How not to suck, if you can swallow it.July 30, 2009
Okay, I’ll admit it, the idea for my recent posts about events in Second Life started as a rant. For the longest time, I’ve been frustrated that gems of events get lost among a sea of…well, let’s just say things that turn out not to even be events. After writing the first one, I wanted to write a blistering rant that went off on all of the things that people do when creating events that contribute to the dreck. The more I played with drafts of this post, the more I realized that the classic comic character Pogo had it right: ” We have met the enemy and he is us.” If we can all be thoughtful about what events we choose to participate in or how we approach planning events, the more likely that we are to see fewer bad events. So instead of a rant, I’ve decided to write about what makes a good event and some ways to find them.
I’ve come to believe that there are three important factors that contribute to good events in Second Life. They are:
- Quality of content;
- Opportunity for interaction; and
- Thoughtful planning.
Want to know more? Curious about what makes a good event? Tune in after the jump for more details with a few examples!
Let me start with saying that when I call something an event in Second Life, I’m meaning something that is open to the public, has a set start and finish time, and includes purposeful planned action between and among avatars. Now, that said, keep in mind that not all events are created equally. There are big special events with lots going on, all the way to recurring events that happen daily. No matter what the event, however, the principles of what make up a good event are the same but become a matter of scale. The bigger or more unique an event may be, the more critical it becomes to think about.
Quality of content. If you get nothing else from this post, I hope you’ll walk away with this: events are creative content in Second Life. Because what is created with an event in Second Life is more ethereal than a prefab house or prim hair, I believe there can be a tendency to overlook events as content. Good event content in Second Life is uniquely creative, takes advantage of being in a virtual world, and is well done (not in the overcooked way, but in the not sloppy way). One good example of this is Grace McDunnough’s Musimmersion. With Musimmersion, Grace took her lovely, well-crafted songs and created different sets to evoked the feel she wanted for that song. The audience was moved from set to set on their seats. The result was a really fantastic event. Good content need not be as involved as Musimmersion, though. As simpler example for musicians, good content could be taking the time to ask yourself: Have you practiced your set? Does it sound good and does your av convey something about you or your music?
Opportunity for interaction. One of the hallmarks of Second Life is that we project ourselves in-world through an avatar we control. An important part of that is interacting with content, so why should the content of an event be any different? The content could be music or a lecture or a gallery opening, but good events somehow foster an interchange between what is happening and the audience. Metanomics is a great example of enabling interaction with the content; what happens at one of their events is not limited to just the formal presenters because avenues like group backchat, the use of Chatbridge and multiple in-world venues allow for a rich interaction between participants. Yes. I know some people find Metanomics intimidating or possibly cliquey, but the important part is that doesn’t matter what the subject of Metanomics is, what matters is that people have the opportunity for some interaction related to the content. Is there opportunity for interaction in your event? For example, can you chat with the group in-between trivia questions?
Thoughtful planning. What is the old saying? Proper prior planning prevents poor performance? Taking time to fully plan the event – including marketing – ahead of time leads to better results. I’m not just talking about planning content, either. A good example is the club Ye Olde Terrier’s Inn. No, they are not a big club and they only have one event each night, but each event is well-planned. They start by planning out all of the events for the given week and sending out a notecard to group members and interested people at the beginning of each week. In this notecard, it lists a a brief description of each of the events for following week with the correct day, time, and SLurl. Not only that, but they come up with some of the most entertaining ideas for contests; in the past week, a sampler of events themes included Summer Camp, Gypsy Bonfire and The Running of the Bulls. They also follow up with reminders to the group earlier in the day. While many decide which event to attend at the last minute, planning ahead and sending out accurate information a few days in advance really helps (this is especially true if you want it to hit the SL blogosphere). If you’re take the time and effort to create an event, are you asking yourself where, how or when you are getting the word out? Or do you need others to help you pull the event off?
I’m sure some of you have seen the old commercials for Syms clothing store that had the tagline, “where an educated consumer is our best customer.” Going to events in Second Life costs time and Lindens in tips (or at least it should include tips!); it doesn’t take long to search and you’ll get a pretty good sense if the event is decent or not. In addition to events search in-world (and the Lindens also have it on the web), there are some very good sources of event information that are out there in the SL blogosphere, but only a small portion of people in SL read the blogs. Chestnut’s Choices in New World Notes is published every Thursday and provides a fantastic overview for the week (and yes, I’ll admit a bias but please show me anywhere else that provides a succinct selection of events and I will hug and kiss you!) Malburns Writer’s Twitter feed is invaluable with much more information than just events. But after that, it gets into blogs addressing more specific interests such as Not Possible In Real Life and the arts as well as SLED keeps a great calendar of education-related events. Music has a tremendous set of resouces find good shows in SL and you can find these with just a simple web search.
Just like people who build and sell things in Second Life, there are people who understand what goes into making good event content and some that, um, don’t understand as well. But just as you wouldn’t spend Lindens on poorly made shoes, why invest time and money on poorly conceived events? Most people I know spend at least some time each month at an event, so what do you look for in an event? How do you find new events? What drives you just a little bit nuts?