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.
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.”
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.