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Get your game on: Gamification adds energy to events

Some groups inject game elements into their events in effort to promote show floor features, boost attendee/exhibitor interaction

June 25, 2015
By Walt Williams

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Conventional wisdom holds that life is not a game, but some associations are finding you can boost attendee satisfaction at your events if you treat it as one.

Take the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which last year introduced a new feature in its Annual Executive Conference app that allowed attendees to earn points and digital badges for different activities, such posting photos, checking in at sessions, liking posts or commenting on other posts. Scores were displayed on large screen on the conference floor.

The new feature was a hit, with app activity increasing 15 percent the following year, said Mary Leonard, CHPA’s associate director of marketing communications.


“We wanted to connect with our attendees in a new and refreshing way, and the gamification feature allowed our attendees to be rewarded for exploring each part of our app—but most importantly—to connect with the CHPA brand and with other attendees,” Leonard said in an email.

Gamification is the term for injecting game elements into everyday activities—not a new concept but one many groups are still trying to navigate when spicing up their events.

“Games by nature mean competition and when you activate people’s competitive nature, they get engaged and they are active and they do what you want them to do because they like the competition,” said Buffy Levy, a director in events services at association management company SmithBucklin.

Gamification isn’t simply about making sure attendees have fun, said Levy and other experts. It can be about instilling energy on a show floor, promoting a specific area or encouraging interaction between attendees and exhibitors.

“You have to be strategic about it and not just have it to have it: What’s your end goal?” said Lydia Kamicar, a senior manager in education and learning services at SmithBucklin.

Layla Masri, president of Web and app development firm Bean Creative, has identified five questions planners should consider before injecting gamification into their events:

  • What is your objective?
  • Are your game mechanics simple?
  • What demographic do you hope to engage?
  • Is your game driving behavioral changes?
  • What will you do to educate members about the game?

With those in mind, discussion must start with outcomes you are trying to drive, Masri said. Not only is the answer going to affect what gamification components you build, but how you position yourself when selling the concept to members.