Events are inter-personal
Events such conferences and the like are about people coming together, listening to thought-provoking speakers and connecting with people of similar interests. It is essentially an analogue experience, which means that event gamification should not be about technology. Gamifying an event is not about adding an event app and you’re done, gamification achievement completed as it were.
Technology, especially with events, is an addition and a tool. If you are set on having an app to show off, then it should simply be there as a reference point to look up schedules, rules etc. and/or an input point where attendees can enter details, game answers etc. It should not be your primary point of engagement. If that happens, your attendees will be more engaged with the app game then they are with the speakers that showed-up to present at your event.
If you do use apps and mobile devices, use them as tools for engagement. For example have the app be an AR tool with which attendees can find graphical Easter eggs during the coffee or lunch breaks. Something that they can engage with, as a group, outside of the presentations.
Your focus overall when gamifying should, therefore, be on collaborative physical interactions, such as group activities, networking and discussions with speakers. One of your goals should be to create opportunities for people to interact with each other, to break the ice and connect. The most awkward moment for many is the start of a conference, not knowing who will turn up or who to talk to. Allowing these individuals an easier way of starting a conversation will improve your event immeasurably, especially for them. And including team-creation from the start and group-based activities throughout the event will further promote an atmosphere of collaboration and facilitate even more networking opportunities.
The strongest methods to bring a group of people together as a team and to start a conversation among them is with a problem-solving challenge. We all love solving something, be it a puzzle or some other problem. Having a team objective such as finding a solution for a puzzle is the most efficient way of bringing people together and getting them engaged. In essence, you’re using various principles similar to facilitating design thinking in a group-based format.
One thing to bear in mind with these ideas is that you should not expect 100% attendee engagement if you gamify your event. Consider your attendees from the perspective of marketing persona’s, why are they there, what engages them, and so forth. Based on that you can see and perhaps tailor your gamification efforts to appeal to the largest majority. Do not try to aim for the 100% mark, if you manage 50%, 60%, or even 70% engagement then you will already have achieved a big win.