Gaming has also made its way into organizations, education and training institutions, and even events. This type of gaming is called gamification.
Gamification (for events) introduces game dynamics into a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event to allow attendees to engage with the event in a fun and fulfilling way.
Over the past decade, gamification has become popular with events, and many planners have chosen to use gameplay to drive attendee engagement. But when gamification is incorrectly used and goes wrong, it can leave attendees bored and disconnected from your event, or worse, it may even damage sponsor and client relations.
By becoming familiar with the foundations of gamification for events, planners can better equip themselves to use these valuable engagement techniques that can boost attendee, sponsor, and exhibitor value in fun and exciting ways.
The principles of gamification and why it works
Event gamification is an engagement technique that can be used for any event format and uses elements of game-play to encourage participants to engage with sponsors, exhibitors, and other event attendees. It is not turning your event into an actual video game (although the metaverse could change this in the not-too-distant future), but rather using the principles of game design to shape the attendee experience and enhance engagement in ways that serve the event’s objectives.
Typically, gamification will involve a competitive format in which attendees follow rules set out by event organizers and work towards receiving a reward of some kind (this can be tied to sponsor giveaways, other prizes, and points). Gamification is also a great way to get attendees to partake in activities which they may not otherwise be inclined to do, like visiting a stand positioned on the far end of the expo hall or connecting with people they have never met on a virtual event platform.
While gamification can be utilized and designed to achieve different objectives, the technique is primarily designed to drive (attendee) behavior by triggering innate human emotional responses through game-play.
Fundamentally, gamification activates the desire to achieve something and be recognized for it — the principles of rewards, reinforcement, and accomplishment. It also touches on the need for “status” among peers and gives attendees a sense of being challenged with a fair chance at competing.
Furthermore, gamification encourages friendly competition between attendees via tools like auto-update leaderboards that provide a frictionless and immersive experience. On Hubilo’s hybrid event platform, for instance, event organizers can assign a set number of points to any number of actions on the platform — if the attendee performs the action, the points are automatically rewarded and added to their tally on the leaderboard.
Some examples of gamification include positive incentives for taking part in an event survey, connecting with other attendees and visiting a virtual lounge or sponsor booth. However, gamification should aim to combine three key components:
- Achievable goals with an outcome that provides value
- External motivation (like game rules and social connection)
- A belief that partaking in any activities is voluntary
How to use gamification the right way
When we use gamification the right way, it can inject the fun back into events, boost attendee engagement, and help deliver a better ROI. But unless planners know what works and what doesn’t, they may lose out on the positive results that gamification can produce.
By following the gamification best practices below, planners can implement gamification effectively into their event strategy.
Define gamification objectives
When planning on using gamification at your event, your first step should always be to clarify your objectives and goals. In other words, what are you aiming to achieve using gamification?
An article published in Science Direct concluded the following when it comes to designing gamification for different results: “Our results show that badges, leaderboards, and performance graphs positively affect competence need satisfaction, as well as perceived task meaningfulness, while avatars, meaningful stories, and teammates affect experiences of social relatedness.”
Ideally, all of these internal motivations should be leveraged when designing an effective gamification strategy, but they should all work towards specific event goals. These tactics can even work simultaneously. For example, an event organizer can assign points for sending an icebreaker message to another attendee. This strategy appeals to a sense of status and accomplishment through the rewarding of points, while also creating a sense of social relatedness by encouraging attendees to share meaningful stories.
However, what may work for one event may not work for another. For example, an expo may require more focus on networking with exhibitors, while an online product launch may require attendees to interact with the new product via a demonstration. Whatever you are trying to achieve, those main touchpoints should be your gamification strategy focus and attached to higher rewards.
Further, planners should also identify the event target audience and know their likes, dislikes, and reasons for attending the event. By being aware of your attendees’ needs, you can shape your gamification in a way that will spark their interest and lead to maximum engagement.
Planners can also use gamification for other purposes, like providing opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to showcase their brands. Gamification can incentivize attendees to connect and engage with sponsors in a fun and interactive way, ultimately translating to lead generation, ROI increase, and data that can provide further attendee insights to tailor future event experiences and key brand messaging.
Remember, gamification is supposed to be fun with a purpose. When designing your event gamification strategy, think outside the box, get creative, and be human (like using humor and relatable scenarios). However, it’s also important to remember that gamification should be used as an engagement tool and not a distraction. Attendees may enjoy the occasional activity that’s purely for fun, but most game challenges should serve the goals of the event.
Make the most out of gamification tools
Knowing what you want to achieve as a planner using gamification is one thing. But how you are going to achieve your gamification objectives is another.
Fun is central to gamification design. From wacky questions and quizzes to virtual educational adventures and driving attendee-to-attendee engagement — the only limit you will have is the event tools offered by your chosen event platform.
Choose a tech company that prioritizes engagement
This point isn’t a tool per se, but it is an important consideration when choosing your tech partner. Tech partners who prioritize maximum engagement and connection should have caught on to gamification and how to make the most of this technique through their platform tools. Hubilo has taken it a step further by integrating gamification into every part of their platform. Any single action that an attendee takes inside the platform can be associated with game points set by the event organizer.
Customization and flexibility
As mentioned, gamification should be structured according to your event and audience needs. Meaning, your event platform tools should also offer flexibility and customization. For example, Hubilo’s uniquely structured leadership board allows planners to choose which “triggers” (actions) they would like attendees to take according to the engagement touchpoints that are highest priority. Further, planners can allocate tiered point systems and prep their gamification before their event.
Option to embed apps
While many gamification activities will live on the event platform, your tools should also allow for other apps, like Slido or social media, to be embedded into the platform. With this tool, planners can extend their gamification engagement reach and further event objectives.
Gamification is a great way to tell if attendees engage with your event. By pulling data collected from gamification, planners can gain valuable insights into their audience interests and behaviors. This data allows event organizers to respond in real-time, or use it to shape future event experiences. When choosing an event platform, be sure to check what kinds of analytics are available so you can demonstrate event engagement and ROI.
Use different gamification formats for different engagement needs
Gamification that works for a virtual event may not work for an in-person event. Similarly, different events may want to gamify different activities. Some may want to encourage engagement with speakers, while others may want to award the most points for visiting an exhibitor stand.
For these reasons, planners should structure their gamification strategy and techniques to suit event objectives.
Here are some ideas for different event formats and engagement needs:
Virtual events can be lonely places for attendees. By including gamification that assigns points for interactions with virtual lounges, session chats, and comments, attendees can move from passive to active participants while engaging with other people live.
Hybrid events have two separate audiences, which means different needs. Meaning, those attending an in-person event will have more opportunities to meet and network with people. However, attendees in the online event platform may have reduced moments to connect. By using gamification, planners can drive attendee networking by attaching incentives to connect with others, like setting up and viewing profiles and sending and accepting meeting requests — all of which can take place on the platform.
With the return of in-person events, planners will be looking for ways to increase engagement after a prolonged period of minimal face-to-face interactions. Gamification can help ease attendee stress by helping people connect easily via the event platform before meeting face-to-face and encourage session registration and attendance. And when attendees register for a session instead of just wondering in, the event organizer comes away with more data about attendee behaviors and preferences.
Networking-focused events have many options when it comes to attendee-to-attendee engagement and gamification. Gamification can help facilitate people connecting through the aspects mentioned above. One novel approach is to allow attendees to create their own polls and posts, and then assign high points for this kind of action. What better way to connect with others than to be a conversation starter and encourage ideas? And for those not so keen on being in the spotlight, they can find like-minded people and meet them in the virtual lounge.
- Engage with sponsors and exhibitors
Regardless of whether people are attending an in-person or virtual event, visiting a sponsor or exhibitor booth may not be on the top of their list. But with gamification, planners can encourage attendees to engage with both by assigning bonus points for dropping a digital business card in a virtual sponsor booth or visiting an online or in-person exhibitor stand. Attendees can even receive points for rating different booths and their experience. Finally, it never hurts to have sponsor giveaways for the top three “players” on the leaderboard.
With gamification, attendees can become actively involved with sessions by receiving points for taking notes, creating and answering live Q&As, and watching session replays if they have conflicting sessions schedules.
- Fun moments for all attendees
Contests are a great way to encourage an assortment of attendee engagement, regardless of your event type or format. To break the ice, attendees can partake in an entry contest that could include uploading event photos or videos, writing a short article introducing themselves, or solving an image riddle.
Events that won at gamification
Gamification, in theory, looks like a great idea. But how have other events implemented successful gamification strategies and techniques using event tech?
Here are some fun, engaging, and unique real-life examples of events that won at gamification:
Beyond Sales Kickoffs (Immersive Sales Training)
In this event, chief creative officer Stephen Baer of the Game Agency showcased how online Jeopardy helped identify where sales professionals needed training. Capable of hosting as many as 1,000 attendees, the game quizzes the audience on their knowledge of the subject matter. If correct responses on the subject are low, game hosts can use that data as an opportunity to deliver training on the subject.
By using a recognizable format — a popular TV show — training facilitators used gamification to identify which topics needed more support for participants and additional deep dives. This type of gamification is a prime example of using gamification for educational purposes.
Increasing Employee Engagement in a Hybrid World
Hubilo always gamifies its events by rewarding engagement with leaderboards and contests. One of the easiest ways to keep the audience on the hook is to have a “Find Goldie” contest. In this game, audience members are rewarded when they find a memorable icon hidden in the event content being presented.
By using incentivized visual games, event organizers can help minimize distractions and enhance focus while increasing attendee engagement.
Mastering the Art of Immersive Experiences
For event planners, the funniest event meme contest generated a ridiculous amount of knowing laughter from event planners who know the struggle is real.
Everyone loves to laugh. While this example of gamification works on a voting mechanism, as opposed to a point system, humor is a great way to generate event engagement, break the ice, and set the mood for a fun-filled event.
You’ve never played a more competitive game of bingo than the ones involving Drag Queens. Humor, the sense that anything could happen, and the spectacle of the game itself keep audiences logged in and paying attention.
By having a vibrant, high-energy, and engaging event personality (host), coupled with a fun game to start an event, organizers set the event tone for maximum engagement and connection from the get-go.
Gamification is here to stay. By using the right event tech and tools, planners can make the most out of gamification and deliver experiences that are fun, relevant, educational, and engaging to attendees whether you’re hosting a virtual, online or in-person event.