Let’s face it: corporate events are about the people. Sure, you may learn something new or celebrate a company milestone, but corporate events are mostly about connecting with other people. You may be gathering with colleagues you don’t know well or others in your industry, but the people bring value to the event.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, large gatherings became virtual conferences. Any events that were planned for those first few months in Spring of 2020 likely struggled quite a bit. They had to quickly rethink their plans for audience engagement.
Now, companies are expected to find ways to provide virtual events that are on par with their in-person events. That can be tricky when so much of the “people” factor is about discussion and reading body language. All of that is taken away when events go virtual.
Companies have to get creative and figure out how to translate some of those in-person experiences to virtual events. One way to do this is through gamification. Read on to learn more.
Why Should Virtual Conferences Use Gamification?
Attendees at an in-person conference are forced to be present. Sure, they could be falling asleep during a boring speaker or looking at their phones. Still, the physical presence forces a level of engagement.
With a virtual conference, it is easier for attendees to look away from a computer screen and not stay engaged. And if a majority of attendees are not engaged, the conference will fall flat. If the conference doesn’t meet expectations, you may have trouble getting attendees in the future.
And the future of conferences is virtual. Even in a post-COVID world, there are a lot of benefits to virtual conferences. Companies that figure out how to do them well will see increased attendees and decreased costs compared to an in-person conference.
By encouraging attendees to play or compete, you can keep your attendees entertained. And there are some other benefits too.
1. Create a Memorable Experience
Your ultimate goal as an event planner should be to provide value to your attendees. Whether they have paid money or you plan to host future events, you want them to walk away (or disconnect from the event as it were) and feel that they got something out of it.
With so many events online, you need to set your virtual conference apart. In-person conferences used to be a way to get away from the same-old office experience. But now, without proper engagement, a virtual conference is “more of the same.”
It says something about your company and your efforts if your conference is memorable. You want to set yourself apart from every other virtual event your attendees have signed up for. More importantly, you want them to become promoters: that they enjoyed your event so much that they will attend in the future.
Gamification can be done in a way that stays on-brand. Think about how you would engage with your customers at an in-person event, and let this be the driver for selecting the gamification tactics that make the most sense.
2. Sponsor Engagement
Your event sponsors have likely been panicking slightly at the idea of virtual conferences. After all, they rely on that in-person interaction to make their pitch to you attendees. They fear that they will be missing opportunities when the events are moved online.
The last thing you want is to not have the same level of corporate sponsorship as a virtual conference. After all, you may rely on that revenue and the relationships with your partners.
Gamification can be an avenue to give your sponsors increased visibility and increase engagement with your virtual audience. You can allow sponsors to put their logo on some games, which will make them stand out more. Sponsors could also provide prizes to have increased recognition.
You can also devise games that encourage attendees to interact with different sponsors. For example, you could name breakout rooms for games after each sponsor. You could also include trivia that forces attendees to ask questions of your sponsors.
You’ll want to ensure that your sponsors have the same way to collect information about your attendees that they would at an in-person event. If you are able to increase overall attendance, you can show your sponsors the benefit of your event.
3. Networking Opportunities
Many people attend conferences for the opportunity to network. Whether they are sharing ideas or looking for other ways to connect, they rely a lot on social interaction. Often in-person conferences include discussion groups, cocktail hours, and other ways for people to relax and be more natural.
Matching that level of interaction will require you to get a bit creative. If you divide your attendees into groups for games, you can give them a chance to connect with each other. You can have attendees do icebreakers or play trivia to get to know each other better.
Once the attendees have warmed up, introducing some friendly competition can boost your engagement even further. It is a way to remind your attendees that they are not watching the conference alone in a room with a screen but part of a large event with their peers.
You want your attendees to feel connected to each other. Even if it is for a momentary goal of winning a game, you will have fostered that connection. Don’t forget to provide your attendees with an easy way to share contact information with others they meet.
4. Data Collection
Data, data, data. Everything is driven by data. From event information to follow-up, you can rely on the data that you collect through gamification.
Your attendees will need an app or platform for gamification. This means that you can track user behavior. You will have valuable insights both into the attendee that can benefit both your company and your sponsors.
You can also monitor the engagement and success of your gamification. If something didn’t work, you could make an assessment after.
For example, something may not have been a good fit for your audience, so you don’t use it at your next event. Or the game was overly complicated and hard to manage. Or a game was so popular that you’ll make sure to highlight it even more.
If your event doesn’t require registration, gamification provides you with an additional way to track your attendees. You’ll be able to follow-up with any additional email campaigns or marketing efforts that are appropriate.
5. Real-Time Feedback
How can you know if your event is going well? Are you able to adjust if needed?
Gamification provides you with some insight into your audience engagement. If your audience is not interacting with each other or with the provided gaming platforms, you may need to change course (if you can) quickly. You can attempt to mix it up a bit in the remaining event time.
Even at the conclusion of the event, you can gather reactions through surveys tied to your gamification. This can help you with your future event planning. You can also cleverly incorporate information about your business into your gamification to build customer loyalty or gain an understanding of how your customers feel about your brand.
Planning Your Virtual Event
If you’ve decided to incorporate gamification, you’re already one step ahead of other companies. However, gamification needs a bit of planning on your end to make it successful.
Know your goals. Given the five reasons above, what are your reasons for including gamification? Deciding on your goals will help you to focus your efforts.
Plan on who will oversee the games. It may be hard for a host to speak and run a game at the same time. You may need multiple employees to help manage your gaming efforts.
Decide on prizes, incentives, and rules. No one likes a poorly run game or prizes that have little value. Make sure that you entice your attendees so that they will want to participate in the gamification you offer.
If your event is open to attendees outside of your organization, consider gamification before your event as a way to attract a larger audience. You can provide incentives for people to spread the word about the event. This reaches an audience that you may not have otherwise been able to attract on your own.
Include Gamification in Your Next Corporate Event
If you are used to hosting events, you know how important they can be for your company. There is no reason that virtual conferences need to be boring. You can actively work attendee engagement into your event with gamification.