How to build an interesting virtual environment for meeting of 230 colleagues
Although real events are far better from virtual ones, we successfully made a difference and added real value when it comes to interactions and physical feeling to standard online meetings.
We have a long tradition of All-Hands meeting at the end of the year to summarize our achievements, talk about goals and to thank the whole team for their great work.
Our All-Hands meeting traditionally consists of two parts of it: official presentations with Q&A and casual celebration fulfilled with a lot of fun. We wanted to keep that spirit even though due to the global pandemic situation we were forced to run our event online to ensure everyone’s safety.
We also wanted to add something physical to this so we’d prepared three versions of VL’s gifts and sent them to our employees.
Additionally, we also thought about the attractions after the official part (yoga & stretching, presentation of backpacking traveller, “The Tough” movie screening and Christmas drinks preparation). But we need ‘a place’ for all of it. Moreover, we wanted to put an emphasis on interactions and making it more physically look alike.
We organised a number of various virtual events this year and tested many platforms. Based on our experience we chose gather.town. Gather is a spatial video chat application, where moving closer to other users allows you to see and hear them. It looks like a game with customized avatars and allows using builder tools to customize the space, exactly as you want it with interactive objects.
We decided to use the Cracow Opera as the main concept due to our tradition to organize VL’s conference sphere.it there. That way the Main Stage and the Entresol (entry point and main chatting place) looked like this:
Moreover, our graphics designer specially prepared the space to make it more “Virtus” and cosy. Entrances to secret rooms were interactive VL-connected objects. Inside we put collages of memorable, funny photos related to our history. We also created a part of our office there: the auditorium and kitchen, foosball table and more.
People chatted at Entresol’s tables, in the auditorium, in the pub or just stopped to talk once they noticed coming friends. They also searched for certain friends, played with “the following” to create groups. They looked for secret rooms, played games together, took part in various activities. In general, our team summed up everything as “surprising positive experience”.
I liked the virtual space. To walk around and see colleagues is really cool. The quizzes have been easy to access and are a great idea.
Of course, we faced some problems. The most problematic one is a limit of 100 attendees per room with streaming. That’s why we used an external link to gather everyone in one place, where such a limit did not apply. The other difficulty was the lack of global communication. You can make an announcement in only one room at once or pin a short message at the global chat. It wasn’t sufficient that’s why we set up a dedicated slack channel for all communication (support, announcements etc.) which helped a lot.
As a result, we created a space that allowed our employees to integrate lively and safely. Although virtual events are far different from onsite ones and face-to-face meetings are undeniably better, we successfully made a difference and added real value when it comes to interactions and physical feeling to standard online meetings.