Do you remember 2019, when “Zoom” was most commonly used as a verb to describe a fast-moving vehicle?
The world as we know it has changed dramatically since then, with workplaces all over the world switching to working online. Part of this is due to lockdowns during the Coronavirus pandemic, but its evolution is also largely due to the advancement in technology, meaning that we don’t need to be in the office all the time.
Many offices are nowadays favouring a hybrid work schedule, with employees in the office 2-3 days a week and working remotely for the rest of the time. Others have used the pandemic as an opportunity to go all-remote.
There are so many benefits to working remotely or following a hybrid working model. People find more time to spend with their family, daily stressful commutes are a thing of the past and the monetary savings can be huge. But there are some drawbacks to not going into the office as much.
Even though lockdowns are over in nearly all parts of the world and hopefully won’t be returning, some remote or hybrid workers still report feeling Zoom fatigue. We think we’ve found one way to combat that: virtual meeting spaces.
As the name suggests, virtual meeting spaces are online areas where you can host meetings. These are designated spaces that have their own name - just like your physical meeting room might have a name.
In fact, they even have virtual addresses called URIs (uniform resource identifiers), that looks like an email address.
Once a virtual meeting space is set up, online participants can go into and out of it to host and join meetings. Many of them are fully customisable, so you can create the perfect bespoke space for your business.
Various websites offer virtual meeting spaces, including gather.town and pexip. It’s easy to start one of these and invite any collaborators.
Generally, you can use any device to log in to your virtual meeting space, including interactive displays like those we sell at Avocor. These work well as a good “headquarter” for the meeting and are particularly useful if some employees are working in the office (as it’s large enough for an entire meeting room to see and use) and some are at home.
So what are the benefits of using these virtual meeting rooms instead of Zoom or Microsoft Teams? Here are just a few!
Virtual meetings are definitely here to stay. The fact that you can be connected to your colleagues from literally anywhere in the world (provided you have a device and strong enough WiFi!), means that increasing numbers of employees are likely to start working remotely and the physical workplace will probably become less and less normal.
However, one of the best reasons to use virtual meeting spaces is to allow you to have more diverse online meetings. Traditional online meeting software undoubtedly has its place in the modern workplace - it’s great for standard meetings with just a few people - but utilising virtual meeting spaces can help your meetings be more varied and subsequently leads to a more enriching online experience.
A colossal benefit to using these virtual meeting rooms is that they are far more reflective of actual real life. For example, you can attend a meeting space with a group of people and have separate conversations within the group.
How? You may ask.
Well, whenever you use a virtual meeting room you’ll have an avatar. You can move this avatar away from other people, and when you do so, their voice will be quieter - just as it would be in real life. You can sit at tables and have conversations - and you can leave conversations and join others.
You can think outside the box here. In virtual meeting spaces, it’s possible to not just have private meetings for your team, but you could also host networking events for people in your industry or informal pub nights.
Some professionals post the link to their meeting space on Linkedin or Twitter, inviting anybody who’d like to network. As these spaces replicate actual meetings much more than Zoom meetings, it’s easy to strike up individual conversations with a range of different people!
And, as networking events are a big part of virtual meeting spaces, you can easily use them to connect with people all over the world. This is hugely beneficial to many companies, particularly those that have an international customer base or are trying to break into other markets.
At networking events in one city, a large majority of the attendees are likely to be from that particular city. But if you just host an industry networking session in a virtual space, particularly if it’s at a time when a lot of the world is awake (which is apparently 9 am EST or 1 pm GMT), then you should be able to share ideas and knowledge with other people across your industry.
Doing this should help you to think more creatively and open-mindedly and look at ideas from different perspectives. It can also have great social benefits for people who attend the networking sessions, both in their professional and personal life.
Unlike stuffy presentations, virtual meeting spaces are dynamic and interesting - they portray virtual worlds where anything is possible. For example, if you run a doughnut company and are hosting a meeting about your new flavours, you can create mock-ups of the doughnuts there and then invite a discussion about them.
It’s also possible for avatars to move around the screen, pick up items and even fly. The possibilities are endless here - but it’s much more focused on showing meeting attendees a concept, rather than telling them about it.
Not only is this more interesting and immersive, but it will encourage people to interact with the meeting more, which should in turn positively affect workplace morale, productivity and even staff turnover.
There are so many benefits to using virtual meeting spaces, but how much will one of these set you back?
Like physical meeting rooms, these cost money to develop and maintain, so there is a fee to use them. However, this fee varies greatly depending on how much they are used and how many people attend the meetings, with some very affordable plans.
As an example, gather.town actually has a free plan which includes up to 25 concurrent users, customisable maps and a variety of interactive objects. The paid plans start at $2 per user for two-hour use of a space and can accommodate up to 500 users. Gather.town charges $3 for all-day usage and $7 to use a space for an entire month.
So, if you wanted to invite 500 people to a two-hour networking event, the cost would be $1000. However, if you wanted to have your own virtual office space where up to 500 people can enter and leave over the course of a month, the cost would be $3500.
Of course, the advantage of this is that you have the freedom of hosting meetings whenever you please or just have the space as an informal drop-in session that people can enter into and out of.
Virtual meeting spaces are a fascinating new concept, and we think that they’re here to stay. While they will likely never completely replace real human interaction (and in reality, they shouldn’t), they can be a great replacement for video meetings, which I think we can all agree to get a bit overwhelming after a while!
With some really affordable payment plans and the ability to connect them to any device or interactive display, it’s well worth trying a virtual meeting space in your workplace.