Conferences in Second Life

Physical conference events are becoming more and more sophisticated and I remember realizing this when I attended one situated in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles which was impressive for a start. I had intended during the first coffee break of the day to meet with the information manager of Pfizer Europe. As I exited into the break rooms of which there were many I was greeted by a representative in a black suite who was part of the conference coordination team. He asked me who I would like to meet. He had a headset on and as I let him know, he was immediately relayed information as to which table the Information Manager of Pfizer was taking a biscuit off at that precise moment and took me across and introduced me to him. This to me was the height of coordination and service.

Now let's step into the virtual world for a little while should we. I was privileged enough to attend a evening seminar (Knowledge Management Leadership Forum in Melbourne) this week where the speaker (Helen Mitchell from CPA Australia) had Project Managed the development of and coordinated a conference session on Second Life. Now for those of you who are new to the virtual world, Second Life is a whole "other world, " which exists in Cyberspace. It's a world portrayed much like our own where you are represented as an Avatar which can walk and talk(though your headset) and interacts with other avatars, who are real people sitting at computers, pulling the strings with their keyboards. A seminar in Second Life has chairs and stage along with all the wonderful other things we take for granted when we attend such an event, all taken care of by the Event Coordinator and a vast behind the scenes team. These things we take for granted are plants, seating setup the colour of the carpet and the room, backdrop and much much more. In Second Life this all has to be built from scratch after you hire the land to build it on or you could hire the venue at a lesser cost. There is a massive amount of detail to consider if you were to build it yourself so once again there are software development companies who do it for you on specification.

The benefits of doing a conference session or seminar on Second Life is that you will get a group of people together from disperate locations be they regional or intercontinental who would never have met otherwise. So I can hear you say why not use Video Conferencing. Well herein lies the rub; it's not the information disseminated during the conference which is always the most important aspect but rather the knowledge and concepts you gain through relationships you make and one on one communication with attendees. In a Video Conference you dial in and there is a list of attendees on the side with all the focus on the speaker. In a Second Life conference session you enter the realms of a real world conference you get to meet the attendees at breakout sessions of before or after the session . If you walk past someone without saying hello they see you do this. If you sit down next to someone in Second Life there is a human pressure to say hello and introduce yourself which you would practically never have in a Video Conference. The sophistication of the event coordination, I expect could easily get to the level which I experienced in Versailles or more advanced.

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