Virtual Decision Making

Save Money and Time by Using VR to Gain Buy-In on Your Meeting Spaces

By Jamie McDonough, CRP, Knowledge Architect | August 15, 2019

The Real-World Challenge

Just two months before a large program was to begin setting their general session in a convention center ballroom, revised labor estimates were provided to the sponsoring organization. Budget was now a real concern.

In order to keep the labor to straight time only, the load in had to be completed over the course of two 8-hour days. However, the association did not have the ballroom space for those two full days. Fusion Productions had several redesign ideas that would work within a single 8-hour set time.

The challenge was to gain buy-in from the association volunteer leadership who had already invested their time and money into a previous site trip.

The Solution

Fusion created a VR (Virtual Reality) version of the room using the existing 5-screen design and another version of the room with the proposed 3-screen design. The VR program and headsets were brought to where the five decision makers were located for a scheduled town hall style meeting. The objective was for them to conduct a virtual site trip with the added benefit of seeing their room set up… complete with screens and stage.

VR Creation Process

The CAD file for the room was analyzed and taken into industry standard 3D modeling software, 3D Studio Max, to build the 3D architectural structure of the room as accurately as possible to the real-world location. This includes structural pillars, walls, alcoves, doors, exits and any other elements which affect room layout. Once completed, the ability to put on the VR headset and walk around the environment allowed producers and clients to notice issues such as audience line of sight from the stage and screens.  Before VR, these issues wouldn’t have been noticed until the physical setup of the room the day before an event.

Artwork that was part of the production including PowerPoint, video, and other screen media was then loaded on the 3D virtual reality screens inside the environment. Previously, when producing media and animation that must seamlessly span from screen to screen in a 3, 5 or 7+ screen setup, there was no way to test if the media was working on the physical screens prior to the show given that those screens aren’t setup until the day before an event. By loading the media inside the VR environment, Fusion’s media and event producers will be able to test and resolve any issues, both technical and visual, which might arise well ahead of the event.

Virtual Reality to Reality

Fusion designer and general session producer Jamie McDonough then met with the client in Atlanta. Each volunteer leader/decision maker and the planning team had an opportunity to wear the VR Oculus goggles. They virtually walked through two different ballroom room designs. They were able to sit in any one of the 3,000 chairs in the room. They were able to walk backstage and then onto the stage as if they were presenting.

Each one of the volunteer leaders quickly agreed that the more affordable 3-screen design was every bit as powerful as the previously approved 5-screen design. And all agreed the VR “site trip” and seeing their room setup options allowed them to make an informed and unanimous decision.

A few weeks later, before rehearsals, at the convention center, one of the volunteer leaders said, “you don’t have to show me where to get on stage. I already did that with the Goggle in Atlanta!”

VR Oculus Generated Room © Fusion Productions

VR Oculus Generated Room © Fusion Productions

Actual AAHOA Show © Fusion Productions

Actual AAHOA Show © Fusion Productions

To VR or Not to VR?

Using VR to make staging decisions is not always necessary. This was an extreme case that could have impacted the attendee experience and association budget. However, some tradeshow applications are becoming more and more common. Imagine you are with mega-company, launching a new brand with a 100’ x 100’ booth footprint, 2-story booth in Las Vegas. It would be worth the time and expense to be able to walk through every room, corridor, and display before the project advances too far down the road.

Tips

·        Ask yourself, “Will this provide the ROI we need to justify the cost of development?”

·        What are ways to decrease the costs of VR development?

o   Are there available CAD files with which the structure can begin?

o   Is there existing art for the screens?

·        Work with the VR development team on the objectives. Define if this is to be a finished room with exact wall treatments and carpeting or can generic ambiance work because you’re just looking at screens. Do we need to mimic the stage lighting for presenters that will be new to a stage?

Next time you’re in a bind and can’t get a group of people to fly across country, consider VR to take them there and back!

Jamie McDonough, Knowledge Architect with Fusion Productions, has been producing engaging learning events for over 30 years. His world is primarily in the “main tent” helping others to deliver their messages on the general session stage.