October 31, 2022   |   Aprilynne Pike

6 Ways to Amp Up Your In-person Event with Gamification

You’re ready. You’ve booked your venue, you’ve created an amazing registration website and you’re all set on your catering. You’re good to go, right? 

Not so fast. Long before your in-person event starts, you also need to think about your engagement and gamification strategy for your audience. Do you have a system in place to prompt attendees to network, attend sessions, and ask questions? Do you have a plan to encourage attendees to talk about your event on social media, or approach your carefully-wooed vendors? What about sponsors? If you don’t, you’re missing out on an opportunity to truly engage your audience and provide value to everyone at your event.

Studies have shown that, each day, we consume about 34 GB of information, and this grows at a rate of 5.4% per year. Per year! Add to this our dwindling attention spans and you can see how leaving attendee engagement to chance will lead to disappointment. With so many things vying for our attention, how can you make sure your event attendees are active and engaged throughout your event? 

Enter gamification.

Gamification is a powerful tool that uses the natural reward circuit of our brains to direct and maintain our attention on a specific task. Gamifying your in-person event is not only a great way to get your attendees to pay attention, but it’s also a super fun way to network, learn, and build a healthy pipeline of leads. Read on to find out how.

What is Gamification?

Gamification refers to applying competitive elements to otherwise non-competitive activities, and using rewards to drive engagement. For instance, gamification is used a lot in education to drive learner engagement and knowledge retention. Software companies often gamify their onboarding to help customers learn their product and make the most of it.

Gamification can also be a great way to make your events a success by helping attendees network more easily, engage with vendors, and absorb more knowledge. There are several ways you can achieve this, both face-to-face and by using event management software. We’ll discuss both.

6 strategies to gamify your events

Ok, so you’re with me, but you’re wondering where to start. There are so many approaches you can choose from when it comes to gamification at events. Which ones you go for will depend on your event type, your audience and, ultimately, the goal you’re trying to achieve.

For instance, if you want to ensure more people attend your event sessions, you’d use a different type of game than if you want to help vendors collect more leads. Likewise, if you want to encourage people to network, you may use yet another game to encourage people to interact and socialize. Your goal is key to deciding which kind of gamification suits your event.

Here are 6 strategies you can apply to your events, that are easy to implement, and can help your events stand out in a very crowded industry.

Network like a champ

Networking can be hard. From awkward silences and a small talk that dies out after a few exchanges, many people dread approaching strangers. After all, you never know how the other side will respond or if they share any of your interests. 

However, networking is super important for the success of your in-person events. Networking helps attendees get more impact out of the event while also giving vendors an opportunity to engage with more leads, and generate more demand for their products and services. (Which gets them to come back next time, yay!) Gamifying the networking aspect of your events can give people a common topic to discuss, encourage organic conversation, and remove some of that initial anxiety.

One simple way to gamify your networking is to use the name tag swap game, where attendees swap tags and share information about themselves. Another way to encourage people to talk to one another is to create a business card collection contest, where the person who’s collected the most cards wins a prize. You can award points each time a person connects to another attendee, answers a question, or attends a workshop.

If you have the budget, you can invest in networking software such as Brella or Walls.io.

Drive lead generation through sponsor raffles

Depending on the type of event you’re organizing, you may have dozens to hundreds of companies exhibiting their products and services to your audience. Perhaps you’re organizing an industry-specific trade show, or a large-scale expo backed up by dozens of sponsors. All of them have a top goal in mind—increase brand awareness and drive sales. 

You can help them achieve this by gamifying the vendor engagement process and offering attendees a reward for mingling with your network. For example, you can use your event app to create sponsor raffles, where attendees can share their interest in winning a prize. This can be a subscription discount for their services, freebies, coupons etc. This way, attendees have a chance to win a prize, and your vendors increase their lead gen without any extra effort. Which makes them more likely to choose to sponsor your next event. Bonuses all around.

Grow attendance through polling

Have you attended one of those events where there’s so much hype around a specific session … only to arrive later and find yourself in an empty room? While this is a nightmare for the speaker (oh no!) it also leads to a poor attendee experience, as people miss out on invaluable opportunities to learn.

This can be a challenge, especially for large events where there might be several simultaneous sessions running all at the same time. (And if that describes your event, you might want to look into software to manage your speakers, just saying.) You can avoid too many people flocking to one session, or skipping attendance altogether, by using gamification. For instance, you can launch polls in your event app that asks people for specific keywords from each session, and awards them points for questions answered correctly. If attendees have come together in groups, this will encourage them to split across multiple sessions rather than all go to one. 

You can use polling beyond session questions and encourage people to offer feedback on the event, engage with vendors, and make the most of the event overall.

Increase participation through scavenger hunts

Who doesn’t like a well-organized scavenger hunt? Come on, you know you do. Scavenger hunts shouldn’t be reserved only for kids’ summer camps. In fact, they’re a great way to drive participation at your events by encouraging people to share photos from their sessions, use hashtags on social media, or simply discover new corners of your event. Thirty is the new twelve, y’all! (Yes, I totally just made that up.)

For example, you can allocate different QR codes to different parts of your event and tell attendees to scan as many of them as possible. At each stop, you can introduce a puzzle or a question they need to answer in order to proceed to the next step. Likewise, you can ask attendees to share photos of specific tasks they’ve taken part in, or sessions they’ve attended on various social media platforms.

Drive digital engagement through Q&A

One way or another, one of the biggest reasons people are coming to your event is to find out something new and make new connections. However, even though that might be their explicit goal, sometimes people aren’t comfortable standing up and asking a question amidst a room full of people. 

Introducing digital Q&A can be great to drive online engagement while also helping people learn. Here, you can use social media and encourage people to use your event-specific hashtags to ask their questions. Or, you can use your dedicated gamification app (and integrate it for free with Swoogo’s API) where attendees can answer each other’s questions, and upvote the answers and questions they liked the most.

Install a gaming corner

Finally, nothing speaks fun like an actual gaming corner! Allow people to freely mingle and play games in between sessions, or during lunch breaks, by installing a dedicated corner where people can play foosball, a few short board games or table tennis. It’s also a massive stress reducer.

This can also be a great place to showcase all of your sponsors and promote their products and services. If possible, use new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) to show attendees how a certain product may look on them or virtual reality (VR) to offer a truly immersive experience. For instance,  Lowe’s, a home improvement company, uses VR to allow customers to re-create their living spaces, re-decorate them and see what they’d look like in real time. 

Add sponsor-branded snack bowls or water bottles to the tables and you’re halfway to a party. Just add people.

Engagement, engagement, engagement

Hosting an event has never been an easy task. From finding the perfect venue to drumming up enough interest, event profs have a lot of balls to juggle. Add to this the thousands of news, ads, and social media notifications vying for your attendees’ attention each day, and getting people to take part in event activities can feel like a losing battle before it even begins.

However, gamification can give you the edge by engaging your audience in a fun and natural way. Playing directly to our brains’ reward system, gamifying your event can not only encourage people to be more proactive on the day, but it can also make your event more memorable long after you’ve dismantled your booths. And what event planner can ask for more than that?