You might be a risk-averse traditionalist like me.
If this is true, terms like Web3, cryptocurrency, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the metaverse are all terms you’ve heard but haven’t really engaged with.
Or maybe someone has tried to explain them all to you and you concentrated hard, squinted your eyes, and nodded along – all the while wondering if there were any actual English words anywhere in what they were saying.
And the problem for people like you and me, is that these things are no longer futuristic and far off things that we don’t need to concern ourselves with.
They are all already in use, gaining traction, and potentially the future of interacting online.
As a digital strategist, despite my traditionalist nature, I want to be sure I have an eye on what’s coming next.
Because right now my clients might not need to be on top of these technologies – but the rate of advancements in tech these days is insane, so what about tomorrow?
What opportunities might be right around the corner for those who are ready?
One of the problems I found initially when trying to explore these technologies, was the hype and the cliqueishness of the communities, there was very often a crypto-bro hustley vibe going on…
I was looking for a more sane approach, with like-minded marketers.
I found just that in Mark Schaefer’s $RISE community.
Together we discuss and explore all these topics. And recently we’ve been exploring the metaverse, on a platform called Spatial.io…
Metaverse? Whoooaaa, Frank, you’ve lost me already
Oh yeah, apologies my fellow traditionalist, let’s start with what the metaverse is… or at least let’s try – because the reality is that nobody really knows yet, because it’s still being developed and defined.
Broad strokes: it’s an online 3D environment that continues to exist even when you’re not engaging with it.
It’s like virtual reality.
Except right now, not a lot of people have virtual reality headsets, so most metaverse environments can be accessed through a computer or even phone as well.
Wired have a good article on what the metaverse is if you want to dive in a little deeper. Or if you really want to get a sense of what it’s all about, just hop onto Spatial.io…
Hop on to what now? What’s Spatial.io?
Spatial is a platform that allows you to create your own virtual avatar and spaces to organise live events and interact with other people in a metaverse environment.
If you want to start to get a handle on what the metaverse is right now, it’s worth creating a Spatial account and exploring. You can easily do it if you have a reasonably good computer or even smartphone.
But the real lightbulb moment of understanding the power of the metaverse is when you experience it with a VR (virtual reality) headset…
What it’s like using a VR headset like the Meta Quest 2
I really wanted to get a proper handle on this whole metaverse thing, so I bought a VR headset from Meta (formerly Facebook) called the Meta Quest 2 (formerly the Oculus Quest 2).
Yup, Facebook are taking the metaverse so seriously, they renamed themselves and some of their products Meta.
Even with Meta subsidizing the price of headsets they cost about 400. Which is actually pretty cheap when compared to competitors, but, you know… it’s still 400 bucks.
But just for some context, rumours are that Apple’s headset will be over 2k.
So I’m not going to advise everyone to run out and buy a headset, but I will say that the experience is pretty phenomenal.
Right now Spatial is only compatible with the Meta Quest headsets, otherwise you have to use a computer or smartphone – using Spatial.io on a computer gives you a sense of what the metaverse is… but it doesn’t do the metaverse justice. Meeting people in Spatial using a headset is amazing.
You genuinely feel like you have been somewhere. That you have had a real experience. Somewhere other than where your physical body is taking up space. It’s… mental.
You haven’t just visited a website, or watched something. You have actually been in a different place.
Before I started this exploration I thought I understood the concept of the metaverse, but when I bought a headset and experienced it… I realised that understanding the concept is very different to truly “getting” it.
The $RISE community have had several meetups in Spatial now, and those meetups are actual memories in my mind, because they were immersive experiences. They exist as memories of things that happened to me, not just things I observed.
Those initial meetups were focussed on getting used to the environment and what features were available.So the next question for the $RISE community was what could we do to expand our understanding of the metaverse even further?
How to best make use of our time in the metaverse?
Mark Schaefer asked for suggestions for what we could do next as a community in the metaverse.
So what should we do next?
I really wanted to figure out how to use our time to begin to figure out opportunities for the future.
I thought about how, in Mitch’s talk, he explained how he was using Spatial and VR Headsets to pitch for new contracts – with great success.
Then I remembered something interesting that a local community had set up – they would meet once a month or so, and a selection of people each time would be selected to give a five minute talk.
It could be about anything, usually something the person was passionate about. Could be a hobby, or something work related, or a personal story.
So I suggested we do something similar in Spatial.
The response to the idea was positive, and it was decided we’d give it a go.
Since I had put the idea forward, I offered to help Joeri and Renee any way that I could. It turned out Renee was extremely busy, so Joeri welcomed any help I could offer.
And that’s how I found myself on the team organising an event in the metaverse.
There was only one problem.
I had no idea what I was doing.
When Google turns out to be useless
We got the easy bits out of the way first. We got plenty of submissions for talks, so we picked the speakers at random and we set a date for the event.
So now it was really on. The $RISE Mini-Meta-Talks were born.
It was really happening. I was now helping to organise an event in Spatial with no clue about how it really worked.
No problem, I thought, I’ll do what I always do – I’ll Google “how to organise an event on Spatial.”
But Spatial and the metaverse are so new, there’s hardly any content out there on how to organise events. We were going to have to figure this out on our own.
Well, maybe not on our own – after all community member Mitch Jackson would surely have some tips for us. In fact, he had recently set up a company called ManeuVR that helps businesses make use of the metaverse.
I hopped on one of Mitch’s regular coffee mornings in Spatial, and he happened to mention that just that weekend he’d held a seminar in Spatial. Mitch kindly sent me a link to the recording of the talk so I could watch and get some tips for what’s possible.
Over a virtual reality coffee, Mitch also gave me a really useful tip… he said “the headset is definitely superior in terms of experience, but when you’re holding an event be sure and have someone with admin roles on a computer to troubleshoot.”
Using a headset vs computer in Spatial, which is better?
With the headset you’re fully immersed in the experience. But on computer you can much more easily get an overview of the event, more quickly tweak settings, and more easily manipulate content.
So having a team member looking after the event from a computer is really useful.
Basically, from an experiential perspective hop in using a headset – but from an admin perspective it’s the computer all the way.
For someone who was completely new to all this, a simple tip like this was pure gold.
But at this point I was still completely at sea – I now knew it would be easier to use the computer to set up and run the event, but I still didn’t really know what it was I was even trying to do!
Thankfully, everything is easier with a community around you
If I’d been on my own, at this point I would have been freaking out. I still had no idea how to actually set up the event, and the date was getting closer and closer.
But I wasn’t on my own. I was part of a team, within a highly supportive community. Myself and Joeri met regularly to compare notes and decide on the best route forward.
I should point out here that most of the time when we met, we met on Zoom.
Because as amazing as the metaverse is, it’s more difficult to set up a meeting, and to make sure you’re in the right place. I’ve ended up in the wrong space more than once, wondering where everybody is!
Plus if you want the full experience you’ve got to get your headset, and then you can’t do the admin type stuff, and so basically for quick progress meetings Zoom still wins – hands down.
But some questions could only be answered by hopping into Spatial and trying things out… so we did that too, because we still had a lot of questions about how this was going to work…
Managing permissions and media for a multi-speaker event
The main questions I had at this point were around how to physically set up the space and how to ensure everyone had the permissions they needed to manage any media they wanted to include in their talk.
It became quickly apparent to me that manipulating media in Spatial is still pretty cumbersome, and so the best thing to do is set up your space ready for the event and do as little fiddling around with media on the day as you possibly can.
Because we had three speakers, we would need to allow the speakers to manipulate the event space, so they could upload their media – whether it be slides, images, 3D objects, or other media.
Spatial have a short piece on hosting an event, and they say “pro accounts are recommended for event hosts, but are not required”.
Now, this might be true strictly speaking, but without a pro account you don’t have the hosting options that make organising an event a whole lot easier.
We wanted speakers to feel completely at ease and able to get ready for the event in their own time. So we had two options:
- We could make speakers hosts of the event space so they can do whatever they need whenever they need to.
- Or we could make the space editable for everyone
If we made the space editable by everyone, we ran the risk of people finding the event space and adding their own media, or deleting speaker media.
We’ll come back to that risk of people interfering with spaces later on…
But in order to make someone a host of a space that you create, you need a pro account.
Myself and Joeri felt it made sense for us to get pro accounts so we could make speakers hosts of the event space.
If you wanted to set up an event like this without a pro account, you could meet the speakers, make the spaces editable by everyone, get set up and then make the spaces view only again.
So it is possible, but then the speakers wouldn’t have full control, and wouldn’t be able to manipulate the spaces when you’re not there.
Crowd management – the other advantage to having a pro account
Thankfully, since this was a community event for us, we didn’t really have to worry about unruly participants. However, if you’re having a public event there are crowd management tools – but you’ll need Host Tools which means you’ll need a paid account.
Then you can mute participants, and boot people out if you need to.
Setting up the layout for the event
Given that it made sense to get all media set up in advance of the event, we now had to figure out how to set up the space.
A single space for the entire event would be the simplest option.
However if we wanted each speaker to set up their media in advance, that meant each speaker would need a room, or corner of the space to call their own.
Also, Spatial say to “be cognizant of content overload. If there’s too much content in one space, performance will decrease.”
We didn’t really know what constituted “too much content”, and we didn’t know what media our speakers were planning to use.
So to be sure we didn’t run into any performance issues, and to allow speakers free reign over setting up their own space, we decided to set up a new space for each speaker.
That way we could make each speaker a host of their own space and they could get set up according to their own schedule, and have complete control over what they did with the space.
Choosing the right environment for your event
There are fancy spaces available to purchase from third parties that you can import into Spatial – such as the penthouse that Mark Schaefer bought for the community.
Or you can, for a higher price tag again, have someone design a custom space for you.
But for the rest of us, there are a number of spaces available free of charge.
We tried out a number of spaces, and settled on a space called “Aeries Gallery”. It was available in a modern and somewhat futuristic feeling white, and was large enough and flexible enough to offer different setups.
A space for each speaker was created.
The space is a gallery space, and so has picture frames along the walls – I designed a simple poster for each speaker and filled each frame with the relevant speaker’s poster so that there was no mistaking whose space you were currently in.
The space also has a tree in the centre, in the middle of the bare branches of the tree we placed a portal to the next speaker room. A portal is just a link between spaces, so you click on a portal and you go to that space.
So we had a simple, repeatable process for moving from one presentation to the next.
Giving the speakers control over their space – make them a host
To give the speakers control of their own space, we needed to make them hosts. Myself and Joeri did tests to make sure that when you make someone a host they remain a host until you revoke those privileges.
Here’s the thing to be aware of when making someone a host: they have to be in the same space at the same time for you to make them a host AND if you want to revoke the privileges they have to be in the same space at the same time as well.
So we met up with speakers and made each speaker a host of their own space.
This meant they could come back whenever they liked, manipulate the space, upload media, and get everything set up just how they wanted for the event.
The overall set up – what it looked like
To make set up of the event as easy as possible I signed up for a paid account so I had access to all the Host Tools.
Then I set up three spaces, one for each speaker. In each space were posters indicating clearly which space you were in, and was a portal in each space that brought you to the next space.
Then, I made Joeri a host of all the spaces, so that we could both support the speakers any way we needed to.
And myself and Joeri met with the speakers and made each speaker the host of their own space.
Once the speakers were hosts, they uploaded any media they wanted to use in their presentation, and any media they wanted to use to decorate their space.
When you have your media uploaded, and your space laid out the way you want it – make sure you lock all media in place so people can’t accidentally mess things up. Anyone with edit access to the space will be able to unlock and reposition things, but guests, or people who wander in unexpectedly won’t be able to.
Because the headset is so incredibly immersive, it can be hard to keep track of time – you can’t look at your watch, or glance at your phone.
So I organised a timer in each speaker room – I downloaded a free video that counts down 5 minutes. I allowed a 15 second grace period and I added a beeping sound effect, so our speakers could keep an eye on the time, or they’d hear the beep to let them know they’d run over.
You can do some pretty cool things with the spaces, but a word of advice: make sure that if you spend time setting something up just how you want it, you save it in case you mess it up…
Break things – it’s a great learning experience
We wanted our speakers to try things out and experiment. One of our speakers, Zack Seipert, was presenting about 360° Photography.
Zack mentioned that he’d like to try changing the entire space we were in to a 3D photo, but that he was afraid he’d break things, or mess up the way we had set up the room.
Myself and Joeri practically answered in unison – “that’s why we’re here, let’s do it, let’s break things!”
So we did. Zack successfully changed the environment we were in from a pristine gallery to a spherical 3D photo – known as a skybox.
I climbed up the walls of the sphere as far as I could before physics dictated it was too steep to go any further. It was a pretty trippy experience, to be in this 3D photo-spehere.
Once we’d had our fun, we tried various things to get the space back to the state we had it in before. But we totally failed.
To be fair, I think it’s because I chose the wrong options initially and messed things up even further, making it impossible to revert back.
So I just made another room and we set it up the same way from scratch. Since then, I’ve tried to figure out how to avoid that same scenario happening again.
There is an autosave feature in Spatial, but I haven’t figured out how to use that, because I don’t know when it saves, or how to choose a point to revert to.
So I asked on Discord and user SpiralArmZ advised that the best way to save a space in a specific state is to save it as a template.
On a computer, open the menu in the bottom right and choose “Save as Template”. Then, if you need to restore your space, you click on the “add content” button, go to templates, and choose your saved template.
It turned out that having saved templates would have been useful the day of the event as well, when we got a bit of a shock to turn up on the day and find…
A bikini model greeting us at our meeting point in the metaverse?!
The day of the event I logged into Spatial and headed for the community space. This was our designated meeting place, and we had a portal from the community space to the first speaker room.
I immediately knew something was wrong.
The thumbnail for the community space now featured a bikini model. Well, not really a bikini model, but I don’t know what else to call her. It was the kind of poster you see in a mechanic’s office in a bad eighties movie.
It wasn’t explicit in any way, just.. naughty looking, and definitely not something anyone in our community would have added.
I ported into the space, and sure enough there she was. A huge poster, right where you arrive in the penthouse.
And she was surrounded by neon posters in a language I didn’t understand.
Plus some sticky notes that said things like “hey baby!”
And a quite impressive creation in the middle of the room, made from champagne bottles. It looked like an art installation. Except it was very intrusive, and right where we intended to gather.
The space had been vandalised.
This was the only space that we hadn’t made “view only”, because we weren’t the hosts. Mark had left the space editable by anyone, either to accommodate us getting set up, or just in a generally trusting manner – I’m not sure which.
Unfortunately people had taken advantage of the ability to upload media to the space, so myself and Joeri went about removing all the offending articles one by one.
Is there an easier way we could have cleaned up? Possibly, but since we had previously made a complete mess of reverting Zack’s space, we weren’t taking any chances.
So the two of us cleaned up before our guests arrived – just like in real life!
Speaking of real life, let’s talk about another aspect to all this, because I’ve been talking about a lot of tech and settings and hardware, but there’s something else I definitely want to mention when organising an event – supporting your speakers.
Support your speakers – make sure they’re completely comfortable in the environment
I mean, it goes without saying that any event you’re organising you should always support your speakers. But as Spatial is so new, it’s even more important to make sure your speakers feel like they have all the support they need.
I was nervous about organising the event – and I wasn’t even speaking. If I had been speaking, I could have multiplied that nervousness by 100.
So myself and Joeri did everything we could to make sure speakers felt supported, and had time in the space they would be presenting in. We also made sure we were available to test things out with them, and answer any questions that we could.
We put a plan in place so that if anyone had tech glitches the speakers had my phone number so I could be contacted – that way if we lost contact in Spatial people could let us know what was going on.
Luckily we were also able to emphasise that the community was totally supportive, that this was new to all of us, and that it was a learning experience for all of us – so hiccups were not only to be expected, but to be embraced and learned from.
As it turned out, all of our preparation paid off, and the event went exceptionally well.
Each presentation was excellent, and the speakers made great use of the environment, creating an absolutely brilliant experience for all our guests.
Creating a unique experience in a templated environment
We had given each speaker complete control over their own environment, so each space turned out completely unique – despite the fact they were all using the same gallery space from Spatial.
Zack Seipert is a marketing and communications pro, and spoke on “360° Content and the Metaverse”. His space was laid out in a traditional gallery type layout – except that his exhibition was anything but traditional since it consisted of skyboxes that you could actually jump into and have a 360° virtual experience of a photograph.
Valerie Hayes, a fractional COO, gave a wonderful presentation on the “Top 3 Reasons Your Business Isn’t Growing”. Her space was decorated beautifully with autumnal trees, giving the space a very polished and elegant impression. Valerie also used the trees very effectively to draw the eye toward her slide deck, creating a natural stage in the gallery space.
Robbie Fitzwater, an e-commerce marketer, took a completely different approach again, one you couldn’t call elegant, but could definitely call fun. He had imported animated 3D models of Daft Punk performing, and Shrek dancing, creating a party atmosphere for his brilliant presentation on “3 Most Essential Marketing Growth Strategies & Why 2 Get Ignored”.
To be honest, I couldn’t believe how smoothly everything went. I mean, this was new to all of us, but everyone pulled together to make it a truly great experience. And while we experienced some tech glitches while we were preparing, the platform and the hardware all behaved impeccably on the day.
So – should you be hosting events in the metaverse?
I’ve now officially helped organise an event in the metaverse, and it went brilliantly. In fact, we’ve already planned to have at least 2 more $RISE Mini-Meta-Talks events.
You might be wondering if you should be hosting events in the metaverse yourself.
Well there are a few things to consider.
Firstly, it’s a brilliant way to get to grips with what the metaverse is and what the opportunities might be. Until you experience it, it’s almost impossible to look ahead and figure out how it might benefit your business.
Be seen as cutting edge – if you have the audience
Also, right now, this is really, really new. So there’s a novelty factor and a wow factor to consider. Which means if you organise an event in the metaverse you are going to be seen as pretty cutting edge.
On the other hand, it’s so cutting edge, you’ll need to figure out if you can access an audience for your event. We were exploring this as a community, so we had a ready-made audience who were excited to support the event.
If you think your audience are early adopter types, or if you think your audience trust you so much they’ll follow you into new experiences, it could be a great way to further nurture a sense of community with your audience.
The great leveller – anyone can have a pristine space
Also, the metaverse is a great leveller. You can have a beautiful pristine space in the metaverse to meet in for free, even if your business is just starting out and you operate it from your messy bedroom.
Also it’s a way for people to get together without needing to show themselves, or their own environment.
So for example we have a client in a specific health & wellness niche, and we know that there are people in their audience who don’t like attending events due to anxieties and perceived stigmas around the topic.
The metaverse would allow people attend without any of those worries – and still be able to get some of the benefits of meeting in-person such as networking and community.
A much truer sense of networking than Zoom
Because during lockdown we attended several converferences and events online, and what nobody seemed to have cracked was the networking experience that comes with in-person events.
But in the metaverse you can create those experiences.
After our event we held a short Q&A, and then we mingled – we visited Joeri’s penthouse, and then on to space Bruce Scheer had created, which was kind of like our post-event drinks, and we just hung out chatting.
For our event, we wanted the speakers to be heard by everyone, so we used the default sound setting which means that everyone can hear everyone.
But in Bruce’s space, for mingling and chatting, the sound was set to “Spatial Audio Falloff” which means sound mimics real life – if I’m at one end of the room chatting to someone, and you’re at the other end of the room, you won’t be able to hear me.
So you can wander about and network, join groups, listen in for a while, and decide to contribute or wander on to another group.
Come and join us
There are definite benefits to organising events in the metaverse, and there are certainly benefits to being ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging technologies.
If you want to experience an event like this, and explore other aspects of Web3 in a sane and measured way, why not join us in the $RISE community?
See you in there.