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Inside the planning and execution of XRDC, the premier AR/VR/MR industry event

The VR and AR industries advance by leaps and bounds every year, and there’s no better place to see the leading edge of that advancement than XRDC in October.

XRDC is the premier conference for augmented, virtual, and mixed reality innovators, focusing on use cases for immersive experiences across games, entertainment, healthcare, education, training, industrial design, brand experience, and other industries.

It’s a great place to meet fellow AR/VR/MR trailblazers and learn about how they’re achieving success with these technologies. This year XRDC is moving to a brand-new waterfront venue, the beautiful Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco, and with that upgrade comes a whole host of interesting challenges and exciting possibilities.

It’s not easy to organize, build, and run an event of this scale, especially when you’re working with temperamental cutting-edge tech, but XRDC GM Katie Stern leads a veteran team of event experts who make it look easy. Here, Stern offers some insight on how an event like this comes together, and what you should know about pitching compelling, successful talks for an event like XRDC.

 Unlike most professional conferences, XRDC isn’t happening in a hotel this year. Why did Informa choose to host XRDC at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion instead?

When showcasing and discussing cutting-edge technology such as AR/VR, the environment in which you gather has a big impact on the success of the event. Does it facilitate networking? Does the environment match the content? Does it just feel cool to be there? After reviewing our objectives for the event, we determined that hosting XRDC in a hotel didn’t align with the type of event we wanted to create for this particular space.

As a professional who cares about staying educated in your field, you’ve probably been to any number of conferences in your career. Think back to how you feel when you step into a hotel ballroom. Or a convention center breakout room. Is it inspiring? Does it make you want to have a conversation with your neighbor? Does it feel a little too quiet – as though you should use your library etiquette?

None of those sentiments aligned with the excitement you probably feel about being involved in the AR/VR space. You want to talk about it! You want to learn! You want to share! We wanted to find a location that evoked that mind of emotion when you step in. And what better option that a really funky, historic San Francisco landmark building, right on the water, with tons of daylight and the flexibility to design an event experience that invigorates (rather than bores) its audience.

How so?

Much like VR/AR tries to create seamless experiences for its users, we wanted XRDC to be seamless for our ‘users.’ We asked ourselves what it would take to remove the barriers of a traditional classroom setting, a segregated demo area and disjointed meal functions. In putting all of the show elements in one large, open area, it allows for more organic networking opportunities, better interactions between partner demos and attendees, speakers and practitioners.

As an emerging market with cutting edge applications, one never knows where the next stroke of genius lies. Creating an environment that facilitates connections was our top priority. And we couldn’t accomplish that in a hotel.

Speaking of genius, what kind of content does the XRDC team look for when organizing the event?

The goal of XRDC is to bring together professionals across the entire AR, VR, & MR ecosystem to drive innovation, share best practices, identify opportunities, and push the market forward. As such, we look for content that has practical take-aways and offers immediate technical or business lessons. We look for expert practitioners, not marketers, to speak.

XRDC does not accept product, service, or vendor-related submissions. If a submission is an advertisement for a new product, technology or service a company is offering, we ask that they present in our Partner Track. We believe that there is value in our partners presenting at the event, but we try to make it really distinct from the editorial content on offer.

When experts submit pitches for talks, how are those talks evaluated and approved for XRDC?

Great question! We have a highly regarded advisory board that reviews all of the submissions based on the following criteria:

Concept: This is the basic idea of your submission. Is the concept interesting? Is it relevant? Will it be beneficial for attendees to hear? Is it well supported with facts, data, or case studies when possible?

 Depth: Is the basic idea well considered and thought out? To what extent will the audience gain insight? The more in-depth, the better. There is plenty of room for innovative ideas as well as the tried and true topics.

 Organization: Are your ideas conducive to presenting in front of an audience? Will the advisory board understand what you are trying to say and why you want to share it? Organization helps.

Credentials: How do your credentials qualify you to speak on the topic you have proposed?

Takeaway: Is the attendee going to leave this session with an actionable or inspiring takeaway? Are they learning or being inspired? This is the most important aspect of every XRDC session.

So what makes for a great XRDC session?

Conference attendees in this space are very intelligent. The material they're looking for is inspirational and/or provides a concrete, applicable takeaway that is not obvious. Attendees expect excellence from our speakers.

Beyond that (and tailoring the content to the areas we are specifically looking for during the submission process), the majority of our talks are mentored by a member of the advisory board and are reviewed by our team before presenting. This ensures that the submission we accepted is what will be presented on stage. We also encourage all presenters to rehearse their talk, preferably in front of peers, to practice pacing and timing.

It’s a pretty complex process, and time commitment, to create a great XRDC session. It is an honor for those selected!

XRDC 2019 is happening October 14th and 15th at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. Registration is still open, so look over XRDC passes and prices and register early to get the best deal!

For more details about XRDC, which is produced by organizers of the Game Developers Conference, check out the official XRDC website. You can also subscribe to regular XRDC updates via email, Twitter and Facebook.


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