Gamification is one of the hot trends in the meetings industry, but what exactly is it?

Simply put, gamification is the use of game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users. Coined in 2002 by computer programmer Nick Pelling, the term started seeing increasing popularity in 2010.

Meetings and conferences are now using gamification to get maximum participation and engagement. One landmark event was GMIC’s (Green Meeting Industry Council) 2011 Game On conference, which divided the entire event into teams and gave points for tweeting, blogging, attending educational sessions and for a team case study. The value returned was 17 case studies, combining hundreds of years of industry knowledge, combined with information from the conference’s educational components about sharing innovative ways to save money and resources at meetings and conventions.

If you’re considering gamification for your next meeting, here are the top results you can achieve:

  1. Engage Participants. Incent participants to get the most from your meeting by using as many of your meeting features as possible. You can add points for attending education sessions, meeting new people, visiting key expo booths and sharing learning with their social media networks. In one conference, the top participants completed over 100 elements of the conference.
  2. Create PR Buzz. Because gamification is hot and innovative, you can gain additional coverage for your meeting and sponsors at no additional cost. At one conference, the game aspect received unexpected front page coverage in the conference’s daily magazine, with distribution to 1,800 people. At another event, more than 4,000 photographs were generated, and a social media feature generated 250,000 impressions from people NOT at the conference—great marketing for the following year’s event.
  3. Create Sponsor Value. By using gamification, you can incent participants to visit key areas in a trade show. Over 1,000-plus documented visits were generated at one conference. In addition, you can turn networking goals around by making the sponsors high-point-value "missions." For the lead sponsor of a major conference, this strategy generated 440 face-to-face visits, and the lead sponsor remarked that instead of his team chasing down participants, now participants were chasing his team down to complete the points, which led to natural and beneficial conversations that resulted in business for the sponsor. In addition, if you’re looking for a way to try gamification without impacting your budget, sponsorship is a key way to get it done.

In a recent seminar poll I witnessed, over 50 percent of the people in the room had heard of gamification, but less than 5 percent had actually participated in the gamification of a meeting.

If you’re looking to bring new, innovative and measurable value to your next event, consider gamification to 'level up' to your next set of results. mf

Editor's note: Geoteaming will present at six Meetings Focus Live! events in 2013: