The meeting has left the building
8th March 2022
Author: Steve Martin, Creative Director

The meeting has left the building

I’ve said this a few times now, but I love working in this industry, you get to experience so many new and different…experiences. For example, the creative department held their first brainstorming session in VR this week and it was truly amazing.

Many might question why we did with some of us going back to the office and face to face meetings becoming a more regular thing again. Others might also argue that this is just another gimmick, and you can’t beat being in the same room and really thrashing out some ideas together.

In many ways I agree with both these statements.

During the pandemic we’ve had to learn and adapt to working at home and conducting creative meetings (well every meeting) over Team, Slack, Zoom (insert video communication tool of choice here!) etc.

Maybe it is just the fatigue of continually being on these calls, but I’ve felt like you can see the energy (and souls) being drained out of people as we stare intently at yet another PowerPoint presentation or try and get the pen tool to work so we can highlight something, only to realise that your screen has frozen and everyone else is 6 slides ahead of you!

It is not so much a brainstorming session, but rather the brain with heavy fog, followed by damp patches later!

I’ve missed the buzz of being in the same room as my fellow creatives, each with a drawing pad, blue tac, a marker pen and some post it notes, throwing out ideas, seeing what works or not, but most importantly, feeling that buzz of energy in the room when you’ve hit on a truly great idea.

Many of us thrive on that energy and today I rediscovered that buzz through VR.

I must admit my fellow Creative Director did all the preparation for the meeting, customising the room, having our logo on the wall, the view from the window, even the shape of the desk. It took a little time to prepare but no more than if we were having a real meeting. When everything was ready, we invited the rest of the creatives into the meeting. Then the fun started.

It is a little hard to put into words the experience and a screen recording just doesn’t do it justice. We were all in the room sitting next to each other like we would be in real life, true it was our avatar selves, but it didn’t matter, my colleagues were sitting next to me.

What helps make it so real is the spatial audio, you can close your eyes and pinpoint exactly who is talking anywhere in the room. You can tell if they're talking directly to you or to someone else and if they move to the whiteboard or change seats the acoustics of the room will change to accommodate that.

You can be creative and share your ideas in so many ways;

  • Draw on the whiteboard or draw on your desk and send it to the whiteboard for others to see.
  • Share your desktop with everyone in the room (you can bring your actual desk into Workrooms).
  • Find a picture that inspires you and share this on the whiteboard.
  • Make notes, draw an infographic on the spot,

Basically, anything you can do in a real meeting room you can do here.

“But my colleague doesn’t have a headset”

You can have a traditional video call with them in your VR meeting room (which strangely feels more natural than having it in your living room, kitchen or bedroom) and they can see everything you are doing and still be completely involved in the meeting.

The actual rooms themselves are strangely calming and give you a real sense of space, it’s much better than the real tiny white walled meeting rooms we normally find ourselves in!

I kept getting the strangest urge to look out the windows

Admittedly, it is not perfect, after all, Workrooms is still in beta stage, but you can see what a powerful tool this is going to be in the very near future.

Now I'm sure many of you are thinking that I’m just excited by this experience because it’s a shiny new toy and over time you'll experience the same fatigue as we currently do with Zoom calls, but I really don’t believe this is going to be the case and here's why:

Firstly, everything I missed about being in a real brainstorming session with my colleagues, we recreated in VR. Any preconceived barriers or inhibitions were gone within minutes, and everyone felt free to express themselves however they wanted, maybe even more so than in real life.

Secondly it felt real. I was no longer sitting in my living room, I was in the environment we created, my colleagues were sitting next to me. We laughed, we drew, we shared, went off on tangents, moved around the room, we could all point at the same thing at the same time, we stepped out of the meeting to take a call. It all felt so natural and instinctive.

True you can’t have a coffee real or virtual throughout the meeting, but I can live with that.., for now!

Thirdly, we can leave that room as it is with all our ideas on the wall for us as long as we like. No one is going to rub out the twenty ideas we had. No one is going to throw away the post it notes. No one else is going to book this room. Instead, we are just going to create a new one for the next meeting, a room that can be completely different and tailored to the brief we are working on. How inspiring is it that you can create bespoke rooms for every occasion, brand and product.

Finally, the thing that excited me was when the meeting was over, we didn't just leave it. We wanted to stay, so we started a new brainstorming session on how we can use this new tool going forward. For example, each of us is going to create our own ‘playrooms’ where we can share our work and inspirations. Why send a pdf of a new logo to each other when we can exhibit it in a virtual environment, draw on it, change it in real time and have a conversation with someone who is right next to me.

We’ve also had quite a few ideas on how it could benefit our clients too.

All this after just one meeting, I can’t remember when this last happened. It certainly never happened over a Zoom call!

Oh, and did I mention. You no longer see yourself on camera. Phew! Also, a big stress relief.