This doesn’t happen too often to me: writing a blog post that has environmental topic. But since the world is changing due to lots reasons this is an another topic I need and want to touch upon. We all have been in plenty of 2D meetings and events since the pandemic started. Lots of events have been purely online (like Teams Nation I was co-organizing) and there has been hybrid events that have enabled people to participate in person and also joining the event online.
First, it is good to remind that the Hybrid world and work is here to stay.
Many workplaces have adopted hybrid model to work and there are useful features coming to Microsoft 365 that will help to manage and let your team know if you are going to be online or working or attending from somewhere else. Ability to respond to a meeting request with attending online or in person will let meeting organizers know what to expect.
Another example is the ability to set working hours setting will be updated to more modern version:
Yes, the hybrid world is already here and it is not going to go away. Many people will think how much time they will save when they don’t have to commute to the office. Those using car or public transportation also may think about cost savings due to fuel prices rising because the changes in the world. Here we are again: organizations need the flexibility to be able to respond to changes happening the world. Hybrid / remote working is one of those tools to ensure your employees don’t start look for an another employer who offers that possibility. Along with cost savings comes also the sustainability: instead of driving to the office it is much better for the environment to work from home (do a lot less commuting than 2+ years ago). Excluding people who use bicycles for commuting or walk/run/teleport to the office we see several key benefits here: saving time, money and environment. The saved time might be used, just two examples of many, for taking care of yourself (sleeping longer, taking a walk, run or bicycle trip, playing games) or having more time for the family.
Personally I have been working primarily from home for years now; long before covid. To me key points were the practicality and why: I needed a reason and purpose why I would go to the office. Spending time and money just for commuting didn’t make any sense. This lead me to prepare my home office to suit my needs and it ended up being a better place for me to work than what office can provide. Of course people are different – for some office is the key place to do work and it is where they can concentrate and get results the best. For me it is the home office. A good employee experience is for businesses to be able to be flexible and offer employees choices and ability to adapt to changing situations without having to think how it will affect the productivity.
Microsoft is thinking about sustainability in many ways. One of those ways is to think environmental effect between digital and in-person event. They used the Global MVP Summit as an example but this applies even more strongly to big Microsoft events like Microsoft Ignite, Build, Inspire and MBAS.
Microsoft also did calculation how much emissions is saved by doing a digital environment compared to in-person.
Of course savings for the environment are big ones. The larger the event, the larger savings are. This calculation however skips some things like datacenter energy and emission needs, use of data and most importantly what you can gain when talking, interacting, networking and building a community to people in-person. Doing MVP Summit as attendee in digital version it was this year (using 2D online meetings via Teams) wasn’t ideal for extra interactions. You don’t feel you are part of the people that much as when you would be there in person. You don’t get memories, experiences or have ability for lots of spontaneous talks. Don’t get me wrong: MVP Summit wasn’t bad as digital version but the energy community brings in when they are there in-person is just massive. I consider myself lucky that I was able to attend one Summit 2019.
In the future of events will very likely be Hybrid one way or another. Like Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2022 is going to be mostly online but with some seats in person. According to ZDNet “However, Apple plans to invite a limited number of developers and students to attend the opening keynote and state of the union in person at Apple Park. “.
Something like this is very probable what we will be seeing more. People from all around the world can join online without having to travel but then some people can be there for in-person experience. I do enjoy the excitement, networking and community in those in-person events like Ignite or Inspire but it is also a fact that savings in time, money and environment are big if the event has less in-person attendees.
In the future I am sure that attending events in in-person will be more carefully thought are the gains enough to justify the spent time, money and environment. And is the event sustainable in all those factors.
Hybrid events indeed have savings but they are also more inclusive and accessible: allowing people with less resources (time, money) to participate. This means going hybrid is much more sustainable on many levels. Except for interactions between people unless Metaverse is included.
Adding Metaverse on top of the hybrid
Enter the Metaverse: connect the hardware and load your digital twin (aka avatar) to the event. Boom! You are “there”, in the digital twin world of the event. Seeing other attendees, speakers, sponsors and experiencing the excitement all that brings in. Zero travel time, limited costs (headset) and ability to disconnect if you need a break.
Sounds too easy and too good to be true. This is not reality for large events yet. In the Metaverse you can explore the event site and talk spontaneously with people. Move to another booth, ask questions. Join the session room and see other avatars who are enjoying the show there. What are missing are of course all things physical: swag, drinks, food unless the event has arranged some package delivery prior the event.
Since reading that Microsoft sustainability article, about MVP Summit environment savings for being digital, I have thoughts about what difference Metaverse does to hybrid events. It will bring the same sustainability on all fronts: time, money, environment and there is inclusivity & accessibility & diversity built-in. Metaverse platform itself should have security and ethics as well in it (read this excellent Microsoft article).
What Metaverse adds is the feeling of togetherness, possibility to spontaneously engage in conversations and meet people and the immersive feeling of being in there. It will be an experience, rather than an another 2D meeting. This applies to work as well – instead of commuting to the office we might want to visit the digital twin (virtual version) office and see who’s there. Having meetings, ideating something new and being spontaneous while enjoying the feeling of togetherness and being there.
I think we are going to be seeing Metaverse (Mesh for Teams) widely used in Microsoft Ignite 2022 to level up the online meeting experience and enable hybrid conference in a new way. We have seen glimpses of this earlier when Microsoft Mesh was announced and when Mesh for Teams was published so this feels like a very easy guess. There will be people present and people attending online via streams, Teams and Metaverse. Perhaps it will be also used with Inspire 2022 as a test drive during July. Mesh for Teams should come out to preview at the end of H1/2022 so it should make it to Inspire 2022 I hope.
How much fun you can have in the event in Metaverse then?
Teams Nation’s 5th and last community conference had afterparty in the Metaverse (AltSpace VR space this time). We had over 130 people attending the event room during the evening. The event room was custom made and also included a live DJ playing music. While AltSpace VR is not the fully fledged Metaverse we like to think it was still quite impressive to see how the space was immersive – and I even didn’t use a headset! Being able to be there together with others is surely something that we miss in 2D meetings. Unfortunately drinks were virtual too, but the good side was that everyone was able to have their own. Last swords were quite fun there too.
I took some pictures of the Afterparty:
AltSpace VR is not the Metaverse I am talking – it is one of first steps in the journey. Mesh for Teams will enable people to join and enjoy Metaverse events & meetings directly via Teams – without having to install additional software. This will have a big impact in the future for events: making it possible to jump between 2D and immersive 3D meeting versions (assuming it goes like seen in published pictures). This means that people can choose to join the event in 3D way if that is preferred or using 2D mode if that works better for them. This is just part of the flexibility needed for the Hybrid and Metaverse world.
Of course hybrid and metaverse will never replace the feeling and interactions that happen with real in-person meetings and events. Being flexible, agile and open-minded we can surely make the best mix for us using all available options and choose the one that meets the need.