Gamification has been a growing trend in events for some time. But with the recent industry shift toward virtual and hybrid events, it has become even more popular.
Gamification takes the traditional elements of games, gaming, and competition and applies them to non-gaming, non-competitive applications and scenarios.
Event planners and organizers have been using these strategies to increase attendee engagement and participation at physical events but there is no reason why they cannot also be applied to virtual events.
Benefits of Gamification for Virtual Events
Adding some fun to your event never hurt anyone. A virtual conference could easily become dry and boring but with conference gamification, the attendee experience and perception of the event can change dramatically.
Aside from increasing engagement from your virtual audience, gamification can:
- Increase sponsor engagement: gamification creates more naming opportunities for sponsors. Not only is there a chance to put their name and logo on the game or competition, but sponsors also have the opportunity to put together incredible branded prize packages.
- Increase networking opportunities: A live event presents a number of opportunities for networking as people are meeting face to face in close proximity. For virtual events to have the same networking value, event organizers have to get creative. Gamification can encourage friendly competition leading event attendees to interact with one another in a more authentic and natural way than they might otherwise. It is a way to remind people that are not just viewing some corporate event on their screens all by themselves, they are actually attending an online event with other people who have similar interests and goals.
- Increase brand recognition: Event gamification may be growing in popularity but it is still an underutilized feature. As of 2019, only 10% of event apps used gamification. So adding it to your virtual event can set you apart from everyone else. Creating a memorable experience is one of the best ways to create a recognizable, memorable event brand.
- Increase data collection: Event gamification requires the audience to interact with the event app or platform. This means you can track attendee behavior and gain greater insights into which elements of your event are the most successful. Identifying these elements, and understanding how the attendees move through the virtual event space can help you improve any future online events that you may be planning.
How to Drive Virtual Event Engagement with Gamification
The biggest benefit of event gamification is increased audience engagement. An engaged audience will be more involved and active in event sessions. No one wants to give a keynote speech with a bored audience. That lack of enthusiasm can destroy what would have otherwise been an exciting, informative, and useful experience.
Audience engagement is far easier to observe at a physical event. You can monitor body language and real-time reactions and make adjustments if necessary. Unfortunately, monitoring engagement is not that easy with a virtual audience.
The smartest thing you can do as an event organizer is to be proactive in your planning and actively work engagement into your virtual events through features like gamification.
Here’s what you need to do to drive virtual event engagement with gamification:
1. Know Your Goals
Before you can plan the details of your event game, you need to understand what it is you hope to achieve. Other than audience engagement, what are you hoping to achieve?
Will your gamification highlight your event sponsors? Are you trying to get increased participation in breakout sessions and virtual meetings? Do you want to increase traffic and interaction with virtual exhibit booths?
Look to your overall event goals for further guidance.
2. Define Your Virtual Event
To properly set up your game, you will need to make sure it is appropriate for your event.
You do not want to design gamification that is too involved for your digital event, nor do you want one that is too simple, boring, or lackluster.
- Is there enough staff to manage and oversee the game?
- Will the game run for the whole event or just a portion of it?
- Will there be multiple gamification events or just one?
Think carefully about your target audience, its size, and the robustness of your agenda. The last thing you want to do is create a situation where your gamification has become additional work. If you have a jam-packed agenda, try to work your gamification into specific sessions or behaviors instead of making it something extra.
3. Create Rules
In order for gamification to work, you need a set of rules in place. Games without rules only descend into chaos and that is the last thing you need at your event.
Define for yourself the parameters of the game and then clearly convey that information to all attendees before things get underway. Include the rules in your pre-event email and consider adding a pop-up on your event platform or event app.
Include the prizes/rewards in with the instructions so people are absolutely clear on what the requirements are. Do everything you can to eliminate potential conflict or confusion.
4. Determine Prizes
If you want people to participate, you need to make it worth their while. Bragging rights, while great, might not be enough.
At the very least, consider having a little trophy made up that you can send to the winners. It will give them a happy memory (and solidify your event brand!). If you are hosting an industry-specific event or a networking event, part of the reward or prize can include sharing the name of the winner, their title, and company at the event in post-event follow-ups. Share that information on social media as well. This can help the winner gain some additional exposure.
Get exhibitors and sponsors involved in your prizes. It is likely that they would be happy to donate a gift of some sort or furnish additional funds to you for the rights to put their name on the contest. Those funds can then be used to put together some sort of prize package. Gift cards for Amazon or a food delivery service are great prize options.
5. Choose Incentives
Human behaviors are motivated by two different forces, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.
Intrinsic motivations are internal and make people feel good about themselves or accomplished. Extrinsic motivations are external like rewards or trophies.
Extrinsic motivators are dependent on the perceived value of the reward and typically don’t last as long as intrinsic motivators.
When planning your gamification you need to consider both types of motivation. If a prize or reward isn’t worth the effort, it will not be enough to engage attendees. If the reward is just seeing your name on top of a public leaderboard, it will not engage enough people. You want a balance that will speak to everyone who attends your event.
Think carefully about your audience and what is likely to motivate them. You can consider adding a survey question or two to your registration form to find out more about your audience and what drives them.
At the very least, create a visible leaderboard in the virtual lobby and put together prizes that will be worth the time and effort.
6. Gamify Event Promotion
You have to promote your event anyway so why not enlist attendees to help you by gamifying promotion?
This idea works best on social media. We’ve all seen the contests: “share this post, like this page, and tag a friend for your chance to win [insert prize].”
You can do a contest like the one above or do something different. Encourage people to use your specific event hashtag or perform other tasks like submitting questions for speakers, and interaction with your social media channels. Each requested behavior is worth a certain number of points and these points will be part of a cumulative total that drives your in-event gamification.
People want to be a part of something and people want to have fun. If they see that their friends are participating in something interesting online, they are more likely to join in and do the same. This can expand your event reach in ways that you may not have been able to otherwise.
Examples of Virtual Event Gamification
To help you add gamification to your virtual event, here are some interesting ideas that are sure to spark interest and engagement:
- Virtual escape rooms: Escape rooms are popular in the physical world, so bring that energy to your digital world. These types of activities encourage individuals to work together so they are great for promoting teamwork and networking. In light of COVID-19, many escape room hosting companies have moved to a digital format so reach out for a potential partnership.
- Virtual scavenger hunt: At a physical event, a scavenger hunt can increase attendee engagement with exhibitor booths. It can work similarly at a virtual event. Create a list of items that attendees need to find on the virtual trade show floor or in the exhibit hall and then let them loose.
- Trivia and puzzles: People love to demonstrate their knowledge and problem-solving skills. Develop questions and puzzles around the targeted industry or the event itself and keep score with a visible leaderboard.
- Polls: Polls can provide event managers, planners, and organizers with valuable information. This information can then be shared with sponsors and exhibitors so everyone can improve products and marketing efforts. Virtual event platforms, like Accelevents, have built-in polling options making this gamification option easy. Encourage people to take the polls by rewarding points for each one taken. The more polls, the more points, and at the end of the event, the most points wins.
Virtual event gamification is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your audience has a positive event experience. Increased audience engagement doesn’t just benefit the attendees, it benefits everyone from event management to sponsors and exhibitors.
When planning your virtual event, we are here to help. Reach out to Accelevents and discover all of the ways our event platform can support you, your organization, and your event goals!