Event gamification is not what you think. Dozens of articles made you believe that by downloading an app you are ready to gamify an event. How many times it worked? Did you saw lots of happy faces? Can you say that it improved the quality of the event you produced?

If the answer is “no”, then follow me. I’ll initiate you in the science of event gamification. And no, you won’t have to download those multiple gamified apps each event manager “should know”.

Gamification is very simple to use. Applied correctly, it can give positive results and responds to your needs or intentions. If you understand its impact, you’ll be able to level-up the engagement and the experience of your event attendees. By knowing what gamification is and how to apply it, you’ll become a better event manager. Apart from focusing on logistics, you’ll also learn to be sensitive to human-oriented experiences which sometimes are much more important.

Event gamification comes in different forms and has the power to transform your event into an awesome one. It works through accessing the emotions and the motivations of the public. By using gamification in your events, you can achieve the following results:

  1. Engage the attendees
  2. Activate the feeling of common purpose
  3. Condition the proactivity
  4. Generate high-quality experiences
  5. Create an environment of trust and collaboration
  6. Transform the event into an epic environment
  7. Ease the communication
  8. Relax the atmosphere
  9. Boost the self-confidence of the attendees
  10. Assure a high level of positivity

You can adapt these gamified methods to your own purposes and wanted outcomes. Take event gamification as a playground and experiment with it. But first, let me give you some more details that will help you understand better its power.

Games and Event Gamification: How and why it works

Have you ever noticed someone playing a game or maybe catching a Pokémon on the streets? It doesn’t matter if it’s a sports game, a board game, a card game, or a video game. The players always seem to lose the track of time, being immersed in a different reality. They experience some kind of bliss.

Have you ever wondered what exactly they feel while playing games?

As the researcher Jane McGonigal highlights there are four superpowers that level-up the gamer’s experience:

  1. Blissful productivity: when one plays a game, he or she has clear purposes, knowing exactly what to do;
  2. Trust and cooperation: games are incredible platforms for social networking and interaction;
  3. Urgent optimism: do you know that when one plays, he or she feels a strong optimism? Researchers show that 80% of times players fail, yet they have enough optimism to continue;
  4. Epic meaning: by immersing themselves in a world of fantasy, created by the game designers, the players are inspired by the extraordinary storyline and epic environment.

Would you like to produce events that will have a similar effect on people? If the answer is “yes”, let’s gamify!

To gamify means to take the best things a game has (structure, context, elements, techniques, etc.), and apply them to serious environments, like work places, marketing strategies, or events.

Crazy fact: One of the most successful examples of gamification is Foldit. People who had no idea about science helped researchers make a breakthrough. This online puzzle video game was an experimental project developed by the University of Washington. The challenge was to fold the structures of selected proteins. By playing this game players helped researchers analyze the structural configuration of proteins. In 2010, the journal Nature published a paper on this topic, crediting the 57,000 players who provided useful results for the investigators.

Awesomeness 101: Add magic to your events

Now that you understand the potential gamification holds, let’s see how you could use it for the production of your events.

There are digital, analog, and mixed gamified experiences. Not all the gamified methods are digital. You don’t have to download thousands of apps and make your attendees use them. It may actually have an unwanted outcome. By making your attendees stare at their smartphone all the time, you may disrupt the experience of the event. Gamification has to be used for concrete purposes and with a low frequency. You don’t want to annoy your public. Plus, the apps can be a distracting factor which will diminish the attendees’ ability to interact with the surroundings. You don’t want this to happen.

Let’s see some examples of gamified methods, based on their purposes. This will give you an idea how gamified methods may help you achieve the wanted results and how you can adapt it to concrete goals. You can use the examples listed below as an inspiration for future events.

Gamified methods that engage

PURPOSE: Engage actively the attendees through the use of technology. Nudge them to promote your event through social media or be active during specific moments.

Social Media Engagement

Description: Before the event, you have to announce the attendees that those who will be the most active on social media by publishing posts with the event’s hashtag will receive a special gift. You may also specify that the speakers will make public the most popular tweets of the event, this way the most active attendee having his or her “5 minutes of fame”.

Q&A Engagement

Description: If you decide to create an app for the event, you can also use it as a platform for questions. Besides having the access to a microphone, people can ask via the app. Before the Q&A session starts, you can announce that those who will ask the greatest number of questions or who will have the most interesting ones, will receive a special gift.

Gamified methods that stimulate cooperation

Purpose: This gamified experience provides the feeling of co-creation and collaboration, enhancing the sense of community. It also can be used as an ice-breaker between the public and the speakers.

Co-creating the event together

Description: There are examples when the attendees could choose what the speaker will talk about. At the beginning of the session, the speaker would present the topics he or she prepared for the event. The subjects are related to the general theme of the conference. The interesting part is that each topic is identified with a song. The songs are played (15 seconds not more) for the public and people have to vote which song they like most. By choosing the song, they also select the subject the speaker will have to talk about. This technique isn’t used too often, but for sure it’s a fun one and leaves a good memory for a long period of time.

Gamified methods that are used as ice-breakers

Purpose: These techniques facilitate the communication and make the networking less awkward (if used the right methods). It can also create for the attendees the space and the right circumstances to get to know better each other and enjoy meaningfully their time.

Networking games

Description: There are two types of networking games. The good ones and the awkward ones that everybody hates. Let’s avoid the second ones and go straight to the “user-friendly” methods. One interesting networking game is to condition the space by placing big round tables. Each table has a visible name. The names are topics of interest related to the subject of the event. During the accreditation, people receive the number of the table where they have to sit. Before the event starts, the moderator gives the attendees 15 minutes to talk about themselves to those who sit at the same table. People have to present first their thoughts about the topic of the table, then have to introduce themselves. This method has the element of surprise, because the attendees don’t know initially at which table they will have to sit.

Social program

Description: The special part of an event is the social program. It may be often related to lunches, coffee breaks, dinners, cocktails, site seeing, etc. But it also implies sharing an experience with others attendees. There are examples of the social program which includes hiking, wine tasting, a late night party, etc. In this case, event managers have to know exactly what the city has to offer (especially if it’s an international event) and design the program according to the concept of the event. 

Gamified methods that solve problems

Purpose: In this case, you can use a game that offers the attendees a different way of expressing their thoughts and solutions for a particular case. Usually, the outcomes of this dynamic can surprise you.

Lego Serious Play (or other team work games)

Description: What can be better than playing while searching for answers? Usually, there are accredited people who have the right and the knowledge to lead the Lego Serious Play dynamic. The leader organizes the attendees into teams. Each table has a set of Lego pieces. People have “to build the Lego solution” first individually, then with the whole group. The Lego construction will represent the answer to the question previously asked by the moderator of this dynamic. Obviously, this question has to be related to the event.

There multiple team work games which facilities the thinking process. It also conditions the creation of a more relaxed atmosphere, where people express themselves freely without the fear of making mistakes. When playing, one is not asking herself if she is wrong or not. Being wrong is a part of the game. The same thing happens with this kind of event dynamics. They engage people and encourage them to add more value, without fearing that they will say something erroneous.

Gamified methods to relax and to enjoy

Purpose: The main goal of these methods is the relaxation and have fun. However, it may be also used for promotional reasons.

Coffee Breaks games (learn about a typical experience, learn how to play a music instrument, virtual reality experiences, etc.)

Description: These methods are closer to the game itself. During the coffee break, you can offer the attendees the possibility to learn how to play a music instrument, to play a video game or to immerse themselves into virtual reality. This way they can relax and try new things. Plus, you can offer a special place for your sponsors to present their products. For example, if there’s someone promoting VR gadgets, they may gamify the experience, offering a virtual bike riding. Or if the sponsor is a video game company, you may use this space and time by encouraging the attendees to play their game.

All these methods sound like fun, right? But don’t forget, you can’t use event gamification only for the sake of it. Before designing or incorporating a gamified element, think and decide what is your purpose and intention. For the rest, feel free to experiment and see what works best for your events, depending on their type, magnitude, location, etc.

In other words, gamified methods can serve a great variety of purposes. If you want to access the emotional experience of your attendees, event gamification is the right approach. In this article we saw how games or better said, game elements enhance the way we feel. The same thing happens when we apply these techniques to a serious environment. Give it a try and see how it will change the experience your event leaves in the hearts and the minds of the public. 

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Victoria Rudi

Author Victoria Rudi

Victoria worked for a few years in the event management industry and now she dedicates herself to writing about topics of her expertise. She understands the power of knowledge transfer and her only mission is to create useful pieces that will help her readers. She likes to connect the dots and to search for new insights. When writing about event management, she focuses on the attendees’ experience and the smart design of the events.

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