Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 25 2014

Will Gamification Really Work With Your Attendees?

By David McMillin


No matter what type of meeting, conference or trade show you’re organizing, you’re always hoping to do one thing: increase engagement. However, that can feel increasingly challenging as more attendees keep their eyes glued to their tablets and smartphones. Instead of hoping they will disconnect from the digital world, many meeting professionals are embracing those screens and hoping gamification can connect with today’s device-obsessed attendee.

“Game designers have been using data-driven motivational techniques for years,” Rajat Paharia, a featured speaker at SXSW 2014, writes in his bestselling book Loyalty 3.0 - How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data Gamification. “Our new understanding of motivation, combined with the emergence of big data streams, has enabled these techniques to be used outside the gaming world, where they can be powerful tools to drive engagement, participation and high value activity for customers, employees and partners alike.”

That high-value activity can extend to educational sessions and trade show floor hours, too, but gamification will not automatically get your attendees more involved. If you are considering a friendly competition at your next convention or trade show, here are four key questions to answer.

1) What is your objective?

Terence Donnelly, CMP, vice president of sales, Experient, highlights the importance of outlining a strategic goal for the game.

“One of the biggest challenges with gamification is not having a clear objective,” Donnelly says. “Are you aiming to increase brand awareness? Are you trying to induce a certain behavior? Or are you hoping to collect certain data on your participants?”

With an outline of what you’re hoping to accomplish with the game, you can have a better grasp of what type of incentives and awards you can offer attendees for their participation.

However, Donnelly says that the game’s objective should not overshadow the real reason why attendees are coming together.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to induce face-to-face learning, not face-to-screen,” Donnelly says.

2) How big is your group?

Bringing 10,000 attendees together? Your game might get lost in the crowd.

“Competitions are more effective with smaller groups, particularly when the attendees generally know each other,” Donnelly says. “It’s a great icebreaker. The leaderboard of who is winning can be very effective and really create energy.”

SEE ALSO: Trade Show Alert - Why Your Exhibitors Are Failing

3) What kind of demographic are you hoping to engage?

If you are working to appeal to an emerging generation of attendees, gamification can be a powerful ingredient.

“Millennials are ‘digital natives,’” Paharia writes in Loyalty 3.0. “They have been playing video games since childhood and thus have been immersed in the language and metaphors of gaming their entire lives.”

While Donnelly agrees with the assumption that a younger audience may be attracted to games, he highlights a finding that points outside the under-30 crowd.

“Interestingly enough, our data shows that middle-aged women are more prone to download and participate in mobile games,” Donnelly says.

SEE ALSO: Tips To Manage Your Multi-Generational Attendee Base

4) What will you do to educate attendees about the game before they arrive?

Think a game is right for your audience? Part of your success will rely on your marketing efforts.

“Educating the attendees prior to the event is paramount for ensuring maximum participation with gamification platforms,” Sean Fields, director of business development for Ohio-based gamification platform SCANVenger Hunt, says.

Fields says that SCANVenger Hunt reminds meeting planners to include information about the game in their “know before you go” emails to prompt engagement several weeks leading up to the arrival date.

SEE ALSO: Why Blogging Should Be Part Of Your Meeting Marketing Strategy

Have you offered a game at your event? How did your attendees react? Go to Catalyst to start the conversation about gamification.

This educational article was brought to you by Austin, Texas, where 65,000+ attendees at SXSW discussed how new trends and technologies like gamification will shape the future of on-site engagement. Click here to see why Business Insider named Austin one of the most innovative cities in the world and how that innovative spirit can connect with your attendees.

Check out what your colleagues are saying about Austin:

“Austin is a terrific destination for any size meeting or conference! The level of service from the CVB, the hotels and the local venues is terrific!

Pam Soules, CMP
Event Manager, Winmark Corporation

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