Presentations in VR

I gave a lecture at Prefabs TLX in VRChat in December 2020, and I made some observations about presenting in VR.

The audience was muted during my talk, which absolutely makes sense. However, it meant that I got, relative to a meatspace presentation, almost no realtime feedback. It *felt* like I was absolutely bombing. At one point I made a small joking aside, and (obviously) absolute crickets. I was briefly alarmed until I remembered that if people laughed I wouldn’t be able to hear them.

I was also acutely aware of the fact that body language in VR, even with full-body tracking, does not translate one-to-one from real life. I think I wound up using a lot more illustrative hand movements up in front of my chest, because that way I could see what I was doing. When I had my hands down, there was always a vague unease that I just did not know how I was physically presenting.

That effect, I note, may be particular to my ratio of experience presenting and performing in my physical body to experience presenting in VR. I am very comfortable in my understanding of what my body is doing in meatspace, and much less so in VR. Someone with hundreds of hours of socializing in VR but minimal experience as a public speaker might have a very different experience.

Another issue that came up for some speakers is that slide decks can be really hard to read in VR because VRChat is not great handling big slabs of text. My deck seemed to go all right because I generally draft decks as outlines rather than substantive text, so my fonts are big. But the affordances of slides are definitely not the same in VR as they are in physical environments.

Relatedly, it occurred to me days later that probably much less of the audience than I’m used to was taking notes.

Adapted from a Twitter thread