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How to Drive Engagement Through Gamification

Updated

Use gamification to increase both engagement and event ROI with our best practices.

Picture a typical hockey game: Grown adults skating around a sheet of ice using wood sticks to slap a rubber biscuit into a net.

Without context, it’s weird. But once you put two teams against each other, pay players millions of dollars to score the most goals, and put some ~city pride~ on the line? It’s a wildly exciting sport that attracts millions of viewers around the world.

As illustrated by hockey and virtually every other sport, competition injects an extra level of excitement into previously neutral things.

Gamification applies that logic to your virtual and hybrid events: Gamification is essentially a competition that requires attendees to perform specific engagement activities (visiting sponsor booths, etc) to earn points, with the winner receiving a series of coveted prizes.

But gamification isn’t just a sparkly contest that gets your audience clicking.

It’s one of the best—and least intrusive—ways to foster engagement with attendees—and support your sponsors and exhibitors in the process. 49% of virtual event providers say that clients interact the most with engagement elements, including gamification and live polls.

So done strategically, gamification can work for everyone—your attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and your own team. Some of the benefits of gamification include:

1. More networking opportunities
2. Improved engagement with sponsors
3. Improved attendance at sessions, especially less popular sessions
4. Higher post-event survey completion rates
5. Improved brand awareness

But it takes more than a big prize and a few challenges to achieve all those goals. You need to structure your gamification challenge in a way that sends traffic to under-utilized areas of your events—and inspires people to take action once they’re there.  

How should I structure my gamification challenge? 

Hosts can choose between many creative gamification formats on BigMarker: raffles for all attendees who perform a specific action, raffles open to every attendee, sweepstakes open to the most engaged attendee, and points-to-rewards challenges. Points-to-rewards challenges allow each attendee to progressively earn points toward prizes, which they can redeem upon hitting a predefined point total.

Raffles and sweepstakes can get the majority of your audience involved, but MarketWeek found that people are more likely to enter a competition or drawing if they feel they have a good chance of winning.

So instead of offering a grand prize to #1 on the leaderboard and bupkis to everyone else, you should use points-to-rewards challenges to motivate each attendee to participate.

This does more to help each attendee participate in the event and also incentivizes a higher number of people to visit key event areas — like the sponsor booths and networking center. To really optimize your gamification challenge, reward attendees for the following activities when you host your event on BigMarker:

1. Adding a photo: When your guests check into your event, they’ll be prompted to complete a Virtual Business Card, which includes their social media links, contact information and a professional bio. This digital profile will accompany attendees throughout the event, facilitating introductions, allowing them to find common interests and establish rapport with one another.

If your guests add a photo to their cards, this process will go even more quickly. When people can see the face behind someone’s name, they’re more likely to connect with each other in a natural and genuine way.

2. Attending a session in a series: This encourages your attendees to tune into the content you’ve spent months curating for them, and gives each of your speakers a bigger audience (especially since your speakers are getting great attendance.

Award more points for attending mid-day sessions, which are typically more sparsely attended than keynotes or end-of-day sessions. Also assign more points to high-tier sponsors and exhibitors. This can help sponsors attract more visitors, book more meetings and earn more qualified leads, all of which improves their ROI. (You can then use this to strengthen your sponsorship pitches for your next event.)  

3. Submit a question to the Q&A: Nothing sucks the air out of a session like a silent Q&A. Especially in the early morning sessions, you need people submitting thoughtful questions to kickstart the conversation. So sweeten the deal by incentivizing your guests to ask questions through the Q&A function.

4. Answer a poll question: Besides engaging your audience, poll questions help your sponsors and speakers glean marketing insights from their sessions for evergreen content post-session. Bonus: You can also use these features to recruit and book sponsors.

So encourage people to answer polls by rewarding points for each one taken. On BigMarker, polls appear as full-screen pop-ups during the session, letting participants respond—and rack up points—easily and in real-time.

5. Chat in the networking center: Networking is one of the most important draws of any event, virtual or not. But let’s be real:  Trying to make friends online is awkward even for the most dedicated networkers and extroverts.

Give your attendees the push they need to start talking by incentivizing networking. This way, your guests will leave your event with valuable connections and tangible takeaways they can use to grow their careers, all of which reflects well on your event.

Virtual Events Software Gamification
The Leaderboard lists the highest point earners at your event.

What gamification prizes should I award?

Now that you’ve set your rules, it's time to pick your prizes. (After all, nobody’s sitting through five hours of programming just to win a $10 Starbucks gift card.) 

Get inspired with some of these prize packs:

1. Free or discounted services: Especially if your audience is comprised of leads,
2. Online masterclass courses: Your attendees are looking to your event for insights and resources about your topic. Keep their excitement going by giving them access to a related masterclass (bonus points if it’s hosted by an event speaker or sponsor!).
3. Access to exclusive networking experiences and/or coaching sessions: Networking is one of the biggest intangible draws of any event. So especially if you’re hosting big-name speakers and many C-level attendees, organize a small networking circle or matchmaking session open only to your most engaged attendees.  
4. Subscription boxes: Sign up your guests for a month of a popular subscription box, such as Birchbox, Fab Fit Fun or meal services like Hellofresh.
5. Prize packs of sponsor products: Advertise your sponsors while rewarding them for visiting their booths by offering a pack of products donated by your event partners.
6. Memberships and subscriptions: Digital subscriptions are both ubiquitous and easy to transfer. Comp your engaged guests a couple of months of Netflix or Spotify Premium and you’ll see a lot more buzz.
7. Free virtual gym memberships: As virtual fitness classes and subscriptions pick up more steam, they’ve become more attractive prize pack options.
8. Discounted tickets to next year’s event: Because if your attendees are so enthusiastic about participating in your event, they deserve it.  

How can I execute my gamification challenge?   

Let the games begin. Maximize participation in your gamification challenge with some smart strategy, including: 

1. Include gamification in your pre-event guide: On most virtual event platforms,  gamification isn’t directly accessible from the event microsite’s top navigation bar, meaning that it’ll take several clicks for guests to learn more about your event’s gamification opportunities. So unless you tease your biggest prizes before your event begins, most of your guests won’t know about your gamification challenge until it’s too late for them to earn prizes. Mention it in your pre-event guide as well as your marketing and social media promotion.

2. Deploy push notifications to remind attendees about the challenge: But, time for some real talk. Not everyone’s going to read all of your pre-event orientation material. So before your first keynote session, as visitors are filtering into your event site,  send a push notification reminding guests about your gamification challenge and tease a few of your biggest prizes. This way, guests are primed to participate before your event even begins.

Then during typical dead times (mid-morning, lunch, the 2:30 p.m. slump), send push notifications encouraging attendees to tune into sessions, visit the sponsor booths or check into the networking center, all of which can be assigned points. This way, you’re providing your guests with more amenities and chances to earn points, while your sponsors and speakers benefit from a bigger crowd.

3. Send your points notifications to an email that goes directly to your attendees: This incremental reinforcement gets attendees excited about the points they’ve already earned—and encourages them to earn even more so they can redeem a reward. These notifications can also double as push notifications—keeping your event top of mind for your attendees without overwhelming them.

4. Schedule downtime for guests to complete gamification challenges: Guests may be reluctant to skip key event activities like headline speakers to complete gamification activities. Give attendees time to decompress (and earn points) by scheduling breaks throughout the event schedule. (We recommend slotting in some downtime during lulls in the action, like immediately before and after lunch.)

Want to learn more about increasing audience interaction through gamification? Have a good gamification idea? Reach out to us at sales@bigmarker.com and we'll help you bring it to life.

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