What does every event organiser want to achieve during their event? The answer depends on the event being organised, but some factors tend to remain constant. A sense of dynamism, a way to get people engaged and involved, networking, creating ideas and providing feedback - all of these things are vital when it comes to the success of an event. So what does it have to do with games; gamification?
Above all, though, most event organisers want their guests and attendees to enjoy themselves. The best results are when attendees come away from the event with a positive impression, eager to share their thoughts on social media, and to get involved with the next event.
There are as many ways to boost the enjoyment and involvement levels of your event.
One term has risen to prominence over the past few years, becoming a key buzzword when it comes to injecting a sense of fun and dynamism into events - whether they’re conferences or product launches, team building days or otherwise: Gamification.
It’s the hottest trend in the event community right now, and it has spread like wildfire, picking up new ideas, new concepts and exciting new approaches as it grows. But what is gamification, and how can it help your event become the next talk of the town?
What exactly is Gamification?
Firstly, let’s get one thing straight: you don’t need to be someone who is hooked to their games console, or have a high score in Mario Kart, Pacman or Call of Duty to have anything to do with gamification. Interestingly however, computer games and the way achievements are unlocked, points are gathered, and progress is made in computer games was, and is a key inspiration to gamification and the approaches it uses.
Even if you’ve never played a computer game in your life, you’ll probably have noticed that people playing games are capable of completely focusing, while multitasking and using all sorts of skills and techniques in order to unlock puzzles or achieve objectives.
Real time flies by for the gamer, and engagement is at a consistent, maximum level. Children and teenagers are perhaps the best example of how gaming can increase engagement and focus; even the laziest teen, who struggles to do homework or tidy their bedroom is often able to give their sole attention to learning how to play a game, and then they’ll consistently achieve everything they need to while zoned out and free from any distraction. Every goal will be reached, every box will be ticked… and they will have enjoyed every second.
Just imagine if you could convert that kind of ‘work ethic’ into other areas of life!
We’re not suggesting that you drag a pile of games consoles to your next event, but by paying attention to how adults respond to games can help you add a fascinating and memorable element to your conference.
In essence, gamification is about tapping into that drive to gain points, to unlock objectives, to find and solve clues, to compete and win - it uses the human desire to be competitive and engaged, and brings that into the sphere of your event. And what’s more, it’s fun and completely open to creativity and individual input.
All sorts of things are possible when it comes to gamifying your event. The event community is currently awash with exciting new ideas, and we’ve heard fantastic suggestions recently which involve problem solving and even physical exertion and activity. It’s important to bear in mind, though - this isn’t about turning your event into a game. It’s about bringing some of the principles and elements of games into your event, and reaping the benefits of doing so.
Can gamification really motivate people?
We’re often asked about the effectiveness of gamification, and whether or not it really motivates people at events. Of course, there’s no real black and white answer to this question - it does depend quite significantly on how involved your audience tends to be, the age of your attendees, and how well the gamification aspects of your event are handled.
However, the general trend that we see is that gamification does encourage involvement, and often makes a dramatic difference to how engaged attendees are in an event.
For example, if there is a conference with various stands featuring the usual sorts of posters and displays most of the attendees will wander around, looking nonchalantly and relatively uninterestedly at the posters and displays, and within a couple of minutes they’ll have congregated into groups of people with whom they’re already familiar - probably to kill some time until the next seminar.
Now, imagine the same situation, but instead a challenge of some sort has been set: the attendees have to answer quiz questions based on information featured on those posters, and those who are able to gather all the correct information will either win a small prize, or gain points towards a grand prize at the end of the day.
The process has become a game, people’s competitive spirit and curiosity will have been piqued, and all of sudden, they’ll be looking intently at the posters, reading the information thoroughly and engaging with the displays in a way which few would have done otherwise....
And this example would be one of the most simple, straightforward types of gamification available to implement at almost any event.
Ideas for gamifying your event
There are thousands of possibilities when it comes to adding gamification features to your event, and they include digital options, as well as analogue and old-school audience interaction options, too. Use a mix of technological and simplified gamification methods, and keep it to a relatively low level, or as a way of breaking the ice and filling gaps.
Too much gamifying can come across as a little patronising, or can give the impression that your event is less serious than it is. When it comes to gamification, less is not only more, but minimal, effective and well-selected gamification can really boost the flow of your event.
1. Boosting engagement
Social media is not only a powerful tool for any event’s organiser, it’s also the perfect gateway to some effective, low-level gamification. Offer points or a small prize to whoever manages to get the most re-tweets or comments on Twitter using your event’s hashtag or Twitter handle - at the end of the day, they can be crowned your event’s Twitter king or queen!
2. Encouraging co-operation
Crowd sourcing ideas has become really popular in recent years. Everything from movies to public bridges, new buildings and boats (remember Boaty McBoatface?) has been put to a public vote. This is something you can bring into your event planning, too, by getting your attendees prior to the event to vote on the order of the seminars, the subjects spoken about… or even other, fun things like the choice of cocktails, colour scheme or theme song of the event!
3. Breaking the ice
If gamification is good for one thing perhaps more than any other, then it’s breaking the ice - that frosty, hesitant, shy atmosphere that often descends on an event at the start of the day or during the first coffee break.
Memory games are always good for this - in a large circle, get people to tell each other interesting or unusual facts about their lives, which need to be remembered and repeated by the people sitting next to them.
Or simply get people to move among one another, completing a pre-prepared questionnaire with fun queries about the habits, lifestyles or preferences of the attendees.
4. Problem solving
Getting teams (preferably made up of individuals who don’t know each other well) to solve problems together is a superb way to kick off a great day. Classic exercises involve getting a team of people to build a basic structure capable of suspending or lifting a brick in the air, using only paper and sellotape (or whatever is available).
It takes no more than 15 minutes from start to finish, it really brings out people’s competitive side and teamworking skills, and it’s also a great way to break the ice and get people talking excitedly to each other. It also promotes a relaxed atmosphere, and provokes that curious level of focus and drive which we mentioned at the beginning of the article.
5. Gamification for enjoyment
Most people play games for enjoyment and relaxation. If you can bring an element of this into your event - especially during down time or coffee breaks, etc - then you’re onto a winner.
VR technology is cheaper and more accessible than ever before - is there any way you can get your attendees to experience some virtual reality gaming or experience in between meetings or seminars?
How about something totally different - the chance to learn a new skill, count to 10 in an obscure language, bake a trifle or draw butterflies?
Involve experts or people with skills and get them to teach quick, fun, memorable things for your guests in a matter of minutes!
Misconceptions about Gamification
There are plenty of misconceptions and pieces of misinformation out there when it comes to gamification. Gamification is not:
Gamification is not all about apps - technology need not be part of the gamifying experience whatsoever.
Gamification is not a guaranteed way to make your event a success. It might help, but your event has many, many more factors that need to be considered too.
Gamification is not going to please all of your attendees. Is there any one thing in the world which makes every single event attendee happy? If you know one, please, please tell us!
It’s not all about winning. Sure, some people are really competitive. But the majority of your attendees won’t be expecting a highly competitive atmosphere, nor will they be expecting to compete in anything. They’ll see it in the way it’s intended to be received, as a way of making things flow with a bit of fun thrown in.
So, there you have it - a rundown of the latest, hottest trend in events management and organisation. Gamification really can make a difference. It’s all about the interaction and focus that seems to come hand in hand with game playing, and if you can capture even a bit of that for your event, you’ll notice your engagement levels rising considerably.
If you want to know more about gamification or anything connected to highly successful, dynamic and interesting events management, then get in touch with Ultimate Experience – we’ve got an impressive London venue portfolio and nearly 30 years of event management experience.
If you enjoyed this article, have anything you’d add to it, or if you’ve experienced some awesome examples of gamification, then get in touch in the comments below!