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Event Gamification: A guide to what to consider

Image by ktphotography from Pixabay

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 9 minutes

Event Gamification: A guide to what to consider

Recently I was discussing with a colleague about how to go about gamifying an event like a conference for example. And I thought back to the pieces written about how serious games and gamification can improve social interactions and accelerate collaboration between individuals, and how aspects of these could be incorporated into gamifying something larger like a multi-day event.

For those unfamiliar with gamification, who are probably and hopefully few and far between nowadays, gamification is a methodology of using appropriate game mechanics and elements to improve engagement in a traditionally non-game setting or environment. That is the ‘short and sweet’ explanation, if you are interested in further exploration of gamification and game-based solutions as a whole then there is enough literature on this site and all over the internet.

Event gamification is a subset therefore of game-based solutions. It mainly focuses on increases attendee engagement with the topics and presentations given. Raising brand awareness and marketing of the organiser and the sponsors and improving ROI.

But before we jump into it fully, it is worth mentioning first that gamifiying your event should not be its sole focus, the topic and speakers are the main focus. That said if you do intend to gamify your event, start thinking about it as soon as you have decided your topic(s). Leaving it to the very end as a ‘fun’ addition will mean it has a high likelihood of failing. Start early and integrate it fully.


Start with the event

Always, but always, start with the event and its purpose. Even if you start early with thinking about gamification, make sure you have a well-planned event to start with. If the event isn’t expected to be good, then adding gamification to it will not make it better. A boring event will simply be a boring gamified event then.

Make sure you have engaging topics and engaging speakers to deliver them. If you have that then gamifying those aspects will far easier, as attendees will be motivated to listen and learn. Ensure your schedule is varied; with different topics and time and spaces for people to interact and network. This will not only keep them awake but also encouraged to continue. And naturally, be sure to have an enthusiastic event staff, attendees who are greeted and supported by friendly and excited members of staff will let them feel more assured of being there and stimulated to engage with others.

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.

Branding & Marketing

Part of your event gamification should be to promote brand awareness and engagement, mostly for your company, but also in part for your sponsors. Incorporating the posters, flyers, booklets, even the attendee’s badges into the game as prop’s, items and clues is a good way of cementing that brand in your attendee’s minds. Referring to the earlier example of an AR app, all these branded items can become elements that are part of your gamified experience, having AR graphics pop out of posters when attendees scan it with your app is another great way to get them engaged.

Your event sponsors can also leverage similar methods to increase their brand awareness, working in conjunction with you. Their brands can be subtly incorporated into various game elements and mechanics and if they have their own dedicated apps, then these can even have Easter eggs in them as well for your attendees. This is a larger logistical and organisational task, but if you have good relationships with your sponsors then it is an avenue that is worth exploring if you wish to expand the scope of your gamified experience.

There are two aspects, however, two sides of the same coin, to avoid when integrating sponsors into your event gamification. One side is that if you have some kind collection-based game or anything that uses PBL’s (points, badges, leaderboards), then it is best to avoid linking these with your sponsors. This is because (certain) attendees will then only connect with your sponsors in order to collect the item, gain the points or badges to complete the game. Leaving your sponsors with a worthless lead usually.

The other side of the coin is that attendees might become critical if certain sponsors start to push some sort of agenda, product, mailing list or something else on them. This will likely lead to your attendees disengaging from the game and the event experience entirely. So be careful how far your integration goes and what is being given and offered to your attendees, both by you and your sponsors.

The end-goal for a gamified event

Whatever game type you use, the goal of gamifying your event is not to create a competitive zero-sum environment, where there is one winner who beat them all. The goal of your gamified experience is to engage people with the topics and speakers so that they gain deeper learning and knowledge around those topics. As well as leaving your event feeling empowered and with a larger network of contacts than when they arrived.

To avoid a zero-sum game, focus your experience around team-based quests, with a win condition that ends with the recognition of the team and acknowledgement of the group as a whole working together towards a single objective. If you really want or think a prize/bonus is needed, then make it one that benefits everyone at the event. Such as revealing the location of where the after party is, or that the first X amount of drinks are half price (though this might dangerous and should be left to the organisers budget manager…)


Final thoughts

What you should take away from this piece is that:

  • Event gamification should be a secondary priority to the event as a whole. But if it is to be a part of the event, that you should start thinking about it early. DO NOT leave it until the end, because then it will be too late to implement anything of value.


  • Ensure that you have a strong event concept to start with. It needs to have a solid foundation from which you can build the overall schedule and feature the right kind of speakers. Only then should you consider gamifying it, if you still need to.


  • Also make sure that the speakers you have invited are happy with the event being gamified, especially if they or their presentations are integrated into the game in some way. Some may even be so interested in it that they wish to gamify their own presentations on their own – though this a topic for another post.


  • And lastly, event gamification should always be based on interpersonal interactions and not digital interactions. People come to events to meet other people and share ideas, not to play games on their mobile devices. So make sure you create as many opportunities for people to talk with each other!

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Please do check out the other posts on æ, and please do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

Please do Share if you found it helpful and know of someone who would it find it helpful as well.



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