Hiya David -
Over the past year, we've set up a virtual space for the alternative dispute resolution field at ADRHub.com, using the Ning platform that this NASAGA area is on. In addition to this being a very interactive setup allowing user/member initiatives, it also allows us to conduct large-scale virtual events. We recently hosted Cyberweek, a week-long conference for people interested in online dispute resolution (ODR). You can see how the event played out, including archived discussion forums and webinars, at Cyberweek's homepage. We were very pleased with how well the platform managed to host all the activity going on. You can check out a more narrative version of what went on there on my blog. Feel free to hit me with any questions.
Hi David. I can't comment on the $$-making aspect. I can say that - with careful and creative design - virtual events can be every bit as much fun and value as face to face. From experience, I can say that F2F events often don't translate well into virtual. Design of activities is crucial and takes a good deal of effort to pull together. They can be great fun (otherwise why have them) and something that can attract participation that just isn't possible in "same place" events.
So far it's proving to be more than a hot trend, as is the number one request I got in training I designed in the past year. Organizations are soaking it up, and not so much as a way to save money (the motivation for so many past trends). Virtual is proving worthwhile for bringing together diverse and remote groups that could never do so in the past.
I have just been requested to put on a virtual class instead of a F2F.
Your comment that "F2F events often don't translate well into virtual" perked up my ears. I was wondering what you meant and if you or anyone in the community have any points, items, websites , dicussions etc. that might help me out.
Good evening Tom. With reference to my comment that "F2F events often don't translate well into virtual," a little context. That begins with recognizing the character of the F2F you're talking about. Many people (I know that no one in this group is guilty) are comfortable and successful delivering presentations - one-way transfer of information. Even when they are engaging in person, that seldom translates with similar power in virtual environments, because the intensely personal nature of "being there" - the visual message - is missing. Presentations beg for re-design when going virtual to fill the void of the missing visual stimuli.
Even F2F sessions with lots of energizing activities can fail, but for a very different reason. Physical activities can be tough to move into a virtual setting without significant re-design. And that is at the heart of the challenge.
Delivery technique is also rather different for virtual compared to F2F. I have a reference back in the office that I will post online here tomorrow. The author and title escape me at the moment. Though about a decade old, she offers rock solid advice.
When I convert conventional F2F training to virtual, I examine every activity, without exception. Even activities that would be fairly easy to pull off in virtual are not necessarily "fun" in that environment. Part of the masochistic joy of converting F2F to virtual is finding a better way to do everything. For example, a team charting activity could be annotations on either whiteboards or slides in breakout rooms. Role plays can also be handled in breakout rooms. You can ask a question and - instead of calling on one person - call on everyone, and have them all use Chat to respond simultaneously. If you have a podcast online somewhere - or a relevant web site to share - you can hit the link for it during the session and have it steam directly to everyone "in the moment." For charting activities you can also have everyone annotate an idea, challenge, or whatever onto a blank slide or whiteboard simultaneously. It's chaos, it's fun, and it works.
I used to doubt the potential effectiveness of virtual until my camel got his nose under the tent. Now, I find myself seeking opportunities to use virtual.
Those are just a few thoughts. I'll post the references tomorrow.