What would Super Mario do?' How gamification increases hybrid and virtual event engagement

Gamification with Zuddl.

‘Thank You, Mario! But Our Princess Is In Another Castle!’

Sound familiar?

If reading that line conjured up memories of red overalls, and green pipes, it’s a safe bet to assume that you - just like tens of thousands of others - once fired up a Nintendo console and piloted a small man wearing a funny hat through a world full of gold coins and Goombas on a mission to save a princess.

And it’s no surprise that you remember this line from Super Mario so well; the game is a classic because it hooks you right from the moment you appear on the screen. As you make your way through the game, you experience the rush of collecting coins, jumping on turtle shells, and finally, jumping on the flagpole next to the castle to finish the level, complete with victorious music playing loudly in the background.  A satisfying experience!

The mechanics of the game - overcoming obstacles, killing bad guys, and earning rewards - make Super Mario exciting and fun to play; it keeps players glued to the screen and encourages and pushes them to go from one level to the next.

Virtual and hybrid events can also implement game mechanics to make virtual events more engaging and drive higher ROI.

But we’ll come back to this in a second.

Why bother? The importance of keeping attendees engaged at your virtual or hybrid event

When you host a virtual event or a hybrid event, one of the challenges you’ll be up against is retaining the attention of your attendees. 

There are a hundred and more things online that can distract attendees from your virtual event - Netflix, busy inboxes, social media platforms, and online shopping are just a click away. To cut through the noise, your event will have to be more interesting and engaging than a FRIENDS or Breaking Bad rerun; remember getting attendees to your event is only half the battle, keeping them hooked on the virtual event platform - ‘virtual event stickiness’ so to speak - is another thing completely.

So, how can you stop them from abandoning your event halfway? How do you keep attendees interested and enthusiastic about spending time at your event? 

Virtual event gamification is one of the most effective ways to get your attendees doing instead of simply watching. 

Indeed, a study by Gigya and its partners including Pepsi, Nike, and Dell, found that gamifying your website boosts engagement by the third. There was a boost in the number of comments by 13%, social sharing by 22%, and content discovery by 68%! There’s no reason why you can’t do the same at your virtual event.

But let’s backtrack for a second. What is virtual event gamification? And how does it work?

What is gamification?

One of the best definitions comes from Michael Wu, Chief AI Strategist at PROS, who defines it as: “the use of game elements to drive game-like player behavior in a non-game context with predictability”. Think of the coins and superpowers in Super Mario, which create a loop of progress and reward.

Simply put, just like with any point-based game or video game,  it’s the application of elements like the completion of tasks, earning badges, points, rankings, and leaderboards to visually encourage participants to achieve goals. For instance, consider how the language-learning app Duolingo operates. Users earn virtual currency when they complete lessons which can then be spent at a virtual shop. This is a great motivator to help participants keep learning, and it keeps engagement at high levels for the company.

Gamification taps into psychological motivators like competition, exploration, and curiosity - which form the basics of gaming dynamics. When participants achieve something related to these motivators, they get pulled into a powerful reward-compulsion loop that makes them want to keep playing. This is how it works:

How gamification works

1. Perform a desired action

 2. Receive a reward for performing it

3. Triggers a “feel-good” dopamine hit  

4. Incentivizes participants to repeat action

Now, let’s see how you can apply virtual gamification in events:

How gamification works at virtual events

1.  Attendees perform a desired action (eg. answering a Poll) 

2. They earn points, badges or coins for completing the action 

3.  They enjoy their success aka the ‘winner effect’ 

4. Attendees are thereby motivated to complete more actions 

What this means is that you, as the organizer, can use gamification in virtual events to nudge attendees towards a desired action or outcome. It’s a simple and fun way to drive value for all stakeholders - attendees, sponsors, partners, and your organization too.

How to use Zuddl’s virtual event gamification feature to drive the highest levels of engagement  

With Zuddl’s gamification feature, you can now make virtual events more engaging -  almost as much as your favorite game, whether that’s Super Mario or Candy Crush. Here’s how:

  1. Digital Leaderboard:  Create a digital leaderboard to incentivize learning and engagement. The leaderboard is visible to everyone at the event, on the virtual event platform. It updates in real-time to show attendees how many points or coins they have earned.

Result: Boosts attendee participation

Attendees are motivated by the visual aspect of getting more coins and points, and reaching the top positions on the leaderboard. Plus, it just makes your event even more fun and interactive for virtual event audiences.

  1. Reward Systems : Reinforce high-value behaviour, such as commenting, networking, setting a display photo, etc. with predefined reward points, to drive desired actions and interactions.

Some other examples of high incentive behavior could be :

  • Asking a question during a session
  • Answering a Poll
  • Visiting an Expo Booth
  • Connecting with another attendee during a Networking session
  • Visiting a Breakaway Room
  • Watching a product demo video

You can be as wildly creative as you want in blending gamification with the features available on your virtual event platform . For instance, you could set a riddle to which the answer (ideally your brand’s product or service) points to a specific Breakaway Room on the virtual event platform or even the name of a person attendees will need to find at a Networking session.

Result: Increases conversion rates

Rather than feeling marketed or sold to, using gamification at your virtual event lets you nudge attendees towards performing specific actions that contribute towards your event KPIs, like audience engagement, participation, loyalty, in an authentic way. It’s the ideal way for you to achieve larger event goals strategically  Here are some examples:

  • Is the purpose of the event to highlight a new product at a virtual conference or summit? Tie this to actions that help an attendee learn more about it.
  • Is it to drive networking opportunities for attendees at an internal company event? Connect this with actions that nudge attendees towards connecting with others on a 1:1 or group basis. 
  • Do you want to increase your social media footprint? Give attendees points for sharing updates about the event with your event hashtag. (As a bonus, you’ll know how effective this tactic is thanks to our social media wall integration! With it, you and your attendees will be able to see their posts in real-time. This also provides positive reinforcement for the targeted behavior.)
  • Or do you need to drive leads for sponsors? Set points for visiting the sponsor’s Expo Booth. Not only are you driving value for the sponsor by sending them traffic, but you’re also driving value for an attendee , and driving value for your own business. Win-win-win.
  1. Set prizes for those who rack up the most points and reach the top of the leaderboard. While the dopamine rush will encourage attendees to keep participating, prizes and rewards will drive even more motivation and make virtual events more engaging for them.

Result: Makes your event even more memorable

This one needs no explanation - everyone loves rewards! Giving attendees awards is just one more way for you to solidify that sense of achievement. Prizes can be tied to product education and lead generation efforts.

Hopefully, over time, you can use gamification to turn these actions into habits, resulting in sustainable engagement.

In conclusion...

Whether you’re looking to boost inter-company camaraderie at your next virtual company offsite, or looking to drive leads for a sponsor at your upcoming virtual conference, Zuddl’s gamification feature can help you achieve your event goals when you host a virtual event.

But keep in mind that just like in Super Mario, your ultimate goal is to make your virtual event more engaging and fun for your attendees, and make them eager to attend your next event.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to gamification in virtual events, but it takes the right tactics and the right virtual event platform to see measurable results. Talk to our team today to learn how to get it right!

Zuddl is a unified platform for events and webinars that helps event marketers plan and execute events that drive growth. The platform has clients across the globe, such as the United Nations, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, HSBC, VMware, Google, StackCommerce and Cipla amongst others. In January 2022, Zuddl announced that it closed $13.35 mn in Series A funding.

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