Some virtual event platforms, such as vFairs, can represent a client’s online event as a 3D environment that replicates familiar sights, such as a convention center lobby populated by static or moving people. Users can click on auditoriums, information booths, or exhibitor hall booths to navigate the virtual space of their online conference. Does mimicking the appearance of the in-person conference add value to an online conference? Should online event planners prioritize the recreation of familiar environments? Or will 3D renderings of conference spaces eventually be remembered more as an early-stage feature of virtual event platforms that falls away over time as users adapt to online events?
Source: vFairs at SoftwareReviews.com
The short-lived 1995 “Microsoft Bob” user interface may be a useful historical comparison. Microsoft created this guided, instructional UI to help inexperienced computer users understand their computers’ applications by representing apps like the calendar and word processor as physical objects in a furnished home. The intention was to help beginners use the operating system and its applications in a way that felt more visually familiar; however, Microsoft discontinued Bob the following year. Twenty-five years in the future, it’s not hard to look back at this UI and assume that the time that it would take to navigate from room to room to reach applications would quickly become tedious and unnecessary, especially as users became accustomed to using their computers. However, Bob’s creators were responding to a legitimate concern: how can we make new technology comfortable for a mass audience? The answer seemed to be to recreate presumably familiar environments.
For present-day virtual event software, a 3D replica of a conference setting could serve the purpose of easing people into a new virtual environment, as long as the user interface truly does make the conference’s virtual spaces more easy to access and conceptualize (while reducing the number of times users need to click to find what they need). However, as online conferences become normalized, attendees may not need to be reminded of how conferences looked in the past.
How can online event organizers recreate the networking and social components that make up an essential part of the in-person conference experience? This is one of the central challenges faced by organizers looking to move their events from onsite to online.
COVID-19 has left conference conveners with essentially three options: cancel, reschedule, or go online.