Really effective: There’s nothing virtual about virtual meetings

voiceoverip meeting

Amanda Van Nuis, Enterprise Marketing Director at Linden Lab, wrote about her first virtual meeting experience with her colleagues in Second Life and about how she “wasn’t 100% convinced that working in virtual worlds really works.” It sounds like an authentic record of her experiences and some commentors have contributed little stories about how valuable immersive environments for meetings and brainstormings are for them. While it seems natural that people working in the virtual world industry use their own products in their everyday office life many people from the most innovative industries still don’t “see” how virtual meetings with third dimension add any value.

Dennis Shiao posted a list of efficiencies he’s seen with virtual office meetings (please read his article where he elaborates on every point):

  1. Lower overhead to start a meeting
  2. Facilitates ad hoc, spur of the moment collaboration
  3. Material related to the meeting is at your fingertips (or a mouse-click away)
  4. Immediacy
  5. True facial expressions

I’d add another two points to that list:

6. Social bonding (by having fun)

7. Inspriration & motivation (by having fun experiences)

Karl Kapp listed some advantages of 3D environments for learning the other day and we had a discussion about the “fun” factor that’s an important ingredient in any learning situation. I believe this is true for meetings in an immersive environment, too.

In addition to the social “water cooler effect” 3D environments (and in some cases even 2.5D) add value because people are having fun with it. Here’s why.

Laughing together not only builds a better rapport and therefore improves the corporate climate, but it also motivates and inspires people. Since people tend to loosen up in virtual meetings (try not to if you’re sitting across a giant turtle – your graphics designer – or the Wizard of Oz, who happens to be your technical director) and things get a little more playful if you’re able to “magically” materialize anything you have in mind (or on your desktop). Psychologically speaking those are the basic ingredients for new ideas, group inspiration and motivation.

What’s astonishing even for me is that these effects also happen in 2.5D spaces.

Just yesterday I evaluated the Meetsee.com beta again and I invited a colleague of mine, who is working in another city. Meetsee is a virtual office solution with 2.5D or isometric views. My colleague is no geek and she refuses to use Second Life; a web browser is as far as she would go.

Usually we Skype (with and without video) but now I tried the web-based Meetsee solution with her. She was in-world within seconds after I sent her the link and scribbled a note on the virtual blackboard before we even said a word. So we have zero accessability issues here (in stark contrast to Second Life or others). We had one of the most productive meetings in a long time. It was almost as effective as our face-to-face meetings but without even leaving our desks and driving for 6 hours. And that was no thanks to Meetsee’s technical features, because the most basic stuff like whiteboard, voice- and video conference didn’t even work (it’s still in beta).

UPDATE: Their staff has seen this post and in fact fixed the video conferencing and white board feature – thanks to Nikki Santoro (Meetsee CEO)!

The reason was that we both had the sense of being there together, pointing at important information like we’d do in a real meeting room and having fun by using the emoticons to get our message across. At one point we even discussed a new layout of chairs (by moving them around together in the virtual room and try-sit on it) for our next workshop. Now that is something you can’t do in WebEx or Go2Meeting. The only thing that would have topped this would have been the true sense of proximity that you only get in 3D environments with real indivdual avatars and real three dimensions. Well, like in real life ;-)

Meetsee

Simple virtual office solution for classrooms, meetings, web conferences or panel discussions. If video, audio and whiteboards would work, that is. Meetsee still has to work on it’s technology and become much more reliable and stable. If you want to meet me in my offices to try it out please IM me at LaConsiliera on Skype.

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6 thoughts on “Really effective: There’s nothing virtual about virtual meetings

  1. dshiao schreibt:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with Meetsee, Gaby. It’s important that platforms make it easy for non-technical folks (especially those who are not particularly interested in virtual worlds [for the sake of virtual worlds]). Sounds like Meetsee may be on to something.

  2. Dennis, that’s truly one of the most important issues virtual world creators have to to address if they want to attact mainstream users. May I ask which virtual office platform you use in your company for web meetings?

  3. Hi. It’s great to hear that you found Meetsee so easy to use. Our goal was to keep things simple enough for average office workers who may be intimidated by 3D worlds but fun and functional enough that people come back. I’m very sorry that you experienced trouble with some of the Meetsee tools while you were trying it out. I encourage you to try Meetsee again now that we have worked out some of the kinks. Thanks again!

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