A TED event in Leuven, Belgium, recently worked with MootUp to deliver a 3D virtual event for the first time.
TEDxLeuven is an independently organized TED event in Leuven, Belgium, which is held in conjunction with Leuven AI Forum (LAIF). LAIF is a non-profit organization connecting students, academics, industry experts, and policymakers around important topics of AI policy and ethics.
Robin Amsters, who is part of LAIF and TEDxLeuven, said that the organizing team was struggling with where and how to host the event under lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19. The team wanted to provide a virtual experience where attendees could do all the same things they would have if the event was held in person.
After looking into various VR options, the team decided on MootUp because it provided something very close to the in-person experience. This is because of the multitude of features that provide an immersive experience, with lots of options for engagement.
Some of the important features that the TEDxLeuven team wanted to be included in the event were branding for sponsors, interactive opportunities to keep users engaged, delivering a real-time experience, and potential for community and connection.
Challenge 1: Provide value to sponsors and partners
How did MootUp provide value to event sponsors like LAIF? What delighted their partners? The key to success was to focus on creating great user-centered experiences and offering multiple opportunities and channels for interaction and connection.
Sponsors were particularly interested in the added branding opportunities, as well as “the possibility for real interaction with attendees through the digital booths, and the ability to position yourself as an innovative company by participating in this completely new experience,” said Amsters.
Some of the solutions and options offered by the virtual platform are audio zones, branding customization, accessibility, VIP spaces, multiple communication channels, and more.
Spatial audio zones were the most used feature of the event, second only to the video presentations on the main stage. The spatial audio zones allowed attendees to talk privately with partner representatives in virtual booths and to other attendees at social networking tables.
Easy customization options allowed for LAIF branding in the virtual booths, as well as decorations, podiums, virtual champagne, etc.
When asked about using the virtual event platform to create the event, Amsters explained: “I had a ton of fun building the spaces and I was almost sad when we were done. Even on the day itself, I was still adding little things here and there. The main advantage here was the huge customization options – you are only limited by your imagination.”
The TEDxLeuven team needed a way to make the presentation engaging for people and to stream in real-time, without the need for attendees to reload or log in. MootUp’s platform provided the ideal solution to this challenge as its spaces are accessible directly in the browser, by phone, tablet, and all modern VR headsets. Simply by clicking a link.
Bots were also used to guide and assist attendees during the event. Metrics included all the interactions and engagement with bots and other elements in the space, the number of attendees, number of visits to a space, and time spent there, number of times a conversation was initiated, and for how long, amount of messages sent by users. These metrics, among other key insights, were tracked in reports.
Challenge 2: Delivering an engaging, real-time streaming experience
There are more opportunities to ‘zone out’ and get distracted while attending any average virtual event, webinar, or meeting. So how do you keep your audience and attendees engaged when their attention comes at a premium?
Amsters mentioned how new this experience is, and that one of the biggest benefits of hosting the event in a platform like MootUp, on top of the immersion and gamification factors, is the novelty of the experience. “It’s so hard to stand out with online events”, he stated. “But I think we succeeded in doing just that. We found that when we actually showed what we were planning, everyone got a lot more excited.”
Attendees were also kept engaged by using video conferencing, such as Zoom with added VR benefits. MootUp has built-in streaming capabilities, including deep integration with Zoom allowing streaming to and from the 3D environment. The platform also offers the option to use pre-recorded video synchronized for playback to all participants.
The number of activities and engagement opportunities available for attendees and users was another aspect that Amsters loved, which included gamification, the chat feature, live Q&A, video integration, and different spaces to explore.
The gamification feature “gives a whole new element to a virtual event, and gives people an incentive to participate actively, rather than passively observe,” said Amsters. “It was the first time we used a platform with that option, and we had fun with it, ranging from basic stuff like the option to visit partner websites, or click on a video, all the way through to a scavenger hunt. It was a really unique way to offer something interactive during the breaks, on top of the networking.”
Challenge 3: Creating Community and Connection
How did MootUp help to create community and connection among attendees when everyone is stuck at home and isolated from one another?
For one, MootUp’s breakout rooms were configured to encourage networking and group interactions. They helped create a private feel and connection between users. Amsters noted that “anything with a networking component is so much better in 3D” because the interaction options are so similar to what the in-person experience would be like.
He added: “If you want something that is more interactive, or offers a more immersive experience, such as TEDx, conferences, etc. MootUp would be a better option” when compared to similar platforms.
Avatars allow for a high level of self-expression and additional interactivity. Having a virtual self increases the sense of presence for the user, as well as the sense of belonging and potential for connection. The interactivity abilities and engagement levels from users were enhanced by the library of thousands of expressive gestures/animations available and fun dance moves.
The TEDxLeuven and LAIF team had looked at many platforms. None of them however gave the ease of setting up the virtual event as well as engagement and design options that MootUp provided.
When asked what surprised him about MootUp, Amsters responded: “Just how much you can do with it. We’ve used some other VR platforms before but none as feature-rich and expansive as MootUp”. Amsters and his team were able to fully create their own personalized environment and the attendees found the platform fun and easy to use.