If you've planned, coordinated and hosted an event in real life and been involved in event promotion and publicity, you already know much of what you need to know in Second Life. But some aspects of hosting a virtual event are very unique.
1. Scheduling your event to not conflict with other events in your simulation
A sim seems like a big place but really you have to think of it as being one small room with a capacity of about 60 people at a time. While a totally empty sim can hold 100 avatars, built-up sims vary in capacity from 30 to 60 avatars depending upon what is in the sim and how many scripted objects and prims the avatars have attached.
Only two very small events can be held in the same sim at the same time. If the hope is for a capacity crowd, it is vitally important that event planners consult to assure no conflicts and put the event on the community planning calendar (however that is done in your Second Life community) as soon as possible so that subsequently planned events will not impinge on your developing plans.
All too often, I have encountered the attitude in Second Life of "let's just let everyone plan their own events and if there is a conflict in the schedule, we'll sort it out then". I can only conclude that anyone holding such an opinion has never had to change a scheduled event and all online listings and promotions for an event. Depending on the number and busyness of key event participants it can take many contacts over a number of days to successfully reschedule an event. Besides the inconvenience to event organizers and involved artists or presenters, the audience members who have planned on attending the event will not only be inconvenienced but will lose confidence in the presenter and location. Venues and second life event groups die when they repeatedly disappoint their audience with cancellations, postponements and schedule changes.
Careful coordination of sim and region schedules is not about restricting the rights or abilities of anyone to accomplish their event goals, quite the contrary, a clear scheduling policy and one stop calendar of events assures the minimum of work and confusion and the maximum results for everyone who is both planning events and attending events in any simulation.
2. Assembling event details, materials and information.
You will want to have as many materials in one place well before your event to create informative, interesting promotional materials. Among things that you'll want to acquire or develop are:
a) Participant biographies
b) Participant snapshots (SL and/or RL as desired)
c) Agenda, or program
d) signage for promotion and navigation to event (if needed)
e) URL's for additional information
f) SLURL's or Landmarks for the event
g) any other promotional materials required for event (T-shirts, promotional items)
3. Promoting your event
Events in Second Life tend to concentrate on short-term promotion. However some long-range promotion is necessary to contribute to general awareness about your upcoming activities and to reach those minority of Second Life participants who only attend events which they have put on their schedule days or weeks in advance. You will want to:
a) list your events on the Second Life events listing to assure the event appears as on the search and on the map--good for reaching new audience
b) blog about your event in venue, community and related blogsites
c) connect your blog posts to Social Media such as Facebook, My Space, Twitter and event sites such as Eventful
d) have signage of upcoming events at your venue and around your community simulation.
e) have notecard givers and landmark givers attached to your signage for the event
f) give long-range notification to your core audience in the form of "upcoming events" notecards
g) group promotion is the most effective Second Life promotional strategy. You will have developed your own core audience group by steady effort over weeks and months, proactively inviting group members and assuring that group membership is valuable to them through providing earlier notification and some extras only for the group. Send notices to your core group only and then to additional groups where you have solicited and been accorded posting privileges. Never spam unrelated groups. If in doubt, ask permission.
h) your schedule of group notices should optimally include: 1 week notice to core audience, 1 day notice to core audience plus partner groups, last minute reminders to all of the above, beginning now group IM's to everyone online in core and partner groups. Last minute Twitter posts about events beginning with SLURL's and hash tags for Second Life events are also effective in getting interested folks to your event.
4. Hosting the event
Events which are properly facilitated will make for happy performers and audience members who will keep coming back. The reason that people like Second Life events better than an online podcast is that Second Life is a social experience. It is difficult for an event to feel social without an active and involved host.
Some of these steps seem obvious but I have seen all neglected at times:
a) Don't plan events that you know you will be unable to host. (Believe it or not, this happens!) If emergencies arise be sure that someone else is given ample warning to be able to host the event(s).
b) Event hosts must have sufficient land privileges to properly run an event in the premises. If you are asking someone to host for you assure they have the correct perms. They will need to be able to rez objects, re-set media streams, and eject troublemakers.
c) Assure that artists or presenters have the proper information to connect to media streams. Don't assume because you gave them the information and group invite a month prior that they have it on the day of the event. Confirm that all presenters are in the correct group and have the media stream information.
d) Schedule and participate in a sound-check, if at all possible. Don't assume that because an artist has performed in Second Life previously, that they do not need a sound check.
e) Assure that any special stage set-up is done. Stage set-up is appropriate, any needed props are in place. Test the media screen if one is being used.
f) When you send same day notices of your event, do so from the venue. Some people will always arrive not looking at the time on the notice. Politely let them know when they need to return. (I met one individual at another venue who had mistakenly assumed that all notices were immediate and was very annoyed that so many events appeared to be "cancelled")
g) have general help notecards on hand or signage to help new people in Second Life to tune in media needed to receive sound and/or video for your event.
h) set media stream or assure media stream is correctly set
i) greet people as they arrive, direct traffic, let them know where to get program information and update people on when programming will start. Introduce the artists or presenters and give "housekeeping" announcements about potential annoyances such as typing sounds, sound gestures and bling.
j) be sure that you have the tools and knowledge to deal with griefers. You will need to be able to listen on multiple channels to find the owners of chatty objects, know how to turn off particles to locate particle sources and eject the owners of griefing objects.
k) having some related websites and/or fact sheets handy allows you to entertain your audience during any delays or interuptions in the programming with relevant information and content.
l) if artists are participating for tips, remind the audience to contribute to the artists' costs in Second Life, and draw their attention to links to artist CD's and RL concert schedule.
m) when the event ends, facilitate friendly conversation and thank people for coming to the event.
If you follow this formula, I am sure you will have a packed, fun and hassle-free Second Life event.
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