Is this my company's next inter-office meeting?

This past Monday, my company held a day long leadership retreat in Kingston. That required people from Toronto and Ottawa to trek from Ottawa and Toronto to a hotel mid-way between the two cities. Almost as much travel time as face time.

Neville Hobson last night participated in a meeting that may well point to the way that companies like Thornley Fallis cut out the travel time in the future.
Neville reports on a panel session that was conducted in Second Life. The session drew marketing and new media professionals like Joseph Jaffe and Mitch Joel for a serious discussion of avatar-based marketing.

Meeting in Second Life

This is a picture of the meeting taking from Neville’s perspective. That’s him in the foreground.

According to Neville,

… this was something quite extraordinary. Here was a group of people getting together in a virtual world for a business meeting. You didn’t know who anyone really was, whether who they say they are is who they really are, where they’re from, and whether it really is a man or a woman you’re talking to.

But none of that matters. It’s part of the experience and interactions in a virtual world.

Neat. And for the folks at Thornley Fallis who are reading this, don’t be surprised if the next interoffice meeting you’re invited to requires only that you travel as far as your computer to sign into Second Life!

  • Joseph, it really would be very interesting indeed if you were to conduct a meeting in Second Life instead of in the real world.

    I haven’t looked into this, but I would imagine you can have private meetings in Second Life. The event on Friday wasn’t (ie, it was public) although you did need to have RSVP’d to be allowed to participate. That, incidentally, wasn’t well communicated. I didn’t know about an RSVP and when I showed up, the organizers said sorry, you can’t participate for that reason. So I hung about, lurking just outside until things started and I could see there were empty seats. Then I got permission to be part of it!

    Anyway, if you do do something in Sl, I’d love to know. Perhaps you might invite me as an observer so I can blog about it?

  • Hi Neville,
    The issue of being able to set up a private meeting is crucial to being able to use something like Second Life for an internal company leadership meeting. This may make this a nonstarter for that particular purpose.
    I’m playing around with this. And I expect that we’ll find ways to make things work.
    I definitely will let you know if we do go ahead with an experiment. It might be interesting to have another person comment on its performance and see if we can develop useful advice to make more effective use of this medium.

  • Great, Joseph, thanks. I’d be very surprised if one can’t do a private meeting in Second Life.

    So look forward to seing developments!

  • The virtual meetings that you can run through a corporate tool don’t look as cool as this.

    So, will your company have a dress code for Second Life meetings?

    And how do I get a buff body like Neville’s? Either he’s been working out, or his avatar is a pumped up version of the real thing!

  • Great idea Joe – but would you have to be in the office to participate? I’m sure that it would be quite the moral booster to Thornley Fallis if you could “attend” the offsite in your pajamas!

    It’s not quite as businessy as your idea, but I’d love to make a huge sports stadium in Second Life hold virtual tournaments in there – it’s all here: http://bloggingmebloggingyou.wordpress.com/2006/06/13/second-life/

    Ed

  • Hi Ed,
    I checked out your post at http://bloggingmebloggingyou.wordpress.com/2006/06/13/second-life. Some interesting ideas.
    By the way, has any smart computer company yet provided you with a new laptop? A promotion opportunity too good to resist.

  • Thanks for taking a look Joe, I had a subsequent email chat with CC Chapman and he tells me that it’s not possible…yet!

    No-one’s come forward to offer me a new laptop thus far but I’m going to reach out proactively to try and drum up some interest!

    Ed

  • My computer didn’t like Second Life much either. I got a free account and went there earlier this week. I guess I will have to install it on the new laptop to get a peek. I was changing clothes when the whole system siezed up. Don’t worry, I am still dressed. I didn’t like the hair they were offering me though.

  • Judy Gombita

    I’m curious, Joe. What advantages do you see (other than saving resources, i.e., travel time and money) in holding a virtual inter-office meeting in Second Life? And would you replace your all-staff, in-person meeting(s) or merely supplement them?

    I’m on the board of a not-for-profit association devoted to lifelong learning. Interestingly, its administrative staff has used a “virtual” office for about two years now. (I believe admistrative staff live/work in five different states, and when you factor in the consultants, it’s probably 10-plus different offices.) Despite the organization’s embracing of distance administration and technology, the leadership team continues to believe it is vital to have annual, in-person strategy sessions for the various players.

    We had our leaders’ retreat in May (this year meeting in Chicago), whereby we established the strategic direction and priorities for the year. And last week we had a short teleconference to “celebrate” the fiscal year-end…a very successful one, mainly because of the recommendations made (and followed) at the prior year’s leaders’ retreat in May 2005. I think about 15 people called in, from across North America. And because this was a group that generally meets in person a minimum of two times a year, it was quite the fun phone call. (“Happy new year” in June is rather bizarre, let alone listening to the ringing of Welsh bells to celebrate a record-breaking surplus.)

    That’s why I’m curious to know whether you think a Second Life meeting could replicate that same sense of strategic vision, teamwork and camaraderie?

  • Hi Judy,
    I don’t have the answers to your questions. This is an area that I am considering Experimental with a capital E. Obviously, there are clear limitations on such a new medium. We can use an internal company meeting as a platform for experimentation, knowing that our team will be forgiving of its shortcomings and keen to learn from the experience.
    I really wouldn’t try it with any of the groups I belong to – as I think the people in these groups are looking for a greater degree of predictability and reliability than a new platform can provide.