We’ve reached a point in the virtual events industry where users who have attended 1-5 events (or more) are starting to ask, “What’s next”? If the industry doesn’t effectively answer that question, then users will eventually stop coming back and attendance will suffer. One concept that makes a lot of sense is to introduce gaming into virtual events. By doing so, you’ll achieve real results. Why gaming? It’s all about REEL:
Retention is a key objective of any virtual event – whether it’s a lead generation event (virtual tradeshow), partner education event or a virtual sales meeting, you want attendees to leave the event with a level of retention over the content you’ve provided (e.g. exhibitor product information, your own product and technology specifications or the the coming year’s sales priorities and initiatives). Even in a virtual career fair, “retention” is about job candidates retaining information about your company and why they might want to work there.
With gaming, retention isn’t going to be achieved magically. Rather, you’ll need to be very strategic in weaving your content message (and objectives) into the games themselves. So you’re not providing games for 100% fun – but rather, crafting real business value out of participation in the games. So first determine the messaging you want to convey to your attendees – and itemize the set of desired actions/outcomes you’d like to see them take in the virtual event. Your tactics will then fall out from there, in terms of how to achieve your objectives within the games. Sample tactics include:
- Place clues in the games that require participants to find and consume content in the show (e.g. view Webcasts, visit booths, etc.)
- Award game points based on participant actions
- Reward participants who successfully complete quizzes – whereby the questions are associated with content that can be found within the event
In summary, the structure of the game is all about driving business value – with attendees leaving your event with the desired level of retention. The retention level translates into ROI on behalf of the event exhibitors, executive sponsors and show hosts.
All virtual event hosts want to maximize engagement at their event – long session times, high attendee participation, etc. The way this is achieved via gaming is not just in the sheer interaction with the game elements. There’s also the factor of competition. It’s natural for users to exhibit a competitive spirit – competition brings us validation (to know that we’re “better” than the “opponents”), recognition (to achieve a certain status or to see our name atop the leaderboard) and acclaim (to know that we’ve been crowned the champion).
So be sure to make competition a key element of your gaming, as it provides the constant “pulse” (heartbeat) behind the event. With a leaderboard that’s updated in near-realtime, there will be constant buzz and activity as players jockey with one another for the top billing.
At the platform level, use the familiar video game tactic of “unlocking” certain features or capabilities based on levels you achieve in the game. Perhaps it’s a special avatar or profile image (to designate your status) or a capability that puts me at an advantage against other gamers. Lastly, provide compelling prize(s) to participants – otherwise, their incentive to compete may wane.
When’s the last time you heard someone say they “had fun” at a virtual event? Not too often, I’d imagine. Well that’s a goal of gaming – while driving business value, you can simultaneously allow attendees to have some pure, old-fashioned fun.
Perhaps you create a game or two that has no (or very subtle) tie-in to your business objectives. Or, you create a fun game that has business association, but is very fun to participate in (e.g. Jeopardy, Deal Or No Deal, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, etc.). If you’ve generated retention on the part of attendees – and they enjoyed the experience, then you’ve just created a win-win scenario.
An obvious point, but enjoyment lends itself to loyalty. The more I enjoy an experience, the more I want to do it again. With gaming, you have a real (or “REEL”) opportunity to create attendee loyalty, so that they come back for your next event.
Furthermore, in hosting an extended event (consider the case of an ongoing event that runs around the clock for a few weeks), the competitive aspect of the event keeps users coming back in to interact with the games, accumulate points and keep (or improve) their standing on the leaderboard. As a virtual event host, loyalty is your pot of gold – loyal attendees means loyal exhibitors, sponsors, etc.
In summary, incorporating gaming into virtual events is a REEL opportunity that you should consider – if done right, all of your constituents will thank you for it.
- Gaming and Virtual Reality at Cisco’s Annual Sales Meeting (blogs.cisco.com)
- Cisco GSX — A Countdown to a Landmark Virtual Event (virtualedge.org)
- Marketing Lessons from Foursquare (rocketwatcher.com – observations on the mobile gaming service created by Foursquare)
Excellent article. All event planners in virtual worlds should keep this in mind.
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