5 Steps to Successfully Use Games to Engage Attendees


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a game as an "activity engaged in for diversion or amusement." For marketers, event-based games are much more than a fun way to pass the time; when executed correctly, these tactics can yield serious and substantial business returns.

Planners who use games successfully keep guests focused in ways that benefit the attendees, exhibitors, sponsors or, ideally, all three. "It's very easy for an attendee to spend an entire event in TV mode: sleepwalking through the exhibit hall, nodding through the sessions and nervously shuffling around the buffet table at lunchtime," says event technology expert Dr. Cathy Key. "Engagement is the antidote to passive participation."

To choose the best way to use gaming to keep guests engaged and invested in an event, planners must consider several factors.

Step One: Set the Intention

EventMobi, a company that specializes in creating apps for events, identifies five principles that motivate game play: collecting points, achieving new levels, earning prizes, participating in challenges and comparing progress with others.

Do you want to facilitate networking? Create a game that encourages social interaction. Looking to showcase new technology? Incorporate it directly into the game. Is the goal to reinforce a brand? Keep attendees on site? Collect data? The type of game that you employ should reflect the business goal behind the decision to use gaming at all.

Step Two: Know Your Audience

The more information you have about your target customers, the better equipped you'll be to reach them and retain their attention.

"Like you, your target demographic doesn't fit into some generic mold; they're a specific and unique audience," says Claire Channell of software company Event Farm. "You need to cater your message and efforts to those most likely to identify with your product and brand."

Understanding what drives your customers helps determine whether to entice them with once-in-a-lifetime experiences or public recognition, expensive prizes or free knickknacks. No particular option is inherently right or wrong; the best choice depends on the customer profile you want to engage.

Step Three: Allocate Your Budget

Event-based gamification can run the gamut from simple – and cheap – Instagram-based campaigns to pricey, bespoke apps. Your available resources, in terms of money, time and personnel, largely determine which route to use.

"Lack of resources is usually due to one thing: lack of planning," says best-selling offer and data expert Bernard Marr. "Avoid this failure by carefully researching, thinking through, and understanding the resources you will need at each stage of your project, and working them into the plan from the very beginning."

Step Four: Communicate Clearly

Event-based games are most fun when they are fair, simple and clear. Charles Coonradt, author of The Game of Work, identifies clearly defined goals as the most important factor in keeping players invested in a game. When customers feel cheated, taken advantage of, or misled, the decision to incorporate a game into your event can quickly backfire.

Be transparent if you plan to add entrants' email addresses to your company mailing list. If attendees need to be present at a certain time to claim their prize, make sure the requirements are straightforward. Set realistic expectations. Establish a set of rules and stick to it.

Step Five: Spread the Word

Even if you design the best possible event-based games with the most enticing prizes imaginable, your efforts are for naught if no one plays. As with most event expenditures, factor in marketing as early in the planning and development processes as possible.

Check out conferences and events deigned and produced by Sparks. 

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.