Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Talk about the rally here.

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RonKujawa
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Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by RonKujawa » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:04 pm

Watching the last TAXI TV, it sure seems like this year's Rally is going to be a virtual event. It sounds like Michael is getting a handle on shifting most of the ballroom panels and presentations to online. If you've ever attended a Rally, you'll likely agree with me that what goes on in the ballroom and classrooms can be very valuable, but one of the best parts of the Rally is hanging out in the lobby connecting with people.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this, especially those who've been there before. How can we replicate some of the feel and experience of the Road Rally hotel lobby and bar virtually? A way for small groups to gather, catch up, meet new people, and connect.

Can we organize small groups to meet in Zoom, Facebook Rooms, or Google Hangouts? Is one of those better than the others? Is there something else even better?

One note, in my opinion, just like in real life, if a group gets too big with too many people talking at the same time, it becomes difficult to hear, and participate. Six in a group max seems like a good number. I might be wrong though.

Would we need assigned hosts? Do any of those platforms allow limiting the number of people in a room?

Can we set up a trial run or two with a small test group before the Rally?

How I envision it is a few people gather in a virtual room, others can join until it gets to 6. When someone leaves, it opens a slot for someone new to join. Ideally there is no host, or the host transfers automatically. If there was a way for our large group to see who is in these smaller groups, that'd be awesome. Then you could see who is in the small groups and pop in and out, kind of like you would do in real life.

From experience these last few months, here are a few tips that can help make the experience better for all involved.

Audio
- headphones or ear buds recommended
- dedicated mic recommended
- reduce background noise - TV, kids, wind, pets

Video
- Lighting helps
- Clean backgrounds are less distracting
- Blur or use virtual background

One more thing... even if there is more than one person physically in the same space and able to share a screen, I find it better for each person to be on their own device. The tech works better, and it levels the experience for everyone.

Thoughts? Can this be done? Dumb idea?

PS If this could work, I'd love to see us roll it into more frequent virtual meetups during the year. Once a month, once a quarter... something like that. idk

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by sagebrush2 » Mon Aug 10, 2020 1:42 pm

I'm definitely interested in seeing other's thoughts! I think something like this is a great idea.
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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by JulianBlackmore » Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:50 am

Great ideas here!

I attended a virtual conference a couple of weeks ago. The host platform was great: they had a main stage and seminar 'rooms', plus they had a sponsor 'area' and networking option where you could go and chat to others.

The networking area wasn't quite the same thing as what you're suggesting, but it may be something that could be configured in the software?

I've already mentioned this to Taxi HQ, but if you're interested here's the link: https://hopin.to/

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by RonKujawa » Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:31 am

I'll check that out, thanks! If I can't find it, I'll contact to see if networking is limited to 1:1 or can it be small groups.

I may just do a focus group test in a Facebook Room one of these nights and see how it goes.
JulianBlackmore wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 7:50 am
Great ideas here!

I attended a virtual conference a couple of weeks ago. The host platform was great: they had a main stage and seminar 'rooms', plus they had a sponsor 'area' and networking option where you could go and chat to others.

The networking area wasn't quite the same thing as what you're suggesting, but it may be something that could be configured in the software?

I've already mentioned this to Taxi HQ, but if you're interested here's the link: https://hopin.to/

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by jaywilliams » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:59 pm

hey Ron you may consider Google meet its free, quite flexible, and easy to use.

great idea btw!

Jay :)

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by RonKujawa » Thu Aug 13, 2020 9:03 am

Hey, Jay. I think Google Hangouts and Meet are now the same thing. Could be a good option.

Julian, I checked out hopin.to and it's impressive. That could be a great platform to run the entire virtual Road Rally. It looks like their Sessions could handle what I'm describing, but I'm not totally sure. Their Networking feature is one-on-one and I don't think would be a good way to go for a virtual hanging out in the lobby. It seems like their Sessions is geared more toward what small classroom presentations would be at the Rally. If you can limit the group to smaller than 10, and not need a host, or the host transfers automatically, it could work. Buuuuut... I think using this platform only really works for a virtual lobby if TAXI uses it for the whole conference.

I think I'll try a Facebook Room next.

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by RonKujawa » Fri Aug 28, 2020 10:20 pm

I launched a Facebook Room from within a private group and it was great. We had 6-7 total in there, up to 5 at once. I had planned to lock the room once it got to 6, but we never got there. I'd also like to see how things work if/when the host leaves.

I'm looking forward to doing it again. Obviously, it's not quite the same as being at the Rally in person, but I really enjoyed hanging with Taxi friends, some I've known, and some I met for the first time. Some of that energy was there. And my bar tab was approximately 1/1Millionth of your average night at the Westin. :D

It'd be awesome to try this again with multiple groups of 2-6, where people pop in and out of groups. Kind of like you would in person.
Last edited by RonKujawa on Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by Kolstad » Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:44 am

Microsoft Teams is another good option, very easy to use and flexible. Most workplaces and schools use that over here.

The hardest part to reproduce is the hang over beers and coffees ;)

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Re: Virtual Road Rally Hotel Lobby

Post by RonKujawa » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:53 am

Kolstad wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:44 am
Microsoft Teams is another good option, very easy to use and flexible. Most workplaces and schools use that over here.

The hardest part to reproduce is the hang over beers and coffees ;)
Haha, so true!

I have used MS Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts and FB Rooms. Teams has some great features, but I've found if you have more than 4 people, it falls apart. Maybe they've updated, but my experience was it would only display 4 people at a time. Not a show stopper though.

There are two features that make doing this on FB very appealing.

1. The host can lock the room. Once you get to 5-6 people, the room can be locked. If it dwindles down, you can open it back up. I believe keeping the Rooms small is a key to them working. Just like in real life, if a group of 15-20 of us was gathered in the lobby, it wouldn't work. We'd naturally break off into smaller groups where communication works better. I'm unclear if the other platforms have something similar. To me, it'd be ideal to have a setting that limited the Room to 6.

2. The bigger issues for me is trying to organize everyone who potentially wants to participate. There's an existing private FB Group with a few hundred Taxi people, and it'd be easy to invite and let FB manage with no additional work. Anyone within the Group can launch a Room, give access to only Group members, lock it down when there's a comfortable number of people, and unlock when the numbers drop. However, I was told after my experiment there are some potential problems advertising the existing private Group here that I need to look into.

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