Fraunhofer IAO and the Virtual World Tour

meetyoo conferencing GmbH / June 2020 / Digital Event


The Fraunhofer IAO was appointed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to organize a conference on the topic of labour research. With the motto “The Future of Work,” it was particularly important to the organizers to not only present forward-looking content on the topic, but also to integrate an innovative event format into the conference. The idea of a “digital twin” with the topic “Future Worlds of Work around the World” was born – the Virtual World Tour. Simultaneous to the physical conference in December 2018 in Stuttgart, twelve academic institutions all over the globe were able to present current research results and their views on these topics with two-hour live streams over a 24-hour period – and all this on meetyoo’s platform for virtual events!

A number of renowned research organizations from eight time zones and five continents participated. Institutions from Australia, Japan, Taiwan, South America, the USA and Europe were represented.

One of the main goals of the Virtual World Tour was to promote scientific exchange about the future of work. It also aimed to compile findings from the various disciplines of labour research in a common international knowledge map. This map is intended to minimize redundancies in research in the future and make better use of synergies. The commissioning party, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), also placed great importance on technical reliability and smooth operations.  

The presentations and discussions of the Virtual World Tour were also available to interested trade visitors after the end of the event as an on-demand version of the virtual event.  

Necessity of interactive sessions

The interaction of online participants with the physical and virtual meeting content is of great importance for the success of virtual meetings. As part of the Virtual World Tour, efforts were made to ensure that interaction possibilities exist with the international partners during the twelve live streams. For example, participants were able to communicate with the partners during some sessions via live chats. It was also recommended to the partners of Fraunhofer IAO to create a separate email address in order to process incoming questions and include them into the live discussion rounds. In most cases, communication with participants took place via the social media channels of the respective institution and was not included in the session. The sessions themselves had different formats, offering the audience presentations and round tables as well as guided tours on site, which were streamed online as webcasts.

Technical preparation as the key to success

One of the biggest challenges in the planning of the conference was faced by meetyoo in its role as the technical provider. It had to be ensured that all twelve partners had the technical infrastructure and the necessary know-how for recording and playing back a live stream. For example, this also included a verification of the conditions on site in the run-up to the event by meetyoo’s technical team. Over the course of this technical checkup, several components of a live stream were tested:

 

  • Camera:   Instead of using a webcam, the live streams should be recorded with a high-resolution camera.
  • Microphones:  Lapel microphones or headsets were recommended for a high quality audio track.
  • Graphic Support: As soon as other content (presentations, video clips, graphics or animations) was to be shared in addition to the camera image, this was tested in advance.
  • Location: Laboratories, development centres, workshop rooms or even auditoriums are suitable for recording the live stream. In order to be able to change the perspective during the session, it was recommended to equip the set with roll-ups, screens or prototypes.

In the case of a weak technical infrastructure, the partners were offered the option of pre-recording their presentation instead of live streaming it. This option was utilized by three of the twelve partners.  

The Virtual World Tour, a case for hybrid scientific events

The experiences with the Virtual World Tour strengthened Fraunhofer IAO’s interest in hybrid events. Especially the connection of online and offline interactions across globally distributed institutions offers many possibilities that have not yet been exhausted with the Virtual World Tour. Thus, experiments with hybrid events in this field can also offer added value in the future. Online working groups for the in-depth discussion of symposium topics are an option, as well as the integration of virtual collaborative spaces into a physical conference.

According to meetyoo’s Innovation Manager, Tim Gutsche, the future also offers above all “an even better digitization of the physical experience […] one problem, however, is that whenever you digitize a physical experience, you are competing with the actual physical experience. One possible consequence of this would be to rethink virtual meetings so that they no longer resemble a physical event.”You can read more about our virtual ubivents here.