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Give Your Trade Show Passport Game an Extreme Makeover with Event Gamification

Many meeting planners have the trade show passport game in their toolbox of tricks to drive attendees to their trade show floor.  While some criticize the game as boring or out-of-date, the truth is that it seems to work.  

Perhaps it’s time to give the trade show passport game an extreme makeover?

What is the Trade Show Passport Game?

For those reading that don’t know this game, the trade show passport game is a simple game designed to get attendees to visit multiple exhibitor booths in exchange for a chance to win a prize. Attendees are given paper passports that they can get stamped at exhibitor booths. Once your card has been filled up, you can go enter the drawing.

The goal is to get traffic onto the trade show floor and visitors into booths. Meeting planners want exhibitors to feel like the trade show was well attended.

What’s wrong with the trade show passport game today?

In today’s world of mobile devices, event apps and social media, there are several issues to consider.  First, the game only appeals to a type of attendee called “collectors” – these are attendees that need to get a collection…or, in the case of this game, collect all of the stamps. However, since collectors only make up about 30% of your attendees, what are you going to do about the other 70%?  Second, the paper version of the game doesn’t provide any data on how many people visited an exhibitor’s booth. Or, if those visitors engaged with content or had a meaningful conversation. Finally, the prize drawing is about as boring as it gets. You draw a name out of a bowl at a specific time that was well advertised (and well attended) if you are lucky! That’s it.  No drama. No lights. No excitement.

How to give your Trade Show Passport Game an Extreme Makeover

Now that we know what a trade show passport game is and what’s wrong with it. Let’s take a look at 5 ways we can makeover the trade show passport game with event gamification.

1. Integrate the game into your Event App instead of passing out paper cards

By putting the game inside the event app, your attendees will only have one place to go to engage with your event.  Now your game will be digital and something attendees can interact with along with the rest of their event activities.

2. Have Digital Check-ins at the booth, instead of getting stamped from an exhibitor

It looks like there are three ways that vendors allow attendees to do digital check-ins. Option 1 is to scan a QR code. This is easy to set up, but doesn’t require any conversations between the exhibitor and the attendee. Also, it requires the attendees to know how to use a QR code. For some that’s easier said than done.  Option 2 is to use a kiosk where attendees can engage in a self-service way. Perhaps there is a survey or a “question of the day” or short quiz that is completed along with the check-in. This option is great for sales meetings or customer events…however, it might not be practical for trade shows with over 100 exhibitors. Option 3 is to give each exhibitor a code. This is an easy way to scale up to 100’s of exhibitors. It’s pretty easy for exhibitors to follow and easy to execute.

[We happen to use Option 2 ourselves, because we think it’s the best way to connect attendees to content.]

3. Use a Name Wheel to add Drama to the Grand Prize Drawing

As I mentioned above, one of the problems with the paper-based passport game is that the drawing can feel anticlimactic.  However, if you use a virtual prize wheel, you get the excitement of a spinning wheel and seeing people’s names on the wheel. Finally you get the drama of the prize wheel stopping on the winner’s name…and just missing someone else’s name.

Our clients have told us that it’s super cool to see the names spinning across the virtual prize wheel then stopping on the winner.  They say it especially works in the morning during the general session. People enjoy the excitement.

4. Use a Tiered Reward System

The Tiered Reward system gives you more ways to reward attendees and keep them engaged in the game.  We would recommend that you offer several smaller prizes that people can win for going to just ½ of the booths.  In my experience building games, we find that the tiered approach helps engage attendees who want to win a prize, but are unwilling or unable to invest in going around to all of the booths.

Unlike the paper trade show passport which would be hard to track and manage this type of reward system – with event gamification software it’s much easier. You have a digital record of the booths attendees visited, the rewards they have earned and the prizes they have redeemed. So it will be super easy to implement something like this in your event.

5. Collect Measurable Data from the Game

The analytics of an event gamification system help you measure overall participation, prizes awarded and booth traffic at individual booths (including who visited which booths).  This data can be invaluable to sponsors to let them know the role the game played in driving attendees into their booths.

Final Thoughts

We are well into the new millennium. It’s time for your trade show passport game to join the 21st century, too.  Give your trade show passport game an extreme makeover with event gamification software. You will be glad that you did.

If you’d like to learn how you can keep more of your attendees engaged in your event content throughout your entire sales or customer meeting, click here to read more about our Audience Participation Game, or click here to ask for a product demo. We’ll help you more deeply engage and educate your attendees about your event content, and provide metrics to demonstrate how much learning they retained.

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.

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