Are Businesses Burning Out on Virtual Conferencing?

Virtual consulting companies are popping up across the country, but could these Metaverse entrepreneurs be miscalculating the scale of corporate interest in virtual worlds?

One report argues that 2010 will see a marked downturn in corporate interest in virtual conferencing and digital events. Could the boom time be ending already?

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what's in store.

The Uncertain Future of Virtual Events

Pixels and Policy recently looked at some of the major obstacles preventing widespread adoption of virtual world technology by businesses, but one article makes the point that simplifying the user experience may not be enough to keep recession-smacked companies interested in avatars.

HyperGrid Business recently published an excellent piece outlining what consumers and companies can expect from the Metaverse in 2010. The predictions are certain to disappoint some diehard techno-optimists. From the article:

In the B2B market, we now have plenty of users who have attended two or
more virtual events.  If virtual event show hosts continue to use the
same graphical templates, organize the same presentation agenda and
re-create an identical experience to their last event, then “relative
response rates” will drop – meaning, it will become harder and harder
to recruit users to register and attend.

Metaverse entrepreneurs are falling victim to the same foot-traffic problems government sims suffer, apathy brought on by a lack of changing content. Corporate clients may sit through one or two identical seminars designed to showcase the eye-popping power of virtual worlds, but without a major face-lift, virtual consultants could be preaching to empty digital seats.

The decline in industry interest is coupled with a move towards more professional sources for video conferencing and virtual work: Companies are no longer going to tinker with Second Life if they can receive a product tailored to their corporate needs and free from flying penises. The HyperGrid article sums it up well:

Multinational corporations have adopted high-end video conferencing to encourage collaboration and save on travel costs. They have the budget to invest in Cisco Telepresence or HP Halo.

As those same corporations look to adopt virtual events (e.g. for an annual virtual sales meeting), it’s only natural that they incorporate the video conferencing technology that they already have running.

In short, the success of virtual platorms for work and conferencing has created a market for professional solutions. Second Life introduced the trend, but it is rapidly falling behind as bigger companies view developing virtual work platforms as a less risky investment. The success of Second Life may end up dooming its relevance.

Nothing said so far is set in stone, and shifting economic circumstances could have a broad impact on how well virtual commerce and conferencing fare in the new year. What's certain is that companies hoping to hawk virtual solutions to brick-and-mortar companies will have to become even more innovative and original as the field crowds with competitive names.

Immersiveness will be key in 2010, as increasing video card capability brings forward strong virtual commerce contenders like Blue Mars. Decreasing graphics card costs and markedly upscaled processor speeds will only drive this point home.

The availability of multiple options for corporate conferencing means programs that produce a streamlined user interface, immersive graphical experience and integrated voice controls will fare better than clunky, graphically-challenged programs like Second Life Enterprise. Dogs are finally eating each other in the virtual conferencing world.

In the Metaverse, innovation is the stuff of life. Companies may end up doing a lot more of it over the next year.

2 thoughts on “Are Businesses Burning Out on Virtual Conferencing?”

  1. “HyperGrid Business recently published an excellent piece”
    Actually, if you read to the bottom of their article, it was reprinted from:
    http://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/2010-predictions-for-virtual-events/
    note that the blogger is Director of Product Marketing at http://www.inxpo.com/ … meaning he has a bias against competing platforms.
    “If virtual event show hosts continue to use the same graphical templates, organize the same presentation agenda and re-create an identical experience to their last event, then “relative response rates” will drop – meaning, it will become harder and harder to recruit users to register and attend.”
    This is speculation. Where’s the proof? Instead, I see companies like IBM and World2Worlds and lots of educators re-using the same space and getting people to come back again and again. The other side of the argument, which the study doesn’t address, is that people tend to like familiar things, and will return to things that feel familiar.
    “Corporate clients may sit through one or two identical seminars designed to showcase the eye-popping power of virtual worlds, but without a major face-lift, virtual consultants could be preaching to empty digital seats.”
    Here, you’re talking about something else. You’re talking about meta-conferences. Yes, indeed, people will get bored of going to virtual world conferences promoting doing conferences with virtual worlds. But at the same time, I think the same people are ready to move into the actual content, and not just “let’s use virtual worlds” presentations.
    “Second Life introduced the trend, but it is rapidly falling behind as bigger companies view developing virtual work platforms as a less risky investment.”
    Rapidly falling behind? That’s debatable. I definitely agree that Linden Lab risks missing an opportunity if they don’t release a business product that’s priced more toward middle-sized businesses – which SLEnterprise is not.
    “as increasing video card capability brings forward strong virtual commerce contenders like Blue Mars”
    I seriously doubt it. Most clients I’ve had over the last four years could barely run Second Life, and still barely can. Blue Mars’ graphics – its big selling point – is still 3 to 5 years away from having basic off-shelf computers run it easily. And while I might put Blue Mars for entertainment market, or perhaps b2b, I certainly wouldn’t classify it as a “virtual commerce contender”, considering its complete and utter hands-off policy with content creators.
    “The availability of multiple options for corporate conferencing means programs that produce a streamlined user interface, immersive graphical experience and integrated voice controls will fare better than clunky, graphically-challenged programs like Second Life Enterprise. Dogs are finally eating each other in the virtual conferencing world.”
    Yes, the multiple options are making them compete. Yes, a big area of competition is withe the user interface.
    But no, this is nothing new, nothing “finally”. The products have been out there for a decade and a half – so far the only platform that I’ve found that is 3-D and immersive and has a better interface than Second Life is Teleplace. The dogs aren’t eating each other. It seems like there’s no companies out there who put user interface as a top priority in their design.

  2. hmm.. WE at Pixels and Policies caught speaking out of our arses again;) chill max;)
    Virtual EDGE summit – where SL wasnt quite important;) and the other dozen exhibiters all finding some work;) for the next year/
    Comdex 2010…..all virtual, all web
    Cloudslam 2010 … i know a wee bit about its virtual expo system and the tech and such used:)
    http://cubicspace.wordpress.com/
    lets see how its goes…will be one of the first realtime 3d immerive browser based trade shows..one click in….and its a solution that is very unlike trying to do a conf in SL or a Flash based 2d interface.
    as one whose seen this meme in and out over 15 years online… virtual conferences that are rt3d- are just starting to be real.

Comments are closed.