Using Gamification to Better Engage Event Attendees

Engaging members at events and conferences is at the core of every association, regardless if that engagement is online or face to face. Association event planners are acutely aware of the power of engagement and are constantly challenged to build opportunities for networking and learning at events and conferences. In recent years, technology has been the medium of choice to accomplish this, and event gamification deployed via web-based or mobile applications have been shown to be very effective. “Gamification” is a buzzword garnering a lot of attention in this area, and for good reason.

Gamification Demystified

Loosely defined, gamification is the integration of game-like thinking in nongame environments to bolster engagement, loyalty, and fun. Yes, it sounds quite foreign, but it’s far from a new concept. If you have a credit card that collects points or if you’ve filled out a survey in hope of winning a random prize giveaway, you have experienced gamification firsthand. In most cases, the delivery and tracking of the games and points is done via a web-based software or a mobile app. EventMobi, for example, includes different games that are integrated within a mobile event app for conferences and tradeshows.

The thread that binds most gaming experiences are the five basic mechanics of gaming. The ability to

  • collect points
  • achieve new levels
  • earn achievements such as badges and prizes
  • participate in challenges
  • compare progress with others via leader boards.

Event Games in Action

Most savvy event planners are well acquainted with mobile event apps. These apps are optimized for smartphones, and they come with standard features that make events easier for people to navigate. They can be simple or complex, but the usual features include a conference agenda, speaker profiles, and maps.

Now event gamification is making their way into these event apps, bringing a new twist to what is useful. Imagine having attendees excited to visit exhibitor booths often passed by or having them be truly engaged during educational sessions.

Score Details and Badges found on EventMobi’s GamifyApp

Some consumer mobile apps like Foursquare and SCVNGR or event-specific apps like EventMobi include a gaming layer that sends attendees on treasure hunts to collect points for prizes, boosting the number of booths they would visit, for example. Or, the event app can award points for attendees when they answer short quizzes at the end of each session to show they understood the main concept. They then receive points for checking in at certain locations or correctly answering questions. Even more, the app can automatically award them custom virtual badges for completing specific challenges or receiving a certain number of points, which they can then recoup for prizes.

Attendees can track their progress on the mobile app or on a public leader board, which gives them incentive to get moving and play as often as possible, which in essence means being more involved at the event. There’s nothing like competition to get people engaged and playing along.

Employing Game Mechanics to Drive Strategic Action

The most important element in event gamification design lies in a clear understanding of your event’s objectives. By precisely defining what you want to achieve, you can encourage attendees to perform tasks and actions that they might not consider a priority, such as:

  • registering early for an event
  • participating in discussions
  • contributing a solution to a problem
  • visiting specific exhibitors
  • networking with other attendees
  • participating in team-building exercises
  • downloading information
  • submitting surveys
  • learning about new products
  • understanding company objectives
  • taking a certain route
  • visiting specific event destinations

When you incorporate gaming concepts to your event, not only are you encouraging your members and attendees to help achieve your goals, but you’re also enabling them to reach their own. Many attendees find it hard to meet others, participate in conversations, apply learned materials, or keep track of their activities. A gaming layer incorporated in an event app, for example, can encourage attendees to act in that particular fashion and at the same time record and report their progress back to them. A great way to have more people engaged throughout the event while they can also measure their personal return on investment by seeing how much they have been able to be involved throughout the conference.

Tips and Tricks for Deploying Games at Association Events

The most important parts of an event gamification design are the content, flow, and onboarding process. We recommend that you use highly seasoned event professionals that understand the core elements in motivating attendees by using insider lingo, corporate objectives, team-building dynamics, group psychology, and the dynamics of hotel and convention-center geography. The best meetings and events games will involve location-based challenges and problem-solving clues and puzzles, while the geography of the venue will play an important part as well.

Challenges Revolve Around Exhibitor Booths

You also want to make sure the game is easy to understand and quick to play. There is nothing worse than being promised a fun experience and be greeted with a two-page survey to get started. Keep in mind that the objective of the game is not to have attendees play games on their smartphones during the conference but rather to provide quick and fun actions to get them better engaged during the conference or expo. So make sure the game is contained in certain areas or time blocks to avoid unnecessary distraction during the event.

The Future of Engagement at Events

Event gaming apps show plenty of promise for events, and this new technology creates a new way for attendees to interact with the event, via networking, asking questions, visiting specific areas throughout the event, and even cheerfully giving sponsors vital lead information to generate future sales and partnerships. But one thing is for sure: the game has to be in line with your event objectives and executed well to elevate attendee and sponsor experience, or it will simply be dismissed as yet another shiny event technology.

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