate virtual worlds risks in “why Second Life sucks for meetings.

Clever Zebra was the first company to hold a large-scale public business event in Second Life and to date is the only group to have successfully run a “tri-reality” event together with IBM and Cornell University.

On the upside, besides slashing meeting budgets,  Wilson lists ease of building, functionality, flexibility and other attractive features of the Second Life meeting environment  which means “putting together elaborate, engaging and highly productive event environments is much, much cheaper than other platforms.”wilsonnick21

But on the downside he suggests everyone planning to hold an event in Second Life  – a meeting or a class – should ask:

  • Are you prepared to have all of your guests logged out of your event, and dumped into a public “welcome area” when they try to log back in? This actually happened to us during a seminar we were giving to paying clients. Needless to say it was not the best experience for anyone.
  • What are you going to do if logins are disabled while engineers try to fix the problem that’s caused all of your guests to be logged out? What if they can’t login for an hour or two, will they come back and participate hours after your scheduled start time?
  • Will your speakers (students/teachers?) busy schedules allow them to hang around waiting for normal service to resume?
  • How will such a disruption reflect on your organisation? Is telling your guests (students/teachers) it’s not your fault good enough?
  • How will such disruption affect the future of your virtual events (classroom?) project?
  • How will it affect your career?

Although directed at business these also are all worthwhile questions for the academic teacher/facilitator. You possibly ignore them at your peril.



2 Responses

  1. Interesting post. I reckon having a slightly more reliable web conferencing facility as the entry, exit and fall back point would mitigate most risks, but dillute the impact of the SL experience some. Many people used to the webconference facility, and some who spent a wad of time just trying to get there, would be reluctant to then go the next step into Second Life. But if there were problems in SL (as there nearly always is for people inside organisational networks) at least we have a web conference room to fall back on and sort out communitation to get back into SL, or to progress the meeting all be it powered down.

  2. […] Business meetings: a lesson for teachers? The latest from SLENZ covering the IBM Case Study, the Trade Promotion Management Associates meeting and some risk analysis. […]

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