Virtual gatherings massively replaced physical events over the past year, and the services that help provide a similar experience to the visitors in the web world seem to finally reach the spotlight they deserve. Here’s an overview of virtual towns, booth rooms, digital stages and whatnot, visited by ONLYOFFICE team.
This year CERN, the organizer of CS3 2021, used a virtual networking space called Gather to let participants meet in the custom game-like atmosphere in their free time and have literal, almost physical, navigation around the event program.
Gather lets the user customize the venue to their likes in 2D indie game fashion, and build any possible infrastructure and navigation inside. The visitors, on their end, are given the avatars with the ability to design their appearance and colors.
But the fascinating looks of what you can build with Gather are not where it ends. The platform brings every possible way of interaction with the visitors: you can browse the participants, see their availability status, hit them up with a personal message or find them on the map to have a live video chat.
Video chat automatically pops up at the top when you come near a person or a group and lets you start the convo or get into one. This automation is not disturbing at all because it requires certain proximity to the avatars and doesn’t connect you to thirty people at once unless they all gather in the same spot.
The instruments allow organizers to send public messages in the common chat to announce the upcoming parts of the program and drop all necessary links (e.g. to the upcoming Zoom stream). The day schedule is available at all times for everyone to plan their work throughout the event.
And despite being so rich in the “gameplay” and assumingly heavy in graphics in comparison to a regular web page, Gather flies seamlessly without significantly overloading your RAM. I personally had lots of other tabs, browser windows, and video conferences boiling along with Gather and my system did just well.
One particular minus of Gather is that it doesn’t provide any sufficient stage-like feature to stream talks and presentations to the participants. The problem was, however, easily solved with a parallel Zoom stream.
Olga Golubeva, Lead Sales Manager with ONLYOFFICE:
CERN nailed the remote virtual conference organization using an unconventional networking platform called Gather. To me, as a salesperson, its main advantage was the ease of finding every participant and quickly engaging in personal contact. In the end, the unusual format didn’t affect the event’s success.
Online Work Space Summit (OWSS) dedicated to global challenges of WFH was looking for a lightweight service to accommodate its participants and let them hold meetings and watch live panel discussions on stage while being lightweight enough to withstand poor internet connection and network disruptions some users might have.
Eventually AirMeet was chosen as such, as it was a very simple and easy-to-use platform that nonetheless provided all core features necessary for the planned agenda.
AirMeet provides ‘tables’ where participants can meet and discuss anything they are up to, with the ability to apply branding to the tables to resemble company booths and help participants attract their audience.
If you are into speed networking a.k.a. bumping into people around the hall and having a nice spontaneous chat around a cup of coffee, you can use an actual Speed Networking feature on Airmeet where you are matched with a random visitor also looking for new connections.
And finally, AirMeet provides the built-in stage which opens in the stream mode to all the participants at the scheduled times. The speakers can talk and discuss live in front of everyone and answer their live questions from the chat.
Airmeet also provides public and private messages, a user network, and ability to fill out your profile so everyone knows whom they are meeting.
The platfom doesn’t seem to have broad customization and branding opportunities, but maybe that’s what makes it so lightweight and easy-to use, which is probably the most important feature to most.
Artem Avdeev, AM with ONLYOFFICE:
I found Airmeet meet very intuitive, easy to master within minutes. The platform has all features needed for live sessions and networking: interactions areas, virtual areas, chats, Q,A, live polls. I personally enjoyed the backstage feature. I found it really helpful for speakers as it gives an opportunity discuss the agenda and get prepared before going live.
The aim was to find a platform where visitors could both navigate around sponsor booths and access the stage. As Univention community adheres to principles of open source and the topic of this year’s Summit was digital sovereignty, it was important that the platform is open-source as well.
Venueless, as the name speaks, provides all perks of typical event infrastructure in the virtual form: you can visit company booths, engage in chats with participants, and initiate live calls for deeper discussions.
At the same time the visitors had quick access to the stages to jump between presentations, workshops, round tables and breakout rooms that were mostly held simultaneously. Even though Venueless itself didn’t provide any ‘stage’ functions, BigBlueButton was integrated to successfully play this part with easy access from the navigation panel on Venueless.
Ksenia Fedoruk, marketing manager with ONLYOFFICE:
Venueless is a convenient platform for both the exhibitor companies and the visitors that allows easily switching between different presentation formats while staying alert when someone comes to your booth to have a chat.
20th Annual Strategic Project & Portfolio Management for Pharma chose Brella to accommodate the meeting of pharmaceutical and biotech companies to discuss portfolio strategies and coping with increased reporting overload.
Brella is a simple yet robust services that combines all necessary virtual conference tools and a very straightforward interface. Visitors and participants could communicate easily using live chat, one-on-one meetings and launch video calls.
Watching and streaming the talks was rather easy too, with lots of additional tools around like online chat and live polls. The connectivity was, however, frequently disturbed and the way to avoid this was jumping straight to Zoom meeting from where the talks were streamed.
The event schedule can be easily outlined for the visitors in the dedicated tab for quick access.
The real highlight of Brella is a gorgeously executed notification system where you can set up custom notifications for meetings, chat messages, and other events and never get lost in what you have planned for the day.
One more platform we stumbled upon was WebEvents365 where the G-Cloud 12 Summit was streamed. The platform is built on Big Maker service and customized to have all desired features and interface elements.
This service provides a slick interface for interactive live streams, giving you Zoom-like vibe where you can also connect with co-presenters onstage. Summon live polls and present their results, interact with the visitors in chat and create separate space for audience questions that should not get mixed in the lively chat discussion between a hundred of talky individuals.
The cherry on the pie: you can even send tweets right from the interface, but we never got to do that, unfortunately.
We are hungry to learn more about such services to pick one for our own virtual community gatherings in the future – use the comment section below to recommend us a service you had a chance to experience yourself.