Making Your In-Person Events More Engaging Through Gamification

Making Your In-Person Events More Engaging Through Gamification

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Posted on May 30, 2023

When former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan uttered these famous words, he wasn’t referring to the type of events we will cover here. But he was flagging how significant events are in anybody’s life. As event planners, that’s something we can all agree on.

Besides, it made for an engaging opening – and striving to be engaging is what we’re here to talk about.

By adding a special sauce to your in-person events, you guarantee participants will have a positive experience that leads them to remain connected to your brand long after the event has finished.

That all-conquering condiment? Gamification. In this article, we’ll explore what event gamification is and how you can implement it to ensure your event is memorable for all the right reasons.

What is Gamification?

When you take the essential elements of gaming and apply them to an otherwise unrelated sphere, that’s gamification. Gaming elements could include winning (and losing) concepts wrapped up in interactive challenges, skilled activities, and competitions. 

There’s quite a history attached to gamification. The term’s a veritable youngster, becoming popular in academic and marketing discourse around 2010. However, the practice of injecting competition somewhere novel stretches back for decades.

In 1912, a popcorn company hid prizes in some of its bags, creating a buzz of excitement akin to Wonka’s Golden Ticket furor. Since then, gamification techniques have become increasingly popular among companies like McDonald’s (remember its Monopoly peel-and-play campaign?). Today, it already exists for an increasing number of event organizers.

Why use gamification in events?

Some events, such as the best computer science conferences, genuinely deliver. However, a lot of events need to be revised. 

We’ve all been to one that sounded great on paper but failed to deliver its mission. Or it didn’t even pique your interest in the first place, failing to secure exhibitors and visitors from the get-go.

The problem is that an event is no longer out of the ordinary. Businesses, investors, and industry leaders are spoiled for choice today, with many in-person, hybrid, and virtual events hosted daily—many feature presentation upon presentation, offering little value to the audience.

Now consider a situation where organizers give those attendees a task that ignites their creativity and competitive drive. Suddenly, you have an event that’s fizzing with excitement as the audience becomes hyper-engaged. 

What happens when speakers interact with an engaged audience? Their presentations benefit and message resonate – it’s all about positive feedback.  

Note the importance of getting people to think. It’s not enough to pass out freebies in goody bags. Engagement is about involving visitors and asking them to contribute in a fun and meaningful way. 

You can also apply this strategy to the marketing of your events. Gamification marketing uses game mechanics and design techniques to motivate people and increase engagement. It exists to boost customer loyalty and provide interactive experiences. This approach often includes reward systems and interactive games or quizzes to educate customers about a brand’s products or services. If you’re using WordPress, you can create interactive quizzes using a WordPress quiz plugin. You can leverage event ticketing softwares to enable this strategy on your events.

Tapping into trends

Gaming is a popular global pastime to the tune of 3.07 billion video game players in 2023. What’s more, the industry’s year-on-year growth is likely to grow.

 

The global population is just over 8 billion, meaning well over 1 in 3 people enjoy playing computer and video games. That’s not to mention the number of people who want an old-fashioned board game or card game.

Gaming is a principal activity. It makes sense to harness this interest to give your event more excitement. Let’s look more closely at how you can do this. 

Event gamification ideas to engage participants

Ready to up your game? Here are some ideas to make your next in-person event more engaging with gamification.

Waiting games

In every event, waiting is built in. 

Those who take their seat first wait until the last audience member has arrived before things can proceed. Visitors may have to wait for speakers who are running late. Or tech issues may delay presentations.

 

So why not capitalize on those waiting periods? Turn them into something fun by having a game available in the exhibition hall or on the event’s microsite. If you opt for the latter, ensure secure remote control access for attendees who couldn’t visit in person.

Does the game need to be a certain kind? Well, not really, although if it can connect with the brand or overriding theme of the event, then that’s an opportunity grasped. This will also get people’s minds in the right area. Ensure the game is accessible to everyone while being reasonably challenging so participants value good performance. 

Consider displaying names and high scores on a screen to add a more competitive element. You could even consider showing gameplay footage. Sharing these details will appeal to the need for peer recognition and inspire others to play along. 

One of the great things about this kind of gamification is that it works for remote attendees too. Whatever remote access tool they’re using, they can take part as if they’re in the room. 

Seat number draw

Seat number draws are an excellent option if you want to involve as many people as possible without spending too much time or effort.

Here’s how it works: before the first presentation of the day, the boss comes out, thanks everyone for coming along, then announces a little game to kick things off. 

 

They then delve into a bucket with little pieces of paper correlating with a seat number. The drawn seat number is the winner – it’s that simple!

You can repeat this prize draw throughout the day, in intervals between presentations, or at the start and end of each event segment. Ensure the prizes are equally fun — a company mug won’t cut it. 

What are the payoffs from this? Everybody becomes more engaged in the day’s proceedings. When an extended and dreary presentation makes you start thinking about what you’re having for dinner tonight, the thought of the next draw can help get your attention back in the room. 

It also encourages bums on seats. Once word spreads that you’re offering giveaways, more attendees are likely to attend the next talk on the event schedule.

A bigger audience is a more communicative one. Encouraging more attendees to each session enhances networking and encourages further participation. It’s a win-win. 

Getting down to business 

As with any element of event hosting, it’s vital to consider the diverse interests of attendees. Those who don’t like computer games won’t be thrilled at the prospect of a microsite gaming challenge. 

You could tap into the lockdown trend and host a quiz. 

 

We’re not talking about traditional multiple-choice exams. Instead, make it entertaining and ensure questions are relevant to the event. 

For example, if you’re hosting an event about the benefits of AI for international business owners, you could consider theming a quiz about registering an AI domain. If the event is specific to your company’s merger, tailor questions around the aspects of the company you’re about to merge with. Remember, you may have to mix this up with more exciting questions.

The fact is, many people love to quiz. So it’s a chance for people to show off their knowledge – and it’s a terrific team-building activity. 

Have a quiz session after lunch to get people’s thoughts back on track after the break. Host a round at the end of each talk to gauge people’s understanding and remind them of the key takeaways. If you do this, mention it at the presentation to encourage people to pay more attention than they would otherwise. 

Training tells

One crucial benefit of event gamification is that it makes your message more memorable. With that in mind, gamification techniques are hugely beneficial training tools.

Let’s say you’re hosting a training event to get staff red-hot on customer service. Incorporate gamification by dramatizing an interaction (either performed in situ on stage or filmed beforehand). You can use this to demonstrate terrible customer service and ask attendees how things can improve. 

Reward insightful suggestions with prizes. Even if it’s something small like candy, the critical factor is that people’s participation is rewarded, and the event is energized. 

Game on!

The great thing about gamification is that you’re limited only by your imagination. 

We’ve barely scratched what’s possible here, so why not use our suggestions as a springboard for your in-person event gamification strategy? 

Think about where there might be points in the day where attention may drift. Then incorporate gamification to inject some pizazz. 

Gaming offers attendees a chance to do something a little different. By engaging their minds and involving them at every turn, you’ll help them feel valued while cementing your message. Suddenly, the event’s not a chore but a highlight of the year that everybody looks forward to. 

We have a winner: gamification! 

 

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