Budget-friendly Gamification Ideas for Events

Skift Take

Are you interested in the possibilities of gamification but you’re not sure how to easily incorporate it into your events? Maybe you think your budget couldn’t support it. Gamification isn’t all about cool apps. You can add elements of gamification to your event no matter what your budget.

Gamification is the idea of using game theory and motivational cues in non-game activities to spur on desired action. It can be used to entice employees to complete training programs, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts to learn new tasks, or to create an addictive hobby behind video games. A lot of event apps employ gamification components, but if you’re not up to embracing a full gamification platform, here are a few ways you can incorporate the positives from it, like incentivizing desired behavior, on a budget.


Budget-friendly Gamification Options for Your Event


In order to accomplish budget-friendly gamification, you need only look at a classroom from the ‘80s. Chances are, somewhere in that class is a rudimentary leaderboard. It likely had all of the classmates’ names on the left-hand side followed by a number of color-coded stars. Everyone could see who was doing well in the charted activity.

These are the basic rules of gamification when using leaderboards:

  • The results must be public. No one feels motivated by a leaderboard they don’t see.
  • The tasks required to level up should be known, not arbitrary. In the example above, a child may have gotten a star for every book read. But if the teacher just gave stars randomly whenever she felt like it to whomever she pleased, the children would not perform the activity because they would have no idea what would affect their advancement on the board..
  • The awards must be consistent and the boards updated regularly. Every achievement finished must get a designation. In the case above, that’s a star for every book. Again, if it’s random, no one will push themselves to achieve. The board must also be updated consistently.

You can create a physical leaderboard, like in the classroom example, or make one electronically that you upload to your website. You can also place it in a daily email or newsletter.

Another simple option is to mention your top Tweeters or sharers on social media and award them with a prize. If you do that at the end of day one during your conference or multi-day event, you can be assured more people will be participating the following day.

However you decide to do it, it must be shared publicly and be updated consistently in order to drive action and competition.


Again, an easy example of this is the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. If they meet the rank requirements, they are awarded a badge. This badge is prominently displayed to tell others of their achievement.

Badges can be awarded physically like in scouting or in online profiles in an event community. If you already have an online community, badges can be designed in very little time and could be manually assigned if your budget is a concern. You can also award levels on name badges that people would physically wear.


These are also easy to implement. The formula is as follows: if attendee does X, attendee gets Y. Quests are big with companies. Many companies from Ibotta to Groupon offer the user something (like a discount or money) for referring a friend. Sometimes they even reward you for sharing their content with a designated number of people through social media. will give you a $5 rebate on your order if you post a picture of your bouquet on Instagram with a specified hashtag.

Quests can be as easy as a one-step “this action causes this reward,” or more complicated like a scavenger hunt. You can implement quests using referral discounts or ask potential attendees to perform an action on social media for recognition or other benefit.

Some groups use multi-step quests that are easily indicated through checks on a profile. For instance, at registration you could present a next-steps checklist like:

  • Join the event online community
  • Download the event app
  • Sign-up for an event extra

Once the attendee performs those three easy steps they receive a special golden badge nameplate or some other designation, which you then encourage them to take a picture of and share with a specific #eventwinners hashtag or other designation that could be shared. This leads to another form of simple gamification called a…

Loyalty Program

You may not have realized it but some loyalty programs are examples of simple gamification. Hotel and airline loyalty programs offer special rewards for desired actions (like stays and flights). The more you perform these desired actions, the quicker you level up to an even higher rewards program. It’s likely you’re very familiar with loyalty programs as an event planner.

Delta Skymiles offers its Medallion Program®. Within its Medallion program, it offers four levels. The more you fly with them, the higher your rank. The higher your rank the larger the incentives.

While you may not offer a direct loyalty program, you could offer a version of it for return attendees or attendees that purchase an all-access pass. The point behind a loyalty program is not how many “stays” they have with you but the actions you want to entice. You could create a loyalty program through your all-access pass level or even your sponsorships.

The point behind them is that you offer them (attendees or sponsors) more for their actions and so they decide to do more in order to reap the benefits.

In Conclusion

The ideas presented here can be implemented on a relatively small budget. However, if you have an ample budget but don’t want to spend it on gamification, you may not want to implement anything at all. To have a large event tech budget and not factor in some form of technology-based motivational cues would be a missed opportunity. There are some amazing options out there and when combined with virtual or augmented reality can be pretty spectacular.

Additional Reading on Gamification and Attendee Engagement

How to Use Gamification at Your Next Association Conference
Not Just Fun and Games: Why Event Planners Should Care About Gamification
How This Event App Ensued Adoption by 88% of Attendees [Case Study]
9 Essential Elements of Online Engagement