Best Practices for Hosting a Conference in VR

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By Marshall Mosher, Founder and CEO of vestigo † Taking remote teams to the next level through VR adventure

More than 200 years ago, the world’s first conference was held in Vienna, Austria, when the Congress of Vienna met to establish the territorial divisions after the Napoleonic Wars.

Modern conferences may be less focused on gathering people to settle territorial disputes, but the collective spirit of collaboration is the same, attracting large audiences who come together to hear from leading brands, opinion leaders and trendsetters. These conferences are at once a professional development opportunity, a social gathering and a medium of entertainment.

Attending conferences became an annual tradition for many professionals. It’s an annual tradition for people who want to break out of their daily routine while learning the latest best practices, networking with industry peers, and encountering new ideas and perspectives.

This all came to a dramatic end in March 2022 when the Covid-19 pandemic canceled personal events around the world. More than two years later, things still aren’t the same — and they may never be.

In response, companies have switched to digital offerings. A research showed that 41% of B2B exhibits introduced a fully virtual offering in response to the pandemic. The experience is not well translated. About 70% of Americans say they prefer in-person conferences, a sentiment shared by many businesses eager to connect with their customers and B2B counterparts.

However, more than a third of potential participants say they don’t feel comfortable attending in-person conventions, and these events only have achieved 53% of their attendance levels in 2019

This presents a unique challenge for companies that want to offer team conferences in 2022. If in-person conventions aren’t ready to return to prime time and Zoom conferences aren’t an attractive alternative, companies will need to innovate.

The metaverse provides the perfect opportunity to reimagine the conference experience for 2022 and beyond. Hosting a conference using virtual reality combines the cost-effective and efficient qualities of a digital meeting, while integrating the human elements that often make the face-to-face experience so compelling. Providing an incredible team conference with VR can be a game-changer, especially when hosts are responsible for the unique experience, technology and content that combine to create an unforgettable experience.

Here are three ways hosts can achieve these results at their next VR conference.

1. Build a VR specific experience.

Most VR conference events take place within certain apps that are considered metaverse companies. Using these platforms, companies can bring diverse participants together in virtual reality.

AltspaceVR is the most popular platform. Available on HTC Vive, Oculus, Windows Mixed Reality and Apple or Microsoft desktop mode, participants can easily download AltspaceVR. By entering a code, they can be teleported to the meeting so that everyone in a group can listen to a speaker, socialize together or navigate an expo.

In addition, hosts can create portals that teleport people to the next environment, allowing participants to travel between different worlds, experiences and conference events.

In many ways, VR takes the traditional conference experience to the next level. For example, if the speaker is an astronaut, attendees may gather in a space station to hear the presentation.

VR conferences are redefining what is possible and expanding the experiences available to participants. Simply put, a VR meeting doesn’t have to involve a conference center, rows of seats, and a podium. It can take place on the side of a mountain, the shore of a beautiful beach, the crater of a volcano, or any number of captivating spaces.

2. Get the right technology.

Businesses can host VR conferences using any readily available VR hardware, as long as it supports their chosen conference software.

The Oculus Quest is the most popular and available hardware, and the Meta Quest 2 has been described as “the most popular and accessible VR headset on the market today”, making it a compelling recommendation for visitors.

Most importantly, hosts should consider choosing software with the widest adoption so that as many people as possible can join and participate regardless of hardware selection.

3. Develop engaging content.

Ultimately, a VR experience is only as effective as its impact after removing the headset and closing the conference.

Re-creating the existing conference structure is a reflexive option for hosts. However, this approach has limited impact. With VR, hosts can do more by connecting experience to content.

Team conferences can be combined with a breakout session where everyone takes an hour-long walk, increasing the scope and scale of the encounter. Likewise, between speeches, teams can make time for VR mini golf, team games such as defusing a virtual time bomb and even climbing Mount Everest, opening up new opportunities for connection and team building within the conference environment.

Plus, hosts can use the technology to facilitate powerful conversations about diversity, inclusion, and more. By asking participants to change the look of their avatar so that it doesn’t resemble themselves, facilitators can connect impactful images with key, challenging ideas that define today’s workplace.

Team conferences and gatherings have been part of our culture for hundreds of years. The recent pandemic may have forced us to change our approach, but it doesn’t have to diminish the results.

Rather, this could be an opportunity to refine and improve the conference experience, making it more accessible and impactful for everyone. This is an opportunity to innovate, so don’t be afraid to try something new by pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and challenging those in attendance to do the same.

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