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Second Life Necessary Stopover for B2B Event Managers

I’m ready to state, without reservation, that Second Life has become a “must know” platform for business event managers. A simple description for neophytes: In Second Life you move a character around a three dimensional environment. The character represents you. You can speak to and interact with other people, who are represented by their characters. It feels like a video game. It’s free to try, but you have to download it and install it on your computer.

Second Life first caught my attention when Visa committed to a sponsorship of over $75,000 to create their own environment and event on Second Life. This was at a time when I was trying to get Visa to take out a minimal sponsorship on a live event where we had a proven audience. I was surprised that they were willing to spend so much on an unproven format.

Here’s what I’ve learned: 1. If a large portion of your audience is spending time in Second Life, then they are likely to come to an event in Second Life. They are enthusiasts. 2. Second Life is not like other “virtual event” platforms. If an attendee is in Second Life, then they they are compelled to interact with their surroundings, and other characters. In other virtual events, they can just log in and tune out (which they often do). 3. Since it’s a virtual environment, you might assume that it’s cheap to produce. It’s not. To create the elaborate 3D environments in second life requires professional designers who spend hours of development time. 4. Like the Internet itself, most of the (non-business) environments in Second Life look amateur, flaky, menacing or worse. That’s a red herring.

As an introduction to Second Life for B2B markets, it’s worth taking a look at the projects that have been created by World2Worlds. Also, Second Life and other virtual platforms have now inspired real-life meeting, where real people meet face to face and discuss opportunities for creating virtual events, including the Virtual Edge Summit, and the Second Life Community Convention.

Here’s what I think about the trend toward Second Life-style events: The majority of people born after 1975 are comfortable with these environments after a lifetime spent on Nintendo, xBox, Playstation. This experience will translate into new modes of business interaction that are richer and more productive than those we currently know. New memes in conference organization will emerge, and one can imaging a hybrid live/virtual model with a lot of exciting possibilities. Business event managers can ignore or dismiss this trend at their own peril. This is an integration opportunity.

CNBC recently covered the phenomenon of business conferences in Second Life:

  1. April 10th, 2009 at 10:48 | #1

    The key sentences in the article are: “If a large portion of your audience is spending time in Second Life, then they are likely to come to an event in Second Life. They are enthusiasts.”

    The use of games and entertainment on a new platform is an indicator that the platform will later be used for non-gaming uses. One of the reasons for this is that people need at least several hours of experience with a new platform, and games give them the motivation to deal with the frustration of learning how to use a new tool.

    As the number of people with Second Life accounts grows, it will be easier to to find a significant audience inside Second Life who will attend events there.

    Until their subscribers grows to that level, we are looking at how to deliver orientation and training to new users on how to use Second Life so we can hold events using that platform.

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