What Meeting Professionals can Learn from Virtual Choir 2.0

by Traci Browne

'Noson Lawen' Concert at Lleweni Uchaf, Bodfari

Everyone is talking about Virtual and Hybrid meetings.  They are talking about how virtual will replace face-to-face.  They are talking about how virtual will drive face-to-face.  They are talking about hybrid being the future and if you are not doing it you will be left behind.  They talk about its green-ness.  They talk about its cost savings.  They talk about its expense.

I hear a lot of talk about how you “just have to be doing it.”  But I’m not hearing a lot of talk around the strategy.  I’m seeing a lot of virtual events that simply try to replicate a live meeting.  I’m seeing a lot of people sticking a camera in the back of a room, live-streaming the keynote and selling it as a hybrid.  What I’m not seeing is people stepping back and saying, “strategy calls for this to have a hybrid component…so how do we need to re-invent our meeting to accommodate for that.”

I’m hearing this re-imagining, creative, strategic thinking coming from people like Emilie Barta (@emiliebarta on twitter) who invented and perfected the role of the virtual MC.  I’m hearing people like Mike Westcott talking about putting the focus on integration and experience–not on the tools. I’m seeing people like Samuel J. Smith (@samueljsmith on twitter) and Ray Hanson (@rayhansen on twitter #rayrules) actually experimenting and stretching the boundaries successfully with a hybrid concept.

But others are just either trying to do the same thing in a virtual world that they do in a physical one.  Or they are adding a virtual component on to an event as an after thought and then, only if there is budget for it.

Enter Eric Whitacer’s Virtual Choir 2.0

Please take a moment to view the video which was launched on April 7, 2011.

What Eric did not do to create this piece, was gather a choir together in one location and skype in himself as a conductor and conduct the group as he would in a normal concert experience.

What he did do…
•    The idea came from a young fan of his music who posted a video of her singing one of his pieces at her home computer in her room.
•    He created a conductor track with a piano track underneath…just him on video conducting for each piece.  Perhaps it was not the intention but by doing this he is creating a connection with the singer on their home computer.  They are not singing into the ether…they are singing to an actual conductor who is there to guide them.
•    He then sent conductor track to singers around the world.  The first virtual choir had 185 voices from 15 countries.  Virtual Choir 2.0 has grown to 2051 voices from 58 different countries.
•    Each singer recorded their piece alone on their home computer with video and submitted.  Take a look at the backgrounds.  Not everyone is wearing the same color.  There are no backdrops.  You see bookshelves, teddy bears, curtains, whatever is behind the singer while they shoot from their computer in their office or bedroom.  This again allows us, the audience to connect with the singer.  They are real people just like us.
•    All the videos were compiled together to create a whole.  Again, Eric did not just make his virtual choir an online version of a concert hall performance.  One video from one fan moved him and he run with that idea.  He did not stray from what caused such a strong emotion in him.

Eric says he learned two key things from this experiment and I would like to pass them on to you all.  Keep these two things in the front of your mind when you are toying with the idea of creating virtual or hybrid meeting experiences. Here they are.

“human beings will go to any lengths necessary to find and connect with each other, it doesn’t matter the technology”

“people seem to be experiencing an actual connection…I feel this virtual esprit de corps, if you will, with all of them.  I feel a closeness to this choir, almost like a family.”

Virtual Choir 1.0 Video

Virtual Choir website

Face Book Page where choir members are connecting with one another

Sam Smith & Ray Hansen’s – EventCamp Twin Cities – Here you can view the event in it’s entirety and see it from the virtual audience perspective.  Unfortunately what you will not get to experience is the twitter chatter taking place during this event.  EventCamp Twin Cities was a trending topic that day, at times beating out the Vikings.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tahira April 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

What a super cool thing – thanks for sharing this.

I agree with you – there is no point in any kind of meeting if you don’t know why you are doing it or the needs of your (potential) audience – it needs to extend all the way through to hybrid.

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