Adding Gamification — and Excitement — to Your Next Event

Including games and prizes at a conference gives the program a shot of adrenaline.

Gamification is the process of using games to reward attendees for accomplishments and/or completing specific calls to action. Executed correctly, it's a strategy that can elevate the productivity of your entire event by adding a layer of interaction that will cultivate engagement, providing more value for both you and your attendees.  

In short, implementing gamification into a meeting is quite worth the investment. The next logical question, then, is how to make it work for your company. The details will depend on the specific goals you and your team have in mind, but the following tips can help you approach gamification in a way that will enhance your agenda.


• Set the ground rules. Be clear about rules and corresponding rewards, and ensure guidelines remain consistent. Nothing kills excitement more than feeling like an activity is rigged, so be forthcoming from the onset of the program. Making a competition fair might mean structuring to include everyone, normalizing scores so different-sized teams can participate and giving "losing" attendees a reason to stay involved. 

• Don't depend on digital. It's tempting to digitize everything these days, but part of a meeting's allure is its face-to-face nature. Limiting gamification strategies to digital-only interactions might alienate swaths of attendees. Include rewards for attending or interacting with the general session and points for visiting booths and engaging with exhibits. 

• Offer late-stage participation. Intimidation often defeats conference gamification. Attendees who have no chance of making it to the top might disengage completely if they see no incentive for participating. Solve this by giving everyone a target to hit, even if it isn't being No. 1. Offer tiered rewards for completing parts of the game, and communicate standings individually instead of displaying leaderboards. Being in the top 22 percent is more motivating than being in 220th place. 

• Make it fun. More than anything, the experience should be fun. Identify what you want most out of your event, and then  explore  how  to gamify it. Once the systems are airtight, spend time deciding what will bring the element of excitement and surprise to your gathering. Display photo contests prominently, give micro-rewards and tease a big reveal throughout the game. Focus on user experience, and analyze whether the aspects are enjoyable or a chore, and adjust when necessary. 


• Know the players. Use audience data to design games in a way that speaks to the interests of the group. For example, if your attendees share a common goal, consider creating a communal competition centered on philanthropy. If attendees have varied agendas, design individualized tasks as a ladder for them to climb toward ambitions. 

• Add a personal touch. As more planners embrace event gamification, it's clear the concept is transforming the industry. However, it's only a healthy addition to your strategy if the game fits the audience. Take time to personalize the experience for everyone involved, and you'll create a memorable event for attendees and sponsors alike.

• Team-base for team building. Team-focused gamification is especially desirable for companies with predetermined parties within certain districts, regions or offices. For learning or knowledge-based events, such as training and compliance meetings, gamification provides a great way to reinforce key topics (in a lower-pressure environment) and get more feedback from the group.


• Take advantage of sponsorship opportunities. Nearly 74 percent of event planners say sponsorship remains consistent throughout their events. However, gamification provides new opportunities to be sponsored by specific exhibitors or activities that could involve brands or services, bringing new relationships forefront.

• Tie gamification to the production. Facilitating the competition on stage, like a final team-vs.-team showdown, a tiebreaker, or a shout-out to the teams or individuals currently in the lead will make the activity feel more integrated. Essentially, the process becomes another benefit for attendees to attend major general sessions.