Event Gamification: 4 Common Mistakes To Avoid

Have you ever created an Event Gamification element for your event that didn’t work? Perhaps you felt like you followed the advice on other blogs or what was intuitive to you — but the game was still a bust.

Perhaps you are here because you are creating your first game and you want to learn from the experiences of others and not make a mistake.

With thousands of games under our belt, we have seen a lot of game patterns that work and several that do not work. Here are 4 common mistakes that we have seen (and heard about from others) regarding Event Gamification.

Event Gamification Mistake # 1: Attendees lose interest after 1 day

One of the complaints we hear about other Event Gamification is that the attendees lose interest after the first day, because a handful of people are already so far ahead of everyone that most attendees feel like they have no chance to win.

From creating thousands of games, we know that attendees define winning in different ways. Some need to win the overall game, others define winning as being on the leaderboard.  Some want instant gratification like earning a spin on the prize wheel, others want a perfect score and some players just want to have bragging rights over their friends.

If your attendees lose interest after 1 day, it’s usually because the game was designed with a single reward system – the person with the most points wins.  While we have seen this strategy work well with Trivia games and leaderboards, we find that “challenge based” games need to have layered reward systems (or achievements) to keep people feeling like they can “win” the game – even if they start playing late.

Here are some examples of additional rewards to keep people engaged:

  • Top Players on a Leaderboard (limit it so that getting on the leaderboard is part of the reward)
  • Daily Winner Leaderboard
  • Team Winner Leaderboard (Perfect for Team Game Play)
  • Gain entries into a drawing
  • Gain spins on the virtual prize wheel
  • Win an individual challenge.
  • Complete all of the challenges
  • Custom Prize Win and Reward (Such as a VR Game Play)

In addition, you need to reinforce the attendee’s progress. Use the players status screen and a progress bar to provide real-time updates of the attendee’s points and progress toward these rewards or incentives. This helps attendees focus on the rewards that work best for them.

And most of all, keeps attendees engaged through an entire multi-day event.

Event Gamification Mistake # 2: Challenges reward attendees for Event App usage rather than content mastery

Over and over, people tell me about lots of Event App usage-based challenges, such as downloading the app, opening the agenda, etc.  What on earth do these actions have to do with the content and the purpose of the meeting? How does this help you sell more? Or upsell a customer?

It doesn’t!

Sales leaders and Marketing leaders want event gamification solutions that connect attendees to content, not reinforce the value of the Event App.  Here are some strategies for content-based challenges:

  • Reinforce Key Messages: Sales leaders align the challenges and activities to the day’s key messages to help reinforce the meaning. For example, if there are new product introductions or geography updates, the challenges and activities can be aligned to those areas.
  • Evaluate Learning and Understanding: Sales leaders and Marketers can get really creative here in terms of making content evaluations fun. For example – Quiz on IT Security for field sales or instructor evaluation or role play activities can help the organization evaluate understanding and comprehension by incorporating those activities into the game.  
  • Capture Insights from Employees/Customers You can ask important questions, such as: What does it mean to be an employee at XYZ corp? What are the three features/benefits should we prioritize in the next version of ABC product? What challenges are you facing that, in your opinion, we should easily be able to solve?
  • Allow Resource Fair (or Trade Show) Exhibitors to Connect with Attendees:  At some events, game players must go to a booth to watch a demo before earning points. This forces face-to-face conversations between attendees and booth staff. At internal sales meetings, IT, HR and Marketing will do quizzes to see if field sales staff are compliant with things such as IT Security or Brand standards. On the other hand, these same organizations will try to find out what barriers are in the way to field sales success. Using the game to drive booth traffic, capture some data, and encourage face-to-face conversations helps the Sales Organization move ahead faster.

Event Gamification Mistake #3: You make attendees scan QR codes

Many event gamification products on the market use QR codes to get attendees to check-in to a game.  Using QR codes is attractive because they are simple to setup and distribute to physical locations. Also, it’s easy to tell attendees to just scan those QR codes. From an Event organizer’s point of view, it’s easy to check off the box and say, “Problem solved.”

But…we found that many attendees don’t want to scan QR codes. Or they don’t know how.  Or if they do scan the QR code they are doing it just for the game and not interacting with anyone in the booth or physical space.  

How do you fix this?

There are three strategies that we found to be effective:

  • Tactic #1: Setup up content-based kiosks in the booth. Attendees check-in to the kiosk and then take a survey, take a quiz, answer the question of the day, etc. The goals here are to drive booth traffic and make sure that there is an interaction beyond the check-in.
  • Tactic #2:  Reverse the transaction and give the booth staff an app where they can check-in attendees. In this instance the booth staff can lookup the attendees on their phone and give them points for the check-in. This can be particularly valuable if the booth staff will be giving attendees a variety of points.  
  • Tactic #3:  Use a Pin Code for the check-in. This strategy is about improving the User Experience. Not all of your attendees will know how…or have an interest in scanning a QR code. But, all of them can enter a pin code into their phone. It’s an easy way to give them points for attending a session.  

Event Gamification Mistake #4: Challenges can only be played in the Event App 

Most of the Scavenger Hunt Apps and Event App Gamification software is only played in the App (with the exception of any QR code scanning).  

What if you are doing an activation that has physical challenges at multiple stations such as running, jumping, etc? Or what if you wanted to integrate the points from another game – such as a virtual reality game or a trivia bar?  In our experience this can be very limiting and require lots of work-arounds to actually make it happen.

From a game design point of view, allowing people to earn points for participating in some real world engagement can be very rewarding for the game and the attendees. It could be watching a demo, playing a game at a trivia bar on the trade show floor, participating in role-play exercises, setting up a piece of equipment (for manufacturing sales teams), etc.

Avoid these 4 common Event Gamification mistakes and deliver a much better event!

If you can avoid making these mistakes I am certain that you will create a game that will:

  • Keep attendees engaged over multiple days
  • Align the game challenges to event content (or sponsors)
  • Create a variety of fun rewards for different attendee types
  • Create in-app and (not in app) challenges that keep your game fresh.

Good Luck with your next game! I am rooting for your success!

Written by

Samuel J. Smith is a thought leader, researcher, speaker and award winning innovator on event technology. In 2011, BizBash Magazine added Sam to its annual innovators list. Since then, Sam has won awards from Exhibitor Magazine, IBTM World, RSVP MN, International Live Events Association and MPI for innovation in event technology.