June 3, 2022
How do you bring together a geographically distributed workforce for a major corporate event in a travel-constrained environment at the end of a grueling pandemic?
DXC took on that challenge earlier this year, when we held our annual sales kick-off for more than 1,300 participants — members of our Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) sales team as well as presenters, partners and organizers — without anyone needing to leave their homes. This event was one of our first large-scale forays into the metaverse, using our own DXC Virtual World immersive environment, which is situated on a virtual private island with a myriad of meeting and social spaces.
Having spent my entire career in marketing and communications, I’ve organized a countless number of large in-person events. This was, however, my first time putting together a conference in a virtual world. I’m pleased to say that the team managed to do something amazing in this new format: run an inspiring and compelling event that accomplished all of our goals. The event motivated our go-to-market community; it equipped the sales team with the content and ideas they needed; it provided DXC colleagues with the opportunity to engage with our partners and learn more about the value they bring to our offerings portfolio; and it supported our Virtual First strategy with an immersive and appealing experience, complete with expo space and disco.
The plenary and exhibition aspects of the event were surprisingly successful in providing the ability to make people feel as if they were truly a part of something exciting. The social aspect was also positive — dancing in the metaverse is genuinely fun!
After this experience I’m confident that other communications leaders can deliver equal value to their companies by holding events in the metaverse. Just as we did, you should find it quicker to plan and organize a virtual event, which will give you more time to focus on content, rather than logistics. It took us about eight weeks to plan this event, while a conference of this size in the real world usually would take at least four to six months. The budgetary benefits are unmistakable, as is the environmental advantage gained by limiting the carbon impact associated with travel. It was also great that the event did not feel like a second-best option to an in-person conference — and it was more fun, engaging and memorable than a two-dimensional Zoom gathering. We are still talking about it.
Here are several ideas to help guide you as you venture into hosting events in the metaverse:
1. Factor metaverse training sessions into your timeline. Participants, speakers and exhibitors need to attend training sessions. Creating and moving avatars, presenting slides and broadcasting videos can all be part of the metaverse experience that users should be familiar with. You’ll need trainers to instill confidence among employees that their metaverse experience will be positive and productive. Our metaverse pioneers trained themselves to become experts, holding training and troubleshooting sessions in advance of the event.
2. Include multi-media content. Today, avatars have a finite number of expressions and reactions. To add visual interest, you should change up the format and pace of your presentations with videos, live streaming and music. In all other respects, the principles of what make a presentation good in the real world hold true.
3. Leverage metaverse scalability. You can add new rooms or even buildings at just the click of a button in the metaverse. You won’t find many real-world venues that could immediately create rooms for an overflow crowd of hundreds of people. In our case, we used the capability to add exhibition space as needed.
4. Include opportunities for social interaction and exploration. Like in the real world, people don’t want to be confined to their seats or locked in one space for hours on end. Mix things up and provide people with a variety of spaces and experiences for them to explore and have the chance to network. We used outdoor spaces including a beach, as well as the expo hall and dance club, and hosted a treasure hunt. Give people the chance to experience those serendipitous moments of running into each other, something that a videoconference can’t replicate.
5. Set guardrails. Just as you would in a real-world setting, be sure to have parameters in place to limit access and protect privacy. For instance, assign permissions to enter certain spaces for certain periods of time, or not at all. That might be the best way to keep people’s avatars from mistakenly wandering across the stage during a presentation (yes, that happened to us).
6. Wrap in a real-world experience. Add an additional dimension of togetherness by sending participants something in advance that they can enjoy together during the event – for instance, picnic snacks for people to munch on during a virtual beach party experience. It adds the element of taste and smell that can’t be replicated in the virtual world (at least not yet).
Will virtual-world events ever entirely replace real-world ones (especially as travel restrictions ease)? We don’t think so. But the metaverse is an outstanding addition to the tools we can use to bring large – and small – groups together for greater intimacy and engagement than you can offer via traditional videoconferencing technology.