Although gamification is a concept that has been around for a number of a few years now, it’s still an idea that is relatively unfamiliar to many people in the events industry and has huge potential. However, event gamification is a growing trend that is transforming certain aspects of the event experience, and if you’re not on board with it already, it’s high time you brushed up on this uniquely engaging approach.

One of the great things about event gamification is that – although you may have been told otherwise – it’s incredibly easy to apply to the event experience. What’s more, when it is applied correctly, it’s highly effective at helping you achieve your goals, and ensure your attendees are kept smiling and engaged from start to finish.

We know full well the challenges event planners face, in getting caught up in logistics, and then lacking time to think creatively. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that events are essentially all about human-oriented experiences. Designing gamification into your event can put fun, engaging, rewarding, and memorable event interactions firmly back on the agenda.

At MCI Experience, we’re fascinated by the way gamification in event marketing has pushed the industry forwards. As we’re always keen to share our own insights on how to make it work for our clients, we’ve put together this introduction on the basics, to hopefully give you some ideas on how to best leverage the impressive power of gamification in your event design.

What is Event Gamification?

We all know how fun, addictive, and absorbing gaming can be. Anyone who was born after the late ‘70s most likely grew up in the golden age of video games, and probably still has the theme tune to Super Mario Bros etched into their unconscious.

Event gamification takes the enjoyment and addictive qualities of computer games and attempts to bring them into real-life situations, productive activities, and aspects of everyday life. The result? An array of activities that have a new level of enjoyment injected into them, and a clear set of achievable goals (or points, or objectives reached, etc.) which boosts engagement and entertainment to whole new heights. Gamification is a powerful tool that can help drive behavioural outcomes in your audience.

Some statistics about gamification:

This infographic clearly shows that gamification is an effective method of increasing productivity – and a fast-growing market at the same time.

source – digitalchalk

Games – both computer games and ‘real world’ games – have an incredible ability to keep people focused and engaged over long periods of time. We all know how the hours fly by when we’re having fun, just as we know how much more productive we can be when we’re aiming towards a specific goal, or finding ourselves on a well-laid-out mission.

Whether that goal is saving a princess, finalising a plan, or breaking the ice at a workshop or event, gamification quite simply achieves a fun, highly engaging and memorable experience for the audience.

Can Gamification Really Motivate People?

Motivation is a keyword when it comes to gamification and gamification marketing. Just think about it for a moment, and turn your mind to the kinds of ‘real-life’ games and computer games we all know and love. They all use psychology and emotion to engage the player:

  • Determination. People involved in games (again, either on a device or in real-life situations) are driven to achieve objectives and win. By making sure levels are cleared and goals are obtained, they’re able to move on to the next activity and are motivated to do so… and what’s more, it demonstrates clearly to the player how their skills and experience are paying off. It incentivises future achievement.
  • Blissful Productivity. This expression refers to the fact that when playing a game, the player becomes somewhat oblivious to the world around them. Their worries and cares go out of the window, and the game provides them with a clear purpose to focus on and complete.
  • Empathy. Through engaging players through storytelling within the game, they are able to turn the story into their own ideas and experience through ‘neural coupling’.
  • Growth. Learning new skills permanently increases the volume of our brain’s ‘white matter’, which helps form connections between cells. It also promotes better memory recollection.
  • Trust and Cooperation. The world of gaming was one of the first industries to really explore the potential of social networking and interaction. Role-playing games, especially, have proven that people from all sorts of backgrounds can join together seamlessly to explore new worlds and complete missions side by side.
  • True Optimism. One of the key features of games is that often, they require you to fail over and over again before you can progress and master the skills needed to succeed. And yet, the players do not give up and do not become complacent. They possess a real sense of optimism that drives them to continue.

Each of these aspects of gaming can be successfully brought about through event gamification, and without much difficulty. By taking an open-minded approach to event engagement, and by bringing game elements to your event, you can ensure that your attendees are truly motivated to explore all your event has to offer.

The key is to ensure that the game challenges and application of gamification enhances your brand messaging and the purpose of your event. Technology and gamification needs to facilitate your message not distract from it.

Event Gamification vs. Gamification Marketing

There’s no doubt about the fact that gamification has proven to be highly effective when it comes to event marketing and marketing as a whole. Gamifying your marketing efforts is a fantastic way to quickly grab the attention of your target audience, as it gives them a reason not to skip past your advert or ignore your outreach attempt, but instead, engage with it and see what you’re all about.

On top of this, gamification is all about tapping into emotions… and nobody could deny that establishing an emotional connection with a potential client, customer, or attendee is a powerful tool that often brings impactful results. However, it’s not necessarily easy to strike the perfect balance that leads to the most positive outcomes.

Event promoters often make the mistake of forgetting that event attendees are smart, savvy people… and if your agenda with your gamification marketing efforts is to sell a product, sell more tickets, or push a sponsor onto your audience, you need to bear in mind that your audience is likely to catch onto what you’re trying to do.

Audiences are wary of advertising and brand messages and no longer take brands at face value. They want brands to engage with them meaningfully. There needs to be a balance between real marketing, transparency, and a genuinely fun and enjoyable way of engaging people… otherwise, that engagement you’re trying to achieve may end up falling flat. Get it right, however, and you’re on the route to a real marketing winner!

Techniques That Really Work

At MCI Experience, we consistently help our clients with bringing truly effective elements of gamification into their events. Forbes has some great ideas for enhancing event experiences with gamification, and puts it into a three-step system that we’d highly advise taking on board. With this approach, it becomes clear that often the most workable solutions are the simplest, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort or planning to see positive results brought about.

An overview of the eight key steps to gamifying your organization.

source – Brett Knowles

It should always be about personalisation of the experience and the gamification strategy needs to reflect and work for a particular audience. Through audience insights, you can ensure that the design of the gamification experience matches your objectives as well as the preferences of how your audience likes to learn, specifically around gaming.

Gamification for Ice Breaking

Try bringing some networking games into the start of your event, and giving your attendees the chance to get to know each other in a fun, stimulating environment. Gamification is also a great strategy for onboarding, it can be effective in allowing talents to engage with each other as well as communicating the objective; increase in sales, change behaviour or embed values.

Gamification for Engagement

As every event organiser knows, engagement is the key to a good event, and gamified aspects of elements have proven time after time to seriously boost how engaged your attendees are. Try this game to get people really involved with what’s going on before the event even takes place:

  • Set up a series of social media games and contests a week or two prior to your event.
  • For example, ask your ticket holders to use the event’s hashtag in a creative way, or set up a contest for the most frequent or interesting use of the hashtag. Naturally, there will be a prize for the winner, which should promote engagement more fully while ensuring you get plenty of online exposure!

Gamification for Problem Solving

Setting problem-solving challenges for your attendees is a fantastic way of encouraging teamwork, getting people thinking logically, critically, and creatively, and opening channels of communication that have lasting results. It follows the principles of design thinking where through empathy, brainstorming of ideas, and testing, a group with this solutions-based approach can come up with some surprising results.

Many businesses are turning to gamification to help in addressing and solving real-world problems. When you take a real-world problem and put a spin on it to provide a challenging, fun and interactive environment in which to solve it; the audience has more drive to want to solve the problem and realise the reward/ recognition for their achievement.

You can reach a diverse range of people from a whole host of backgrounds and education to address a solution to a problem that might not have otherwise been able to be reached without the concept of problem-solving through gamification. By brainstorming collectively, an unlimited number of participants can ultimately increase the opportunity of solving the problem that is presented.

This problem could be a global issue or one that your business or industry faces. Within a simulation type of environment attendees or trainees have the ability to test their skills and potentially contribute to research or business/industry breakthroughs.

Using Apps for Event Gamification

Using a custom-made app or an existing app as part of your event can also be a great way to bring in elements of gamification, and in today’s smartphone-oriented world, is a savvy way of increasing engagement. There are loads of great apps and examples out there that have proven to do the job perfectly, and almost all of them encourage attendees to get involved, join in with games or challenges, and take their experience to another level. Check out our favourite examples here:

  • Bounty Tasker
    Bring the fun of an RPG into your event with this great app. It’s essentially a to-do list, but users get to assign themselves a character and gain points upon completion of each task, which can be used to buy new outfits and accessories!
  • Challenge Timer
    Challenge Timer uses the Pomodoro method to break big tasks up into bite-size chunks, which must be completed within a certain time! Unlike other Pomodoro timers, this one has no pause button… which means users have to get busy in order to get points!
  • Epic Win
    This productivity app is perfect for meetings and other events in which goals need to be met, tasks need to be completed, and fun needs to be had. It’s a stunningly designed app (in fact, it looks like a real game most people would be happy to pay for in the App Store), with loads of options for customisation.

source – wired

Gamification could be something as simple as setting up an Instagram contest, wherein the best photo with your event’s hashtag attached can win a prize by the end of the day. They could be more complex and involve a custom app that requires attendees to reach certain checkpoints, answer questions, or check in to certain stations in order to win badges or points. However you choose to go about it, apps – now more than ever – very much have a place within the real world of events, and this isn’t going to change any time soon.

Misconceptions About Event Gamification

We’ve spent plenty of time talking about what event gamification is, and what it can achieve. However, as with any new approach, there are plenty of misconceptions flying around, too. Let’s take a look at a handful of misplaced ideas to bear in mind when applying this concept to your event.

It’s Not Just About Apps

As previously mentioned, apps are a great way to add gamification elements to your event and boost engagement. However, simply getting your attendees to download an app isn’t always enough. Nothing beats real, authentic involvement which involves people mingling and talking face-to-face… so don’t rely solely on technology to get the results you want. There may also be resistance to downloading an app that has limited usability for the user.

Gamification isn’t for Everyone

People want personalised experiences, and everyone has a different approach to events and what they want to get from the experience. Don’t expect everyone to want to get involved in every game, and don’t push people too hard to engage with gamification if it isn’t up their street!

Have a range of options available, and an array of alternative activities for people to participate in. Gamification may not be the right fit for your event message or target audience – when planning you need to access the relevance of gamification with your event objectives.

Gamification isn’t About Winning

People don’t go to events or conferences to win, they go to have an experience, to learn, to meet people, and to listen to and share ideas. If your gamification options are solely based on prize-winning and individual attendees ‘beating’ others in games, you’ll quickly lose engagement and leave too many people unsatisfied.

Sure, include some prizes along the way, but choose games and activities which have goals other than some giveaway or physical reward. Your audience seeks value and wants to benefit from your brand experience and this can be realised through many different avenues.

Event Gamification: A New Trend That Can Make A Huge Difference

We’ve seen first-hand how gamification can make events more fun, more engaging, and more dynamic, and we’ve also seen how it boosts marketing efforts by a considerable degree. Gamification can enhance how an audience engages with a brand or at your event, it can help the brand narrative, messaging and brand association be more memorable through personalised experiences.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the dynamic world of gamification.

At MCI Experience we’re pioneers of personalised brand and event experiences. We love sharing our insights into all the latest trends and helping our clients find the perfect solutions for their brand challenges.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out exactly what we can do for you!