Gamification doesn't always mean having all the great tech!

engagement events exhibition gamification

You can listen to this blog here.

Audience engagement and gamification – do these terms make you think about technology, apps, VR and video games?

It did me, until recently when I exhibited at the Australian Festival Industry Conference, and someone pointed out that I had “gamified” my exhibition stand. I thought wow, how cool that I’m on trend!

But I didn’t have any technology, I didn’t even have any digital aids whatsoever. What I did have was 3½ days to spend with an awesome bunch of people at this conference, and I wanted to make sure I spoke to as many of them as possible – and I mean really engaged with them, learned about what they do, where they were from, the challenges they faced. I wanted to know what was happening in their communities, so I could continue to develop products and services that would support their programs.

I needed to create an environment that was visually appealing, be able to demonstrate from a distance what I was offering and find a way to draw them to me. And then be so engaging that they wanted to keep coming back and talking to me.

The answer? = GIN

I have always found that if I want to get everyone’s details from a marketing activity, offering a prize is a great way to do it. And not a prize of your own product or service (unless it’s prize worthy), but a prize that the majority of your audience will want. I put together a prize pack of a beautifully designed bottle of gin, and some gorgeous stationery along with a festival vibe drink bottle and cooler bag. It was a festival conference after all.

Now, this is where the gamification came in. It wouldn’t have been much fun just to get people to scan a QR code and enter for the prize. It also wouldn’t give me much of a chance to get to know them. (Interesting observation here… When people are using their device to download your offer, fill in a form, etc., they are unable to communicate effectively and will not hear what you are saying.)

So what can I create that will

  • Highlight my stand amongst all of the others (with much bigger budgets)
  • Look like so much fun they can’t help but come over and see what it’s all about
  • Provide an experience that is fun and engaging
  • And keeps them coming back

I started to think about the conference itself and why people were there in the first place. This audience were festival producers, they were in the business of creating engaging, fun experiences – what could I take from their creations and bring into my 3m x 3m booth. Something they would recognise, would appeal to their nature and have them telling their friends so they would come and visit too.

Having done many community engagement activities in my career, I knew the activity had to be:

  1. Easy to do
  2. Accessible to everyone
  3. Achievable for anyone
  4. Simple rules – no more than 1 or 2
  5. and a speedy turnaround – a good game is a fast game
  6. give me time and opportunity for connection

I’m a bit of ringmaster, I’m sure I was a carnival operator in a past life, I love spruiking and drawing a crowd.  I started to think about carnival games and activations at festivals and came up with some super simple versions of old fashioned fairground games. 

Brainstorming with hubby we came up with darts (a little unsafe), ring toss (a bit hard), the fishing game (had to get a bit creative to make this without water…) and the old knock-m-down (again, a bit risky).  The idea was to have a different game each day so people would come and visit me time and time again, to play and maybe win a prize.  Off I went to the local discount store to buy 20 or so stuffed animals and give them away across the 3½ days!

I had come up with a way to gamify my stand, create an experience, or an activation if you will, and hopefully have the opportunity to create meaningful connections with my audience.

Now I must admit here, all of this ideation was happening 3 days before the conference.  I had been working on another major project and had left this planning a smidge late!  So of course on mapping out the plan to make all this happen, I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to do it all – so I had to just pick one activity.

At the discount store I found a toy dart board that had Velcro balls instead of darts and so that was it – the game had been chosen!  I bought a roll of plain paper and a pack of multi coloured Sharpie pens (what’s a festival producer without a Sharpie), and put together my prize pack.

I stuck the paper to the booth wall, stuck the dart board to the paper and started inviting people in to play.  The rules were simple, it was easy to play and it was accessible to everyone.

  1. Stand with your back to the opposite wall of the booth
  2. Throw as many times as you like until you hit the board 3 times
  3. Add up your score and write it on the list with your full name
  4. Come back and play as often as you like
  5. The one with the highest score at the end of the conference wins the prize

The key here was 4 and 5 – play as often as you like, and the prize will be awarded on the last day.  What this created was a sense of competition, the competitive ones kept coming back to see where they were on the leader board, and to try again.  But it also created a safe activity for those that aren’t competitive, wanted to hang back and see what this was all about, let someone else jump in and test the waters. They had 3½ days to watch other people play with me and decide if I was someone they could engage with.

As a result, I didn’t have to ask anyone for their business card, I didn’t have to spruik any products, my only goal was to get people to play so I could write down their score and ultimately get their name.  I can look them up in the conference handbook, connect with them on the app or find them on various social platforms.  I allowed them space to take information from me, I shared my business card where it was appropriate and have since grown my social media following and my lead generation opt-in has seen an increase in downloads.

I set a simple objective for this activity - to open a conversation with as many people as possible. 

Here’s the results

  • 25% of the delegates played my game
  • 30% of those who played, played more than once
  • The highest score was 710
  • The lowest score was 120
  • Both the winner of the highest score and the lowest score visited most often to check the leader board!
  • Gamification doesn’t have to be expensive or driven by tech – simple, fast and fun works!
  • Engagement requires time and a variety of methods to meet the needs of many.

I’ve exhibited often at a variety of event types and I find it’s always a good idea to have some sort of engagement strategy that is enlightening or fun for the visitor.  The goal of your promotion should be to start a conversation, not to make a sale.  I now have 35 new connections to talk to, who know me, like me and most likely trust me.

Think about this when you’re creating your event, conference or festival.  How can you incorporate gamification and engagement into your activity.  How can you ACTIVATE your space, immerse people into your experience, and build long lasting relationships with your visitors.

Reach out to me here if I can help you create greater audience experiences.

And don't forget, you can listen to this blog over here on my podcast.