When it comes to ‘gamifying' an event, you may have already experienced it without even realizing it. Take your rewards card, for example. Your card is a basic game strategy used by businesses to reward shoppers for spending money at their location.
A common mistake made when employing gamification in business is the idea that any game or gimmick will do, or that your attendees will download and play through any app relating to your event. However, when phrased like that, it doesn't make sense how gamification could improve overall engagement.
Why Gamification Works and How to Use it at Your Next Event
If you're wondering what you’re missing when it comes to event gamification, read below as we take you through:
- What is event gamification
- How gamification works
- Rules to follow when using gamification
What is Event Gamification?
While you may be thinking that gamification is as simple as turning your event into a competition, it has more to do with employing the elements of a game in your event. These include systems like rewards, easy-to-map progression, and time constraints. Adding the above mentioned to your event enriches the attendee experience, prompting your audience to interact with your event rather than experiencing it passively.
This interactivity works to engage your audience and taps into our psychological need to compete, share, and track our progress. But, merely accessing these principals isn't enough.
You, as an event organizer, need to combine these with objectives for gamification to succeed. You can't just have your attendees download an app without giving them explicit instructions on what to do. For instance, if your objective was to promote social connection or networking, then your selected game element should be what best facilitates this. Setting up group exercises at your event or rewarding players who make the most connections are both examples of gamification.
Understanding this process, in turn, allows you as event organizer to:
- Understand how and why your participants react to certain events for retargeting
- Increase attendee engagement and retention
- Turn events into personalized experiences
- Strengthen their relationships with participants
- Encourage collaboration and social sharing
- Facilitate communication
Why Gamification Works
When you see someone immersed in play, you may often wonder what keeps them coming back to their morning commute session of ‘Candy Crush’. Well, Gabe Zichermann, author of Gamification by Design, wondered this too, so much so that he gave a TEDTalk on gamification outlining his research on the four leading factors that motivate us to play games and what makes them enjoyable:
Constraint: When rules are set, we strive to win with or despite them. They are used by the player to make sense of their surroundings. Too many constraints will frustrate the player, while too little will result in players feeling lost or unsure what to do in the situation.
Perseverance: The drive to keep pushing and trying to achieve a set goal even through failure. However, the goal set must be within your player's skill set as perseverance fails when the challenge seems impossibly hard or unbearably easy.
Skill: The desire to learn something new about one's self or to continue to improve. Games facilitate this in the way they allow us to fail and break bigger goals into achievable mini steps.
Speed and Pressure: In games, we are often forced to make quick decisions; studies show that we receive pleasure from being able to make many decisions quickly.
Focusing on what game elements encourage these drives can result in your attendees feeling more engaged and fulfilled. Similarly, these factors will have people coming back motivated to participate again and again. If you're wondering how gamification can add to your events, then read below as we outline some rules of thumb to keep in mind.
The Instruction Manual: Rules for Event Gamification
Here are a few general rules to keep in mind when planning to gamify your next event:
- Keep it social. Let your attendees interact with one another, incorporate social media as a way to share, and recognize what is achieved at the event.
- Award participation. Give rewards for contribution, for early bird ticket purchasing, or for merely attending the event.
- Activate those perseverance and pressure drives and set a challenge for your participants. Balance is the key, though, as making a challenge too hard will leave your attendees crying unfair, and too easy and they'll receive no sense of achievement.
- Encourage friendly competition through leader boards or a leveling system. These garner both challenge and achievement in your attendees.
- Set a clear goal so everyone knows that there’s something obtainable to achieve. Setting time restrictions or rewards for the first team to finish can also enhance this sense of achievement.
- Combine external motivators and internal motivators. External motivators are understood as the rewards or trophies while the latter is interpreted as accomplishment speaking to status, access, and power.
- Overall, make sure your event is fun, and keep it fresh and full of surprise.
Ready to Play?
With a clear goal in mind of what you want attendees to get from the event you’re planning, gamification can be used to increase engagement and retention. See what benefits gamification has on your attendees at your next event.
Rebekah Muir is a marketing analyst at EventBookings Pty Ltd. She is an expert in the event management industry with a vast knowledge of event organizing, event marketing, and event promotion.