Virtual Meetings

Work Into Play

Play is not the opposite of work? So says one Virtual Edge Institute speaker.

It was on my calendar Monday to log into Virtual Edge 2010 to hear Stanford professor Byron Reeves talk about how online computer games will revolutionize work and make meetings more engaging. (Reeves has a thesis that’s hard not to like: “Play is not the opposite of work.”)

I also wanted to listen in on as a panel of experts talked about what has changed in the hybrid-events world since last spring. (Skeptics move over, one said. We are now in the knowledge-building part of the game.)

But when Reeves began to speak, I was on an important call with my boss. And during my second session pick, a source called me back with information about a story I was working on, so I missed the panel introductions.

Enter what I like to think of as TIVO for conferences. Virtual Edge Summit has made the entire conference available online, so I could go back and re-watch the portions of those sessions I missed. And drop in virtually on a couple of others. It’s not new technology, but it was a new experience for me to have a virtual conference feel so comfortable.

Thanks to Twitter, I now feel part of a larger community in the hybrid-event world. I read and tweeted on the conference backchannel during the panel (#VE10) — and seeing familiar Twitter handles pop up felt a lot like seeing familiar faces. Reeves’ research at Stanford bears that out: when people engage in collaborative online games, their neurons fire in ways very similar to the way that neurons fire during face-to-face encounters.

It was fun and that — as Reeves said — leads to engagement. Putting people into environments that capitalize on emotional engagement and fun experiences can be drivers of serious business.

The Virtual Edge Summit wasn’t seamless: there were some bumps, particularly when we virtual attendees first tried to log in. But it’s easy to see why this particular conference grew by 50 percent in face-to-face attendance over last year, and many more times that in virtual participation.


Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.

  • Jeff


    Wasn't Reeves great? He was worth the entire trip for me and his message had a lot of great content for the meetings industry. (Yes, I was there face-to-face.) He's also a very charismatic person with a lot of passion and an excellent presenter. I've already bought his book to digest! (PCMA should consider hiring him to present!!!) And, he's just as engaging one-to-one.

    I have to say that Reeves' presentation actually changed minds of attendees who were strong opponents of 3D environments for meetings and events. I can name six people that talked with me immediately after the presentation that said, "He caused me to change my mind and look at virtual events differently. I've changed my position now. I'll be looking at how to add them to my mix of face-to-face events."

    Wow, that's the true impact of quality content at an event. When was the last time you heard people say, "I've changed my mind," after attending an education session at a conference? Been a very long time for me.

    Thanks again for the recap!

  • bpalmer

    Thanks so much for supplying a face-to-face perspective, Jeff. Great suggestion for a speaker at PCMA.

    I also was impressed with what Reeves had to say about the potential danger, likening 3D environments to fire: "All the features are powerful and maybe dangerous — fire is dangerous. It's not good or bad." Plus his kicker: "I wouldn't bet against fun."

  • That’s an inventive answer to an interesting qutesoin