Where are the virtual global meeting places?

As firms go global, there is a need for more meetings that include people from multiple continents; sometimes even large meetings with attendees that span the globe. Yet companies are also cost cutting like mad; business class flights are a no-go for all but the most senior executive, and one would think that the expense of flying across the globe for a meeting or two would deter companies from doing it. Indeed, if there was an alternative for deep, content- and interactive-rich virtual meetings, there would likely be a market for it.

I moonlight as a PhD student and teaching assistant. One of our most recent challenges has been in finding a platform that is useful for teaching classes with individuals spanned across multiple continents, much like in the business case above. Apart from the obvious problems around language barriers and time zones, one of the biggest issues that we had was in finding a platform that gave a rich virtual experience akin to the richness of the classroom; a place where debate could happen, where nuances in movement and speech could be combined with presentations and cross-border communication. But we struggled to find one that worked well.

Skype and Google hangouts were swiftly discarded, mostly because of the number of students that we needed to accommodate.

Adobe Connect was discussed, but put on hold as the experience, though sufficient, was not “deep” enough.

I’ve worked in Second Life before and, although it is considered “old hat” by many IT specialists, the fact that it is still widely used by, in particular, language teachers (see, for example, Euroversity was reassuring. Yet when we ran our first class in it, we had a number of hardware and software bugs. Admittedly some were ones that more experienced teachers and users may have anticipated, but ones that crippled us nevertheless.

We eventually opted for the less rich (and more expensive) choice of Adobe Connect.

Yet the question remains: in a time of cost-cutting, yet simultaneously shrinking borders, why are there so few pieces of software available for content and interaction-rich meetings? Second Life is an option but it is considered old by many and requires a lot of technical expertise to get right.

This strikes me as an area ripe for innovation and development: a rich, interactive meeting place. There’s BuzzTale, which I didn’t know about when planning the course. Have I missed out on others I should know about?

A PhD student and voracious reader based in Stockholm, Claire Ingram is interested in open innovation, co-creation, start-up funding, public policy and pictures of puppies on Reddit. You can contact her on Twitter @Claire_EBI.

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