How to Create a Winning Gamification Strategy: Lessons from IWConnect 2018

Gamification is one of my favorite features within the EventMobi platform. It allows you to create impactful games that facilitate real life actions. You can virtually create any game to achieve any event goal — it just takes a bit of creativity and know-how. Learning from the successes and mistakes of other event planners is always a great way to get started. Keep reading to learn how IncentiveWorks was able to create a winning gamification strategy at their 2018 conference.

But first, a little about me. Gamification is not only my favorite EventMobi product, but also an area where I’ve had the privilege of helping our clients succeed in.

To read about other client gamification strategies, check out CSAE’s 2018 Trillium Winter Summit.

My role at EventMobi is unique. I act as the liaison and event tech consultant with the event planners of our sponsored events. I really enjoy helping them design their event app, develop strategies to achieve their event goals, and create overall incredible event experiences. Each event we sponsor has its own unique challenges and event goals, so I work with them to create a tailored  gamification strategy that works within their own timelines, access to resources, and comfort level.

IncentiveWorks Success Story

How to Create a Winning Gamification Strategy

EventMobi has sponsored IncentiveWorks for four years in a row, and this year was bigger and better than ever! The theme for this year’s show was “Connections Make Great Meetings”, so the goal of the gamification strategy was to help foster meaningful connections between attendees at IncentiveWorks. With this overall event goal in mind, together, we collaborated on a game called IWConnect. It was a huge networking-based game that brought together planners and industry partners for some serious fun!

how to create a winning gamification strategy

Let’s deep-dive into how IncentiveWorks was able to create a winning gamification strategy through IWConnect.

Designing the IWConnect Game

Whenever planners execute a networking game at their event, they usually ensure that all registrants have a networking passcode on their registration badge. The benefits of this is so that even if you don’t necessarily want to run around collecting passcodes, everyone still has the opportunity to network because they are still participating in the game as long as they have a passcode.

With new rules and regulations surrounding privacy and data protection, planners aren’t allowed to add registrant profiles into the event app without their consent. So as a way around this, IncentiveWorks decided to have attendees who wanted to play the game opt-in on their own versus giving everyone a passcode.

We had never done an opt-in gamification approach at an event before, so it was crucial to carefully design effective solutions that would address the issues we expected to face.

Gamification Difficulties We Needed to Solve

  1. How do we effectively promote IWConnect so people know how to play?
  2. If everyone doesn’t have a code, how do we clearly communicate to attendees who has networking passcodes?
  3. How do we make sure people actively participate in the game?

Let’s explore how we went about addressing each of the above gamification concerns.

1. How do we effectively promote IWConnect so people know how to play?

The solution was to really put a lot of emphasis on pre-event marketing and onsite promotional activities.

Pre-Event Marketing:

The IncentiveWorks event team  really focused on creating awareness about the IWConnect logo, and getting attendees ready to participate in a big networking game at the event. IWConnect was listed as a show feature on the IncentiveWorks website as well as in the event app.

We kept the pre-event marketing communications simple and consistent; marketing resources were shared between the IncentiveWorks staff and EventMobi to make sure that both parties were communicating the same messaging. 

Because we were promoting both the IncentiveWorks event app and IWConnect game, streamlining our communication was more important than ever. The pre-event communication focused heavily on downloading the event app and included a quick snippet about IWConnect. We really focused on communicating why they should play vs. how to play.

A few days before the show, an email blast was released to promote downloading the IncentiveWorks event app, but this time it included a bit more instructional information about IWConnect and how to get started. This was the best time to start providing more information about the game so that attendees would be primed to participate by the time they got onsite. 

Excerpt from the IWConnect Show Feature Web Page on IncentiveWorks’ website:

How will you make new connections at IncentiveWorks?

IWConnect is designed to kick start how you network at IncentiveWorks this year.  Working with the team at EventMobi, we’ve created games that create connections, break the ice and get you networking with more people.

  • Make more quality connections at IW
  • Take your networking to the next level
  • Meet new people at IncentiveWorks

We’re going to have some fun with networking at IncentiveWorks.  If you want to make more meaningful connections, IWConnect is for you.  We’re getting to the heart of it – meeting new people in a memorable way.  The team at EventMobi’s taking networking to a new level – blending in person and digital networking in ways that take your new network beyond the show floor

Onsite Marketing:

Once attendees got onsite, we continued to promote the game across as many channels as possible, from printed signs at the registration booth to event app push notifications to verbal reminders by IncentiveWorks staff reminding people to participate in the game. We relied heavily on onsite marketing and communications because of our biggest event app adoption challenge; in order to participate in the IWConnect game, attendees required completing a three-step process:

  1. Download the app
  2. Create a profile
  3. Get a passcode and button

2. If everyone doesn’t have a code, how do we clearly communicate to attendees who has networking passcodes?

Everyone usually has a badge with a passcode in a networking game. Simple to understand and easy to communicate. But we didn’t have that luxury during this event, so we decided to have a visual cue on the badges to show people who had passcodes. In the end, we added a bright blue 1.75″ button that was big enough to see on an attendee’s lanyard.

As passcode and buttons were being given out, we clearly communicated that anyone else participating in the game who had a passcode would have a blue button on their badge.

3. How do we make sure people actively participate in the game?

Every event planner who implements a gamification strategy has the same nightmare leading up to their event — what if attendees don’t play the game? I know it’s definitely a nightmare of mine! But as long as you are well prepared and have a thought out game plan, magic will always happen onsite..

To set ourselves up for success onsite, we focused on having the biggest presence possible at the show. We knew we needed to be everywhere and anytime someone saw or spoke to someone from EventMobi, we needed to be promoting and reminding attendees of the IWConnect game.

Historically, we’ve had Event App Help Desks at the top and bottom of the escalators, along with an EventMobi tradeshow booth, so there were many opportunities to speak to a staff member to learn more about the game.

This year, we stepped it up a notch in order to have the greatest impact on getting attendees to participate in the game. The emphasis was on making sure we had strong branding that was consistent across all our promotional activities. We had the help desks again, a massive 20×20 tradeshow booth that was co-branded with EventMobi and IWConnect, and also included a new activity called MobiMinutes. Overall, we had over 20 EventMobi employees at IncentiveWorks helping with all the IWConnect promotional activities, alongside IncentiveWorks’ staff.

Here’s a bit more information about each promotional activity:

App Help Desks – we had two staff always present to support attendees with downloading and using the IncentiveWorks event app, and distributing the buttons and passcodes.

Tradeshow Booth – the 20×20 booth had an IWConnect branded desk where attendees could learn about IWConnect, be given a passcode and a button, and provided with tips on how to start earning points and win prizes. There were also various physical games like a giant Connect Four and Plinko. Attendees could play and earn even more IWConnect points. 

how to create a winning gamification strategy

MobiMinute – each day before the morning keynote session, we had one minute on stage to tell the audience about the event app and encourage them to play IWConnect. I also gave out a new IWConnect networking passcode for everyone to enter it into the event app in real time so that everyone was playing together and immediately seeing their point rewards.

Thirty minutes before the MobiMinute, we had an army of EventMobi staff lined up at the meeting room doors and ready to go with distributing passcodes and buttons. As attendees entered the room, our staff gave out passcodes and buttons to anyone who wanted them. In these situations, we didn’t have an info table. Instead, we decided to be totally mobile and walk up to attendees as they came through. This was the most effective marketing and communication tactic at the event to promote IWConnect. It was easily our biggest opportunity to connect one-on-one with as many attendees as we could.

Lessons Learned: How to Win With Gamification

Overall, we gained great lessons on how to create a winning gamification strategy.

We learned that by getting attendees to opt-in to participating and playing the game, we ended up creating extremely engaged IWConnect ambassadors at the show. We realized that because attendees had to opt-in to play the game, they were actually interested in playing and highly motivated.

Also, to make sure that we had as many people playing as possible, it was a smart strategy to focus on creating opportunities for IWConnect staff to have one-to-one interactions with attendees in order to teach them how to sign up and play the game.

These kinds of face-to-face opportunities served as unique and personal touch points in promoting IWConnect, and were the game changer in ensuring the success of the game. It was these forms of engagement that really helped to build strong IWConnect ambassadors, and enabled the event to reach record participation numbers. Attendees are still buzzing about the event and eagerly awaiting next year’s experience.

Want to learn more about gamification? Watch this webinar where I share creative ideas for achieving the five most common event goals.

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