Second Life is a reality. A lot of companies have jumped into this new adventure and you can tell there is a substantial amount of business going on. I was amazed to read an article on how event planners were requested on SL. I asked myself how would I plan a SL event. Since I found no answer I decided to ask Allison a more experienced and well known SL event planner.
Allison is the co-founder of Beatenetworks. Beatenetworks is the leader in content delivery solutions for the emerging immersive web ecosystem. They are building the pieces that will efficiently align virtual worlds with the current means of interfacing to the Internet, in order to provide content providers and users the information they need.
The vision of Beatenetworks is to provide the technology and service for dynamic narrowcasting within virtual worlds. As the web begins to transform from the paradigm of web pages to one of 3-d avatar based interaction, the implications for narrowcasting in terms of marketing, advertising, on-demand services, etc. are profound. Avatars move about in a 3d landscape, and as such, are exposed to multiple entities within their field of view (including sound).
Unlike the current web, which presents the end user with a single location and flat 2d-experience, virtual worlds expand the user experience such that one may view the equivalent of several web pages in any given field of view. Because of this, the "signal to noise" ratio is vastly increased, and generalized marketing and advertising will prove ineffective in this space.
Beatenetworks offers a solution to marketing in this new world wide web. Their latest project is the Networker 3.0 listings.
But let's get down to business and see what Allison told us.
1. What kind of event would you say is more suitable for Second Life?
It is important to remember that Second Life is a specialized web environment and is greatly suited for events in real time, but the events should be of a kind that can tolerate a certain level of manageable "chaos." By that I mean that you will have numerous conversations occurring simultaneously (like real world events), but also people can and do converse in IM. If you throw voice chat into the mix, things can get quite chaotic.
So overall I would say that the best types of events for SL are ones where "substance" over style matters most, where the attendees can have interaction with in worlds objects or events where the subject matter is substantial enough to hold the attention of the audience.
2. Tell us about an event that you've hosted. What was the atmosphere like?
We have hosted many different types of events ranging from education to entertainment, and events ranging from short events all the way to extended situations that might span days or weeks in duration. An example of one such event was the in world launch of the TUV Saarland, a real world European product certification organization. The event was to introduce the business community to the TUV and its principals.
The event had both a formal and informal aspect, and was a half day event. The activities included a networking session where people had informal conversations, and included live music and fireworks (virtual of course), and a set of formal presentations from TUV management interspersed. Overall it proved to be effective and fun which was made possible by pacing things properly, realizing the opportunities unique to SL and the limitations unique to this venue.
3. How do you communicate the event?
We communicate in several ways. We make use of our website to list events. We use several in world tools such as advertising. Finally, we use our own internally developed tools and network to get the information out about an upcoming event.
4. The day of the event your virtual survival kit is made of...
We always have a plan B. There are so many things that can disrupt an event in Second Life, ranging from griefers (people who crash the event just to cause disruption) to simulator resets to lag to unscheduled grid shutdowns (these are not common, but they do happen). We always have a contingency plan in place for each of these scenarios (and more). They have served us very well. Always, always have a plan B.
5. Three attributes the SL event manager should have.
First, patience and composure. Things can get incredibly hectic in SL, and events make things exponentially more hectic. So maintaining composure is essential.
Second, organization. You will have several things going on simultaneously, so being organized and prepared will enable you to facilitate effectively.
Third, diplomacy. Know when to talk to people who are causing disruptions, and when to eject them.
6. What about corporate events? Could it be an opportunity for companies in SL?
Yes, we have hosted several corporate events in SL. The main thing to remember is that events will be limited in size due to constraints inherent in SL, so don't plan to use SL for meetings of greater than 50 to 60 people at any given location. Other than that, it works great for corporate type events.
7. How do you manage things such as coffee breaks, catering, logistics?
In virtual meetings, we find that breaks are necessary if it is a long event, perhaps a half day event for example. For ambiance, it is a good idea to have things such as a virtual bar and networking area so that people can talk before or after the event. In terms of logistics, SL uses something called the "SLurl" which is a web link that can be used as the meeting location
Make sure this link doesn't bring people into the room at the stage area. I prefer to make the SLurl drop people into the back of the room so that they can orient themselves and not disrupt proceedings should they pop in during a presentation.
8. How do you manage sponsors?
We manage sponsors similar to how they would be managed in RL event situations. The support can range from being featured on event brochures and announcements, having logo placement at the event, having representatives at the event, presenting, providing product demos, listing on our website, etc.
One important thing to understand is that residents of SL are very interested in information, but many are cautious about traditional marketing and spin. It's important that sponsors understand that in this context, substance matters, a lot.