Use Games at Meetings to Drive Engagement & ROI

by Harvey Chipkin
Use Games at Meetings to Drive Engagement & ROI

Gamification is the next hot trend in meeting planning – “as important as social and mobile,” according to John Chen, CEO of Geoteaming.

Gamification means applying the mechanics and elements of games in non-game situations, including meetings.

Today’s meeting planners need to become familiar with using gamification to improve attendees’ experience and create better conferences, said Chen, during a session on “Gamification for the Meeting Professional” at MPI’s recent World Education Conference in Las Vegas.

Gamification “is on the breaking edge of trends right now” – because it has proven to be remarkably successful in a variety of contexts, said Chen, whose company specializes in teambuilding.

Following are highlights of Chen’s presentation:

Why to deploy games at conferences
•    Games encourage meeting-goers to be more engaged. Attendees will be motivated to attend sessions, visit trade show exhibitors, etc., to fulfill the requirements of competitions such as scavenger hunts, a contest for best photo and other games.

•    Games encourage interaction – both among attendees and between attendees and trade show exhibitors/sponsors.

•    Games drive loyalty. Participants will return to a website or a sponsor far more frequently if they are playing a game. Emails associated with a game are opened at a rate 86% higher than non-game emails.

•    Gamification drives revenue. Sponsors like gaming because it can require interaction between attendees and a conference and their representatives. This can provide lucrative funding for conferences.

•    Games improve ROI for sponsors, including by generating buzz among attendees, social media engagement, traditional media coverage and greater interaction with attendees.

•    Games improve the experience for participants, including by increasing their energy and engagement; creating memories through emotional experiences; facilitating networking among attendees as they work together or see each other in competition photos, and offering recognition and reward (which don’t have to be expensive).

Six keys to gamification
How can planners use gamification effectively? There are six keys to success, Chen said.

1)    Understand what constitutes a win both for sponsors and for the host organization. Know what you want and what the desired results are. The game should support the meeting’s goal.

2)    Create a system where participants can compete at different levels. Make sure the easiest level has the lowest barrier to entry. If possible, don’t require a password – just name and email address.

3)    Design games to appeal to emotions. Get people out of their comfort zone and doing something experiential. Get them to do fun things together. One high-level conference required a “back waxing.”

4)    Offer both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. An intrinsic reward might be membership in an association; extrinsic might be gift cards. Offer rewards daily as well as for the conference as a whole to keep participants interested.

5)    Work with leading vendors to create your game. Don’t try to do it on your own.

6)    Make it fun. At one conference, teams had to build a six-person pyramid.

Cautions and caveats
There are potential pitfalls in gamification, Chen said. Here are tips for avoiding them.

•    Find the right gamification partner for your meeting, including by talking to previous clients of vendors you’re considering.

•    Design the game so it focuses on content, for example by requiring participants to spend time at a sponsor’s booth filling out a form. Otherwise some participants will become so intent on the game they forget the content portion.

•    Test the game fanatically before you launch it, both to see how it works and to make sure it will prevent cheating.

•    Have a Plan B and Plan C prepared in case the game proves problematic.

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