How to Use Gamification to Boost Engagement at Your Next Event

Gamification is nothing new in events. Callum Gill, head of insight and innovation at creative experience agency, drp Group, explains to EventTech Talk that playing games, and the innate human love for competition and collaboration, is now well-established in our industry. In fact, from the humble ice-breaker through to complex team-building activities, lo-fi gamification solutions such as quizzes and scavenger hunts have been ubiquitous at events for a while.

One of the biggest complaints or criticisms surrounding gamification, however, is that people don’t engage, or the app doesn’t get used, or the game isn’t tried. The blame is often then laid at the door of the technology, the mobile device, the tablet, the console or whatever form the interaction took. But as Gill explains, technology is merely the tool – and not the thing. It is the vector for an engaging gamification solution and not the solution itself. And if the blame lies anywhere, it is often at the feet of the concept – not the technology.

The Gamification Leaderboard: Vital Statistics

A quick glance at the wider market for gaming in general demonstrates an industry in rude health (around $99.6 billion in revenue). Gaming is a part of the fabric of society (there’s even a BAFTA for video games) and mobile gaming is the current Zeitgeist. An average millennial can spend 203 minutes per day on mobile gaming and roughly 16.7% of their mobile data usage per day is spent gaming. It’s not just millennials that have been bitten by the bug either. It is also reported that 61% of CEOs and CFOs take daily breaks throughout the day to play games on their phones.

7 Steps To Successful Gamification at Events

It is hard to provide a concrete list or a neatly packaged “top 10 gamification solutions”, because, in reality, each concept needs to be explored and examined with the result at its centre, usually giving rise to bespoke gamification interactions for each objective.

The best way to ensure success with gamification is to adhere to the following delivery strategy:

Step 1: Identify the intended outcome of the game before designing (increase sales, change behaviour, embed values etc.)

This first stage often consists of creatives/planners/stakeholders exclaiming, “We want a game!” and that’s about it. You need to be able to succinctly tie the solution you’re going to employ to the key objectives you are trying to deliver against. Is the event designed to increase sales? Do you want your attendees to change their behaviour? Are they an internal or external audience? What kind of demographic are you working with? From here you can start to identify the gamification solution that’s right for your event.

Step 2: Survey your audience wherever possible to determine how they like to learn, specifically around gaming, to ensure a fit-for-purpose solution

Again, this is an often-missed step in the process and can be challenging. If you are an internal event planner you should have access to the end user, but agencies often must jump through a few hoops. You can use handy online tools such as this one to determine how big a sample of your intended audience to survey. You may be familiar with using Survey Monkey, but other online tools in my opinion, provide a more eye-catching and engaging experience with less effort. Typeform is my favourite. When surveying your audience, focus upon their use of gaming in their free time. As much as possible, we want to create a comparable experience to one they would choose to engage with of their own accord. Do they like mobile gaming, puzzle games? Strategy games? Quizzes? Board games? And so forth. Try to keep your questions to a minimum; I’d try and aim for five solid questions, and never give people the option to go down the middle and play it safe. I often wonder what the point is of asking someone to rate something on a scale of 1 to 10. What do 4, 5, 6 and 7 mean?

Step 3: Design and build

Now you should have an idea of what types of games your audience engages with and what you are trying to achieve at the event. Marry these two concepts together to create the right solution that covers the widest demographic. As with anything, 100% uptake and enjoyment is a rare animal but you can get close. With your objectives and audience tolerances in hand, you can avoid being waylaid by the designer’s preferences, your own bias, or any preconceived idea of how your game should function at the event. You’ve got the evidence from the end users that can’t be argued with.

Step 4: Test, test and test again

Go back to your audience with your prototype, and perform a BETA test. Ask them for feedback, what works, what doesn’t, etc.

Step 5: Refine

Use the valuable insight you’ve gleaned to refine your solution.

Step 6: Deliver

Deploy the solution at your event.

Step 7: Measure shifts against originally identified objectives

Because, right from the start, you knew what you were setting out to achieve, you can measure post-event actions against game engagement. Have sales increased? Are people performing better? Has customer service improved? When surveying post-event, keep your measurement questions related to the objective. Avoid general assertions like “Did you enjoy the game?” and “Was it fun?”.

This kind of methodology underpins all forms of digital development so we should be no less robust when designing gamification solutions for events. The lack of robust process is often what makes gamification seen as a luxury or added extra rather than a significant and hugely effective event engagement tool.

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It’s Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This.

While specific examples are hard to apply to your own specific needs, we wouldn’t advocate for the use of gamification if we hadn’t seen its introduction provide significant return on objectives at our events.  Here are some gamification projects we worked on recently:

Case Study: National Retailer (UK)

Working with a national retailer, we designed a gamified solution to tie in with their nationwide store refit programme. The objective was to inform their staff members across the UK about the refit, what was new, what would change, and the research behind it as to why it would make the organisation more profitable. We built a multi-platform solution on mobile, tablet and large format touch screen which we delivered at events across the UK.

The aim was to build your own store using the elements revealed in the refit programme. Faced with a blank canvas – either a small, medium or large store – delegates had to fit the various elements, product lines and facilities into their blueprint. A timer was added to inject competition into the game and failure was a definite possibility. If delegates wanted their stores to be profitable, they had to engage with the research as to why the changes were being made. The more the delegates’ stores adhered to the evidence, the more profitable they became. We also used a joystick model at numerous events following our research into demographics which indicted that not all of our audience were comfortable using touch screens, and this helped ensure more people would engage.

Following the roll-out at events across the UK, regarding the upcoming store changes – and most importantly why and how these changes would lead to further profitability – dramatically increased.

Case Study: Automotive & Transport  (UK)

We incorporate AR into our gamified solutions particularly, and recently, in automotive with racing games and updatable content – both engaging delegates and giving brands the opportunity to tour their vehicles, without the associated logistical headaches and costs of bringing the actual vehicles.

Working with Chiltern Railways, we built an external facing interaction to be used at exhibitions and roadshows across the UK. The simple game, installed in exhibition stands and accessible online, allowed players to control a train running across the bottom of the screen. The train needed to catch Chiltern railway destination stations in one of the cars, as well as deals and offers, ticket prices and discounts. There were some tongue-in-cheek price comparison references to main competitor Virgin, which, if caught in your carriage, caused you to lose points. Interaction with the game provided an opportunity for data capture and, vital to the objectives, significantly increased the player’s understanding of the destinations that Chiltern Railways service.

A Winner is You!

I have no doubt that Gamification is not only effective, but soon to be integral to successful event delivery, as our audience continues to lose its tolerance for one-way communications in live environments. Gamification provides not only measurable surges in interaction and recall, but digital platforms which can be used pre, during and post-event too – platforms which can be updated, reskinned and rolled out again with much lower cost after the initial investment.

In regards to wider society, digital experiences and gaming in general are well on the way to gaining parity, in terms of importance, to live experiences. Games like ‘No Man’s Sky’ are heralding a new type of immersive landscape, weaving together live and digital experiences. The HTC Vive’s use of live theatre and VR to launch their headset is a taste of things to come. The best plan for event organisers is to start integrating grown-up digital gamification solutions into their event planning process now to be ready for their necessity over the next few years.

Have you had any experience  – negative or positive – around the use of gamification at events? Please share your stories and let us know – we’d love to hear your views!

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