Virtual Meeting Platforms

In the new normal, we have all had to learn how to do meetings in a different way. With the advent of COVID shutting down in-person, face-to-face events, we have all learned how to use virtual meeting platforms. 

The most well-known of these is Zoom. And there are others that are similar to Zoom like GoTo, etc.  Basically, everyone shows up in a little box on a screen. It looks like Hollywood Squares or the Brady Bunch (which are old tv shows for my younger readers). For the most part, these platforms work really well for meetings, events, seminars, and presentations.

Most of us have gotten proficient at customizing our online presence on these platforms to suit our needs. But remember, way back in March, how awkward it was to figure it out? How many times did you forget to mute or unmute? How long did it take to learn how to turn off your video so just your name would show up, which allowed you to do something privately, like comfort a child or dog? Or answer the door for a delivery. Or get something to eat. Or dash to the bathroom. (See Tiffany Haddish’s sad but hilarious story!)

The older I get the more I realize how important it is to be open to change, and new ways of doing things. No matter how frustrating the learning curve may be to conquer, the end result of mastering a new technique is always worth it.  I feel good about new achievements, which helps my overall mental health.  There is a lot of neurological research about the benefits of exercising the brain with new activities to stave off aging-related decline.

So, when I had a chance to partake in a networking event using a new meeting platform, I was ready.  I figured I had mastered Zoom and other platforms so I wasn’t feeling nervous in the slightest. The group holding the event was one I had recently joined, in order to network and publicize my new business venture in their area.

The organizer, let’s call him Will, had invited me to a private networking group so I could meet everyone and get a sense of how their community worked.  The invitation was a standard Zoom invite but noted that we would be switching to something called GatherTown for the last 30 minutes of the meeting. 

During the first hour, everything went very well. Once in the Zoom meeting, I renamed my little box the way I liked and settled down to listen and take notes. I was introduced and allowed to say a little about myself and my business. All was fine.

At the end of the hour, Will told everyone that he and his staff person would be switching us into a “room” in GatherTown automatically. This would take a few minutes as they had to admit us one by one (similar to what happens in a Zoom waiting room). 

Once I was in the room, I noticed we were NOT all in little boxes. We all had avatars assigned to us and we were in a room with walls and furniture, set up to look like an office lobby. My name was right under my avatar and when I was close to other avatars, our faces would appear at the top of the room and we could converse. If I wasn’t in range of someone I could not talk to them. It was very cool as I quickly realized this format would allow me to walk from group to group or from person to person to chat. Sort of how you would do in a real-life situation at an event.  See someone you haven’t met across the room? Walk on over and introduce yourself.

As Will was explaining the basic principles of GatherTown, I was checking out the room. I somehow clicked on a hammer icon which gave me the tools to personalize my avatar. (Since I have short hair, I wanted to change the long-haired feature of my assigned avatar.) I should also note that I have really bad eyesight that I manage either with coke-bottle lenses or with contacts AND reading glasses.  The teeny-tiny little avatar options were hard for me to see, plus I was trying to do this while also listening to Will explain the platform basics. I was very pleased to find a short-haired option for my avatar at last and clicked on it.

By this time, the other attendees (who hadn’t been monkeying around with their avatars) were moving about the room and having conversations.  I started clicking away on my space bar, the return key, and the delete key to move around and found myself stuck up against the top of the room, and right next to Will. He told me to use the arrow keys to move around. I then used my cursor to attempt to find arrows on the screen. Nothing was working.

My avatar was not moving. I was getting a little flustered and a few people drifted over to help me understand to use the arrow keys on my keyboard. Aha! I hit one of the keys and my avatar CAREENED WILDLY away. Someone scooted over and told me to just touch it once and I gently touched it and BAM! I was again off to the races, zipping madly away from them until I hit another solid wall. I then tried to barely graze the arrow key and WOW off I go again, running over a row of other avatars whose faces briefly appeared as I flew over them!

No matter how gently I touched any of the four keys, my avatar would just blast off across the screen. Time is passing and at one point, someone cornered me and tried to talk to me when I was grinding against a wall. She was laughing so hard because of course EVERYONE COULD SEE MY AVATAR SPINNING WILDLY AROUND THE ROOM. Oh, and my avatar that I customized? It was a boy. In a wheelchair.

So, I encourage all of you to be open to new experiences—I mean, you can’t do much worse than I did! It is good for you, mentally and physically, to work your brain. Thank goodness, laughter is also good for you and your brain.

About Office Evolution

At Office Evolution, we provide virtual office, coworking, and private office solutions at our shared office center. We offer meeting rooms, offices for rent, hot desking in a shared workspace coworking lounge, a shared reception, a business address, and virtual receptionist services. We have many options and price points, and all terms are flexible. Plus, you become part of a community of like-minded professionals.

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