Gamification isn’t a new term. The philosophy has been a mainstay in corporate training programs and sales enablement strategies for a while now, and aims to help participants master new skills and improve learning retention.
Because many gamification strategies hinge on the addictive elements in mobile games and social media platforms, a lot of people believe that gamification requires the use of a mobile app. And sure, apps are one way you can gamify your event strategy. But the concept is much broader than that.
When applied to B2B conferences, gamification is more of a strategy based on the rules of human psychology to enhance the attendee experience and achieve your organization’s target outcomes.
Event gamification goes beyond creating flashy brand activations or embedding literal games into the experience. Rather, it’s about building elements into your event that drive meaningful interactions and keep your audience invested in making connections and engaging during the event.
How Does Event Gamification Work?
Before we get into event gamification, let’s go over the basics of gamification in general.
The concept has gained a lot of traction as it taps into the brain’s reward center and has been shown to improve learning retention and keep people engaged in things that they typically, well, dread. We’re talking corporate training programs, online courses, and so on.
The idea centers around the fact that our brains produce dopamine when we accomplish something.
Accomplishment is used loosely here—and ranges from beating a video game boss to physically crossing an item off of your to-do list to legitimate accomplishments like achieving a personal goal or completing a long-term project.
All of those things, however, play into that little rush we get when we play a game.
According to researcher and game designer Jane McGonigal, that pleasure sensation we get from games can be broken into four distinct feelings:
- Social Fabric. We tend to like people more after playing a game with them.
- Blissful Productivity. Players stay on task as they work toward a clear purpose. People like feeling accomplished.
- Epic Meaning. Players are hooked on the story/plotline and enjoy feeling like they are part of something bigger.
- Urgent Optimism. A sense of urgency or motivation when presented with a challenge.
Chances are, your goal is to design an event that inspires these same feelings in your attendees. After all, if guests associate your brand with positive rewards, they’ll likely return for the next event and buy things from your business.
Another thing to consider is the different “types” of players. According to a 1996 study, players generally fall into one of four categories:
- Killers. Play games to feel powerful and enjoy the satisfaction of beating others.
- Achievers. Play games for the sake of mastery, enjoy racking up points.
- Socializers. Play games to connect with others and see games as a way to communicate with others.
- Explorers. Play games to learn how it works and enjoy picking it apart.
In an event context, a successful gamification strategy can help brands accomplish the following:
- Create a collaborative environment
- Increase attendee engagement
- Generate a sense of positivity and shared purpose
- Facilitate learning retention
- Generate leads
Keep in mind, gamification alone won’t make your event fun or valuable to attendees. The speakers, content, and networking opportunities must be in place before you start adding gamification elements. Click To TweetThink of the strategy as a way to enhance the event, as opposed to a shortcut to engagement.
Gamification Needs a Clear Link to Business Objectives
Adding game-like elements into your event strategy helps drive engagement through competition, incentives, and collaboration, thereby helping event pros create a more valuable experience at their next event.
However, without a clear objective, your gamification strategy is just a fancy way to say “play.”
Consider why people attend your event in the first place. If we’re talking about the typical B2B event, chances are, most attendees want to network with other industry professionals and learn something new.
Is the purpose of the event to highlight a new product? To share ideas about the industry? Provide attendees with hands-on workshops or networking opportunities? As you start putting together your strategy, work through the following steps to ensure your strategy aligns with the event strategy:
Outline Key Objectives
- What are your objectives for the event?
- How does the game align with those objectives?
- What motivates your audience?
- What is the scope and nature of your campaign?
- What is the call to action for attendees?
Choose a Strategy that Aligns with Your Goals
- Should the game be time-sensitive?
- Do you want your audience to complete a task?
- Is the goal to drive interaction?
- Collect leads?
- Increase your social media footprint?
- What kinds of incentives will you offer?
Metrics that Measure Success
- Which metrics represent success?
- Do the incentives match the effort?
- Is the concept behind the “game” easy to understand?
Here are a few examples of how gamification can fit into an event strategy:
Incorporate a collaborative contest into your event sessions. For example, HR software provider Namely hosts an annual hackathon where clients team up with Namely employees to design new tools and features for the platform.
It’s a creative way for clients to share what they’d like to see included in the tool, and for Namely, serves as an interactive way to learn more about what consumers want.
Inside the booth, exhibitors might look toward more exciting ways to get attendees into the booth. Things like trivia contests, AR or VR demonstrations, or prize giveaways can be tied to product education and lead generation efforts.
In this example from Pfizer Faucets, attendees got to check out the brand’s kitchen and bath solutions in AR. You might try something similar, requiring attendees to share their contact information in exchange for the chance to try the technology.
Another example is Microsoft’s interactive floor, which could be used as the basis of a game or as a way to show new technology in action.
Increase Foot Traffic
One popular strategy is the scavenger hunt model, which encourages interaction. In this example from Oracle, participants must visit multiple booths for the chance to win prizes. This strategy can also drive networking interactions and facilitate collaboration between attendees.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivators
Intrinsic incentives are internal and make a person feel superior or accomplished.
It might include completing a crossword puzzle because you enjoy the challenge or learning more about a topic you find interesting.
In the context of event gamification, you might build intrinsic motivators into your program in one of the following three ways:
- Access—Speaks to the value of exclusivity. Prizes might be access to a VIP after-party or a one-on-one session with an influencer in your industry.
- Power—Power represents an individual reward. It might not be public-facing per se, but it does allow the “winner” special privileges.
- Status—Ranking individuals’ performance on a public-facing leaderboard.
Extrinsic incentives represent external rewards like trophies, prizes, and goals. Those motivated by extrinsic factors seek to either earn a reward or avoid punishment.
Often, extrinsic prizes are “things,” and while winning can be exciting in the moment, the satisfaction associated with winning a trophy or iPad doesn’t provide that same long-term satisfaction you’d get from intrinsic incentives.
That said, a gamification strategy should include both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators—used together to drive participation. Prizes—of any kind, should be proportional to the effort it takes to win them.
The right gamification strategy can help your brand take engagement to the next level.
While the examples we’ve outlined above are a great place to start, the possibilities are endless when it comes to event gamification strategies that drive success.
The key thing to remember is, your strategy should align with both audience interests and your event goals. You should also have a framework in place for measuring success.
As we’ve mentioned up top, gamification without a well-planned strategy is essentially just play.
At Echelon Design, we build custom displays, brand activations and marketing strategies to help you add gamification to your event strategy.
To learn more about designing an event strategy that drives engagement and measurable success, get in touch.
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