As you all may know, virtual worlds such as Second Life offer businesses the ability to hold virtual events online. Some of you may have even taken a course here at UCI where classes were held within Second Life. This is a growing phenomenon and, as I discuss below, has a number of advantages for businesses. An article in Virtual Worlds News reports that with the downward trend of the economy more businesses are projected to cut back on travel expenses. As a result, virtual conferencing has been viewed as a way for businesses to cut travel costs. Although face-to-face interaction is an essential aspect of business relations, face-to-face meetings are not always necessary, not to mention that they are costly. Telepresence solutions such as video conferencing and virtual world collaborations provide a viable alternative for businesses. And as the technology for video conferencing and virtual world solutions improves and is more directed to business needs, companies are finding it a more attractive option. To illustrate the significance of video conferencing on business, Gartner predicts that by 2012 2.1 million airline seats will be replaced by virtual conferencing alternatives.
Virtual events businesses, such as Corporate Planners Unlimited in Second Life, have expanded their services to take advantage of the growing industry. Corporate Planners Unlimited offers standard sessions and networking events as well as team –building exercises such as skydiving and treasure hunts. These virtual planners give businesses a variety of creative options in much the same way real life events planners do, but at a cheaper price. For most business though, it is not a matter of doing away with physical events and face to face meetings completely, but about finding applications and ways of blending the virtual and real worlds together.