Event Gamification: A Unique Way to Enhance the Event Experience

Disengaged attendees are a serious problem for event planners. If your guests won’t pay attention and connect with the event, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t find it valuable and memorable. Event gamification is a powerful way to compel your guests to participate in the event and return for the next one.

Event gamification certainly isn’t a new concept, but the trend has grown over the last ten years, most likely due to the growing cultural acceptance of games and the newer generations’ desire to connect personally with their work.

Event gamification is a powerful way to compel your guests to participate in the event and return for the next one. Click To Tweet

In this article, we’ll explain event gamification and why you should use it for your events. We’ll also offer some tips to gamify your events successfully.

Not sure where to begin with event gamification? Download this list of ideas for inspiration!

What Is Event Gamification?

Event gamification is the practice of introducing game mechanics to the event experience. It’s when you add competition, goals, points, problem-solving, and even physical activity to your event in order to apply the underlying principles of gaming.

Why would an organizer want to gamify their events?

  1. It’s a great way to engage your attendees and help them connect with the event.
  2. It creates a high-quality experience so guests feel they got their money’s worth.
  3. It relaxes the atmosphere and breaks the ice between people.
  4. It gives everyone a shared purpose and common ground.
  5. It boosts your guests’ confidence because they’ll have something to talk about.
  6. It keeps everyone positive throughout the event.
  7. It creates deeper loyalty, stronger satisfaction, and more social buzz.
  8. It engages the audience proactively rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Competition and play have the ability to increase your attendees’ engagement and create a positive impact on the event experience. It’s also a useful tool to market your event because, well, everyone likes games!

How Event Gamification Works

Gamification is based on the dopamine effect, which is the principle of rewards. When we successfully complete game tasks, we give ourselves a shot of pleasurable dopamine.

According to game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal (and the “public face of gamification”), the pleasurable sensation from games can be broken down into four feelings:

  1. Blissful productivity – The player focuses on a clear purpose and loses track of time.
  2. Trust and cooperation – The player enjoys positive interactions with other players.
  3. Urgent optimism – The players feel optimistic, even when he/she fails.
  4. Epic meaning – The player are inspired by an extraordinary story/plot/event.

Obviously, you’d love to inspire those feelings in your event attendees! As your guests accumulate positive rewards, they become more likely to repeat the behavior. If you tie your event’s game elements to actions that deliver value to your guests (more on this in a minute), your guests will seek the behaviors you want them to exhibit.

Gamification is a powerful tool, but it’s not always easy to design into your event. If it doesn’t feel organic, your guests will perceive it as a gimmick designed to trick them.

So if you intend to gamify your event, it’s important to consider the game mechanics during the early stages of your planning process. It should be a part of your budget discussion. Ideally, it should influence your other variables – food, music, decor, signage, and even the layout of your event space.

Types of Event Gamification

There’s a growing trend of using digital tools (websites, apps, screens, etc.) as part of gamification, but that isn’t always necessary. You don’t need cutting-edge technology.

You can add game-like features to your event without any props or tools at all. In fact, the best instances of event gamification involves people interacting in person with other guests, your event staff, speakers/presenters, and even your vendors.

If you’re tempted to create a digital-only game, think again. Digital-only games can actually prevent your attendees from engaging with your event. Instead of bringing people together, they make your attendees stare at their phones and ignore what happens around them. So you’ll want your games to require your guests to interact with other people and the event space in some concrete way.

When Volvo Pride organized their company training events, they included a scavenger hunt to make the learning process more fun and active. Social Media Marketing World used networking bingo to connect guests who would normally never meet.

Event gamification
Image: bizzabo.com

However, a custom event app could play a role in gamification. With Superevent’s gamification feature, for instance, you can award points to users for scanning QR codes at predefined places throughout your event, and display their results on a leaderboard. You can also get creative with our other features – like voting, beacons, surveys, and info pages – to build your own games.

Gamification Isn’t for Everyone

In 1996, Dr. Richard Bartle published a paper based on his studies of people who play games. In his research, he defined four types of gamers:

  • Achievers who play games to earn points or master challenges.
  • Explorers who enjoy deconstructing a game to learn how it works.
  • Socializers who use games as opportunities to socialize with other people.
  • Killers who like the power games give them over other people.

They interact with games like this:

Event gamification

As you can see, different types of gamers have different needs and goals when it comes to games. This means you can’t please everyone with the same type of game. The explorer who like scavenger hunts may not enjoy the points-focused competitive game. The socializer who likes meeting new people may not enjoy the puzzle-solving.

You can create a game that pleases the most people by gaining a clear understanding of your guest. What do they like or dislike? How do they behave? What are their personal goals? Try to capture some of this information during the registration process so you can design a game that’s right for your audience.

But it’s important to accept that some people won’t enjoy your game and will opt not to play. That’s fine. It’s also another reason why you can’t expect your gamification to carry your event. Just make sure your guests aren’t forced to participate.

A Word of Warning about Winning

It’s common for gamified events to include tangible rewards for winning. Guests are awarded prizes or swag once they collect enough points, solve the puzzle, or achieve the game’s goal. Some events give away free passes to the next one or special VIP access.

Prizes can work against you, however, if your guests focus on winning and fail to engage with the other features of your event. If a guest skips a presentation so he can spend more time completing the scavenger hunt, then he didn’t get the event’s real value. Once the event is over, he’ll wonder why he went in the first place.

So to get the most value out of gamification, winning should relate to the event’s higher goal. If your event goal is to transfer knowledge to the guests, the game should include that information. If your event goal is to connect new people together, your game should introduce people. This is how you tie pleasurable game behaviors to actions your attendees find valuable.

Furthermore, don’t use games to push an agenda. For example, it would be a poor idea to award prizes to guests who filled out contact forms with your vendors. Not only would those leads be worthless (because guests would only submit the forms to earn points, not because they want the products), but your guests would resent the gimmick.

Free download: 7 Gamification Ideas for Your Next Event

Balance Event Gamification with Other Features

Gamification can create a more engaging experience for your event attendees, but it’s not a magic bullet that will cure an otherwise boring event. It’s a tool that helps your guests connect with your other features, like your comfortable venue space, engaging speakers, powerful displays and demonstrations, and savory food.

If you rely solely on gamification to carry your event, there’s a good chance your guests will find the experience silly and lame. They’ll feel like you’re trying to use gimmicks in place of actual value-adding features.

Gamification is a powerful tool, but only if you do it well. Use this advice to create quality game elements in your event that drive attendee engagement.

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