Swag Ideas, Trade Shows, Virtual Events

5 Easy Steps to use Gamification to Increase Virtual Event Engagement

If you’re planning your organization’s next virtual event, be it a virtual conference, virtual sales kickoff, webinar or something more exotic, you’re probably in the market for some fresh ideas about how to make it engaging for participants.

Staring into a webcam and listening to zoom calls can only be so exciting, especially now that every remote employee spends most of their days doing that already. In order to capture some of the excitement and buzz that in-person events create, exhibitors need some creative strategies to get people invested in their virtual event.

Enter gamification! This brilliant strategy for quantifying participation makes getting involved exciting, and will surely boost engagement across the board. We’ve studied great examples of gamification at virtual events and distilled five easy steps you can use to implement them at your organization.

Be sure to check out our blog for more ideas on creating great virtual events!

What is event gamification?

We’re not literally talking about a scavenger hunt or trivia, or turning your event into a video game. In a nutshell, gamification is the act of turning any activity or series of activities into a game-like system that awards points for taking certain actions. People typically reward the collection of those points with accolades, trophies or even great swag.

Remember when your teacher would put a gold star next to your name every time you had good behavior? Working towards that pizza party was a form of gamifying a live event

There’s something about receiving tangible positive feedback when you do something that makes you want to do it again— even when that feedback is just a virtual token or other arbitrary symbol. This is especially true when people know there is an awesome prize awaiting the people who collect the most tokens. The point is that gamification allows you to encourage audience engagement and even make it fun for people along the way.

You can use gamification to:

  • Incentivize attendee engagement or questions at a webinar
  • Encourage virtual attendees to engage with specific sponsorship content
  • Create a sense of investment and friendly competition for virtual sales kickoffs
  • Boost post-event follow-up and continued engagement
  • Collect information about how people engaged with your event and your event goals

With a little forethought, planning and creativity, you can use the following steps to implement a gamification strategy at your next live event in no time at all.

Step One: Define your goals and desired engagement actions

Before you design your gamification system, you’ll need to think about what exactly you want people to do during your virtual event, and what your overarching goals are. These pre-event insights will drive your design.

Maybe your goal as an event planner is to encourage people to engage in networking via zoom chats and breakout sessions. Perhaps it is to expose participants to the products and services of a large number of your sponsors. Make a list of the most important things you want to accomplish, and also of the actions people need to take in order to do so.

The list of actions will ultimately be the things you award points for. Their relative importance to your overall goal will define how many points each action awards (ex. attending the keynote speech gives one point, whereas asking a question during a breakout session awards two.)

More inspiration: 7 Virtual Event Engagement Ideas From 2020’s Most Creative Events

Step Two: Create a clear system of rules and build excitement

Now that you have a list of actions and the points they will give each participant, think about a fun way to make people want to rack them up! 

Coming up with rules can be as simple as letting people know how to earn points and what those points will net them at the end of the day. Tell folks how many points each activity is worth, and also what happens when they receive a certain number of points. A fun infographic that lays out the point system (and prizes!) is a great way to build excitement. We’ve seen people have especially good results when they offer *mystery* prizes to the most engaged participants. 

You can come up with all sorts of categories and different achievements if you want to! The important thing here is to clearly communicate how your game will work, and get people excited about the prospect of being a winner. 

Step Three: Monitor your participants and let them compete in real time

During the game, AKA your virtual event, you’ll want to come up with an easy way to track and display how many points each person has. This is one of the harder things to pull off, but one of the most important: in-game leaderboards make people all the more excited to rack up points.

For smaller virtual events like intimate webinars and in-house virtual conferences, you can track and announce leaderboards manually. Someone can read them during breaks, or you can post them in a public place, assuming there aren’t too many participants to track by hand.

For larger virtual events like virtual conferences and virtual trade shows, there are a tremendous amount of software options that make this easy and seamless. If you want to pull off an airtight game experience, it’s definitely worth investing in a product that automates this process.There’s no way you’ll be able to keep track of and display the activities of lots of people. 

Step Four: Declare winners and send prizes

Decide on a way to celebrate the winners of your game in a public way. Typically it is good form to provide some form of recognition for everyone that at least made an effort to engage!

Trophy ceremonies are a good way to do this. Organize some time at the end of your virtual event to declare winners across your categories. Let everyone know who won and why, and what they’ll receive as a prize. For top winners we recommend something lux, but it’s nice to reward as many people as possible. For example:

What prizes you reward are up to you. Swag.com can help you shop, store and ship branded swag that will delight your attendees no matter where they are located. Because these items are often the only physical link your participants will have to your virtual event, you’ll want to make sure your swag is nothing less than amazing. 

Related: 9 Swag Ideas To Make Your Virtual Event More Engaging

Step Five: Use the gamification data to study engagement

A great side-effect from setting up the gamification process is that you are left with tons of useful data when it’s all said and done. In fact, many enterprise level pros in the events industry use gamification almost exclusively for this reason: improving the event experience of the digital event is just a side effect. 

No matter your size you’ll find that looking over game data provides useful insights into how people engaged at your virtual event. You can use it to check things like:

  • Which activities were the most and least popular?
  • What type of participants were engaging in which activities?
  • What strategies worked to drive interactions with sponsor content?
  • Were there useful patterns in which points were frequently awarded together?

Not only will this help you to quantify your success towards the goals of your virtual event, it will also provide you with the insights you need to tweak your strategies for future events.

Implementing gamification ideas at your next event is as easy as these five steps! Whether you’re hosting a small webinar or running a virtual trade show with thousands of attendees, gamification is a fun and easy way to overcome the unique obstacles of an online event. Remember to check out our other content all about virtual events for more inspiration for event organizers.

Have you pulled off a gamified virtual event? We’d love to hear about it! Reach out to blog@swag.com for a chance to be featured.