The Science Behind Gamification and How to Use Them at Events & Conferences

Over the last two decades or so, gaming has been adopted in different spheres of popular culture. In this span of time the term ‘gamification’ has become quite the loved buzzword. What is gamification exactly? In essence, it is the application of the basic video-gaming principles with the purpose of getting people interested in a programme and to get them to complete tasks with increasingly intense levels in order to receive an award.

Now, the millennial generation is the first to have grown up playing video games on varied devices. While it is undeniable that gaming is, by now, a phenomenon that is entrenched in the society; it must be understood that evolution of mobile technology has played a big role in popularising gamification. Right now, there are a whopping 1.8 billion gamers worldwide. As far as event industry is concerned, the popularity of gamification can be gauged by taking a look at events like CES 2014 i-Beacon Scavenger Hunt and HBO – WestWorld Comic Con 2016.

How does this work exactly? In order to find the answer to that question, first you must understand what gamification means.

The concept:

Brands aim for high audience engagement when they are organising events. Events gather people for a short period of time in order to connect, interact, network, learn and have fun. This makes event a perfect platform for gamification. Use of game mechanics can enable event planners to infuse exciting and rewarding elements in the event, thereby encouraging desired behaviour in attendees.

The main aim is not to completely transform the event through gamification; but it is to make use of gaming principles and tools to effectively engage attendees, exhibitors, staff, vendors and sponsors and make the overall experience even more fulfilling.

The implementation of the gaming principles , of course, need to be well planned and creative. The games have to be well integrated in the event through simple content and smooth flow. Smart use of industry jargon, corporate objectives, group objectives and dynamics of physical environment dynamics, is also important for boosting engagement rate at the event.

The reasons:

Why do people enjoy gamification? In order to get a clear understanding of the reasons that motivate gamers, one may consider the Bartle taxonomy of player types. It must be mentioned here that people enjoy gamified events and conferences, despite not identifying themselves as any of these 4 types of gamers:

  1. Achievers – These players participate in a game to win. The figures on the scoreboard are their sole inspiration. For events, posting a list of the day’s top influencers on social media can be a great way to motivate them to do even better tomorrow. Achievers are driven by a goal to be victorious and seeing a goal clearly laid out in front of them can prompt them to do better.
  2. Explorers – This type of gamers are propelled by rewards that are unexpected in a way; for example – badges outside of levels. They might not be interested in becoming the winner but they do like collecting something cool along the way. The fun of doing some exploring along with gaining some unexpected gifts can drive them to take part in games.
  3. Socializers – These players are friendly and like to interact with other players. At an event, their sole purpose of participating in a game is not to win or get a reward; it is to connect with other participants, to socialise and network.
  4. Killers – These players are determined to win and are fiercely competitive. They are more suited for traditional gaming environments rather than professional conferences with gamification with just an aspect. However, by taking part in an event game can make them understand the difference between a professional game played with other attendees and potential business collaborators and one played on a playstation with unknown assailants.

The purposes and the methods:

There are multiple methods of gamification that engage. Getting a clear understanding of each method can help you figure out which one suits your event the best and implement the same for concrete goals. Take a look at each of the following purposes that can be achieved by different methods which have been discussed thereafter

  1. Purpose: Increasing engagement through the use of gaming basics and technology
    • Social Media: Just prior to the event, you can let the attendees know that those who are the most active on social media and use the event’s official hashtag will be entitled for a special gift. You can also arrange for the speaker to announce the most popular tweets or Facebook posts.
    • Q&A: Question and answer games allow you to effectively analyse the engagement at an ongoing event. Besides the traditional microphone, these sessions can be conducted via the event app. Spice things up by announcing that people with the highest number of correct/interesting answers will be awarded a gift.
  2. Purpose: Creating a sense of community and inculcating feelings of co-creation through collaboration
    • Arranging the event together: At the start of the event, the speaker can present the topics he has prepared in front of the attendees. Then the attendees are asked to vote for the topic(s) that they liked the most and the speaker presents his paper/speech on the same. This gives the audience a solid assurance that they matter to the event organisers and leaves a good memory for a long time.
  3. Purpose: Making the process of networking less awkward by smoothing communication
    • Topic of interest: One interesting networking game is really based on a simple concept. Large round tables are placed with a visible name on each table. Each name is a topic of interest that is related to the event. During accreditation, attendees are asked to sit at the table that is assigned for the topic of their interest. Before the start of a session, moderator allots around fifteen minutes for the people at each table to interact. Every individual has to introduce himself to the others sitting around him and present a short speech on the topic that the table has been allotted for.
    • Social programmes: Event organisers often arrange for social programmes like coffee breaks, buffet lunches/dinners, late night parties, site-seeing, hiking, boating, gymming, etc. so that attendees can interact outside of a strictly official environment. It would be great if a bit of competitive could be added to these activities to make them more enjoyable.

From the above points, it can be understood that event gamification can serve a variety of purposes. Strategic implementation of these gaming elements and methods can change the experience the event leaves in the hearts and the minds of the attendees.

The benefits:

The benefits of event gamification is manifold. Take a look at the vital ones here:

  1. Games act as an ice-breaker and creates a friendly environment conducive for interaction. It assures that attendees feel welcome at the event and are encouraged to actively participate in it. Games provide attendees with a common goal and kick starts conversations, thereby easing exchange of ideas and networking. And what is more important than getting attendees interested in the event as well as talking amongst themselves?
  2. Getting attendees’ attention is one thing, but how do you ensure that their attention is hooked throughout the span of your event? Gamification helps you to do just that. The prospect of earning more points and eventually rewards, will generate expectation, capture attention, encourage competition/ teamwork.
  3. The more interesting the games are at the event, the faster it will become popular online. Participants would like to post their achievements on various social platforms along with images, thereby spreading the word about the event far and wide.
  4. Organizers are always on the lookout for newer ways to deliver unique attendee experience. Gamification makes your event stand out from the crowd of the rest and generate interest for your next event.

The mistakes:

There is much difference between understanding the concept of gamification and implementing it correctly to facilitate attendee interaction and engagement. Despite knowing about the process, there are certain mistakes that event organisers often make which can keep them from realising the true potential of gamification. Take a look at some of these mistakes that you should steer clear of:

  1. Over-designing: It is not easy to get people to participate. Nobody wants to spare much time to understand a game first within the very few days that are allocated for the event. An overly-designed, complicated looking game can discourage attendees the moment they see it on their mobile event app. The game needs to be intuitive and simple so that it’s easy to get familiar with very quickly. A clean and simple game that launches swiftly within the app interface will encourage people to give it a shot.
  2. Assuming: Don’t try to arrange the same games that other organisers have used just by assuming that you know what your audience wants. For instance, scavenger hunt is a popular conference game and is known to increase foot traffic at exhibitor booths. However, your attendees may be interested in exploring only the new technology relevant to their business instead of going to the booths. Your exhibitors may also be interested in leads that are highly interested in their products. You need a game that can connect them. Increasing foot traffic through a game that’ s based on just assumption may compromise the success of the event.
  3. Forcing: The trick is to gamify your event in a smart way so that your attendees don’t feel pressured to play the game. The actions required for the game must be well-aligned with what they already like to do – for example – networking, learning and entertaining. Forcing your audience into posting or commenting online in order to make it go viral isn’t exactly a good idea as it may generate adverse reaction among the attendees. You must put your mind into designing a creative game that will capture your attendees attention instantly You can try spicing things up by displaying the competition on big screen. The posts that are being made by attendees on various social networking platforms can also be displayed on giant screens.

The tips:

Given all the points discussed above, it is clear that much depends on strategic implementation of gamification at events. Here are a few tips that you can take note of:

  1. Easily navigable – It will be great if the users are notified of the gaming option as soon as they download and install the app. The users will then be notified that by downloading the app they have already earned, along with a hint on what they need to do next in order to proceed in the game and earn more points. This will keep them motivated to play the game.
  2. Addictive and enjoyable – As it has been mentioned earlier, there is no alternative to designing a truly enjoyable game. Users must feel instantly attracted towards the feature of the game and be compelled to try them. The rewards should be mutually beneficial too and lead the players to the next level. For instance, if the first quest is to complete one’s attendee profile, the next logical step, which can also be the next quest, is to connect with another player with similar interest. At no point, should the game make the user play without a definite goal or reward.
  3. Focused on the event – While there is nothing wrong with games that are played just for fun – like posting photos online or simple scavenger hunts, they cannot be said to be effective unless they are integrated into the fabric of the event. The game should be created in a way that it encourages participants to accomplish event goals like exploring exhibitor and sponsor listings, connecting with other attendees and attending various speaker sessions. Deeper engagement is the key to creating memorable event experiences.
  4. Flexible point system – Every event is different and there is no game that suits all. Your game should be in line with the goal of the event. For instance – if the event aims at educating attendees, your reward/point system must value learning above everything else. In case your attendees are not filling out surveys, attach the highest point to the completion of the process in order to get the best results. In order to test in which activities you should attach more points to, take a note of these categories: discovering content, exploring, networking and social butterfly.
  5. Design for everyone – If you refer to the types of gamers mentioned above, you’ll see that every gamer is different. While some are motivated by personal achievement, some others really like exploring and discovering. It is important to understand what drives your attendees and design games consisting of various levels, each of which will cater to one type of player. There should be something for everyone.

Perhaps the beauty of event gamification lies in the fact that it makes everyone feel welcome and important at the event. Each person, irrespective whether he is an attendee, a sponsor, an exhibitor or a speaker, is provided with a fair chance to participate in every segment of the event and also to interact. It, therefore, does not not just increase engagement but also facilitates product knowledge generation, brand recognition and better floor experience. That means, as an organiser you have satisfied visitors, thrilled participants, pleased sponsors and happy exhibitors.

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