Now playing at mcmag.com/
webexclusives: M&C's Michael C. Lowe
offers a look at GMIC's Sustainable Meetings Conference game app, and
QuickMobile's Trevor Roald discusses mobile app trends.
The cult-like appeal of games like Angry Birds hasn't been lost
on event planners. A fast-growing cadre is creating mobile games for
their conferences in an effort to boost engagement, interaction and
collaboration -- a strategy known as "gamification."
game mechanics into a conference's infrastructure can transform an
event into a unique and memorable experience simply by adding narrative,
incentives and friendly competition to otherwise routine tasks," says
A.J. Ripin, a mobile-learning researcher at the University of Central
Florida in Orlando and strategist at Moving Knowledge, a mobile-solution
Though gamification can be applied to
almost anything, conferences are especially well suited because they
have a natural time limit, a delineated area of play, and a body of
"players" with a common interest who are looking for excuses to interact
and learn, says Ripin. Game-playing conference-goers are more motivated
to engage in educational sessions, participate in corporate social
responsibility activities, interact with exhibitors, and explore the
trade show floor when those tasks earn them points that can lead to
potential prizes or recognition.
A game in playWhile
the idea of gamification has existed for years in various forms,
today's smartphones, tablets and apps are spurring its adaptation
because mobile-based games allow more attendees to engage with
technology and equipment they already own and know how to use, says
Elizabeth Henderson, chair of the 2011 Green Meetings Industry Council conference who led the conference's design team and chief sustainability strategist for Meeting Change, a business consultancy that integrates social and environmental sustainability with business strategy.
In addition, using an app or mobile
platform allows for real-time tracking, giving attendees a sense of
instant feedback and a feeling of immediate in-game interaction,
especially when points and player rankings are updated as they happen,
says Henderson, who employed the technique for her Sustainable Meetings
Conference this year in Portland, Ore.
For that event, attendees
were grouped into teams at random, and each team received a loaner iPad
supplied by GMIC, with a custom app created by QuickMobile. The
objective was for attendees to network with peers and develop strategies
for how to tackle green meetings by learning new techniques and best
practices. Teams earned points for answering questions provided by the
app, such as, "What are the pros and cons of holding a green meeting in
Portland?" or "Can you create three sustainable event objectives?"
complete the game, teams had to retrieve answers from exhibitors and
attend educational sessions, such as "Setting Sustainability Objectives
and Goals." Teams also received points for tweeting (the 267 on-site
participants sent a combined 3,830 #gmic-tagged tweets during the
three-day event), filling out surveys and participating in the
conference's community service activity -- building bicycles for
children with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
covers made from recycled materials were given to the winning team, but
the main incentive was bragging rights, says Henderson.
Not for everyone Though
meeting planners have seen success with the tactic, not all conferences
are appropriate for gamification, notes Ripin. One-day conferences, for
example, might not be suited for a game because of the time it takes to
set up rules, get players invested and distribute prizes.
however trendy or exciting, is still just a tool," stresses Henderson.
"The goal should not be to just integrate games into a conference, but
rather to produce improved engagement and better learning among your
attendees. Whether gamification and apps help accomplish those goals
depends on the conference and its attendees."
FOR MORE "Update: Apps for Meetings":
> Update: Apps for Meetings
> Embracing the iPad
> Tomorrow's Apps for Meetings