Gamification has become a buzzword for event planners in the last year as smartphone and tablet penetration brings mobile gaming into the mainstream.
The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) experimented with the idea at its Convening Leaders conference in Orlando this month, integrating game elements within its mobile app.
Increasing attendee engagement is an obvious byproduct, but the overarching purpose, says Kelly Peacy, senior vice president of meetings and education for PCMA, was to increase the amount of information collected about attendee behavior.
“We wanted to demonstrate how to use a game to encourage attendee engagement at a conference, but then we really started thinking about all the things we would like our attendees to do from an action-behavior perspective,” she says. “That turned into real solid business objectives for us that led to the development of the game. We really had a hard time getting our attendees to scan their badge for sessions if they were not collecting CEU credits.”
Adds director of online marketing, Mary Reynolds Kane: “You absolutely have to have a business objective, otherwise the game gets muddled.”
More than half of the roughly 3,700 attendees at this year’s event downloaded the app, with 40 percent of that group registering as “active” players (defined as completing two or more of several designated achievements). Peacy admits those numbers are slightly lower than what they’d hoped for, but, some technical glitches aside, she is pleased with the first effort.
All told, the app was downloaded 1.891 times, registered 1,115 log-ins, 746 “active” users, 694 individuals who scanned QR codes and 540 individuals who used the app’s mobile messaging service.
For operations planning purposes, PCMA monitored attendee behavior like days and times of peak usage and sessions attended.
However, the gamification initiative also was paired with the unveiling of a new website and soon, the launch of a professional social network, Catalyst. The more information they’re able to collect about members, the more customized content they’ll be able to deliver to the user.
“We could link that to their registration data, their personal profile and know what their interests are,” Peacy says. “With our new website and our new social community we could serve up content and information that is really specific to them. It’s really understanding what they’re interested in without them having to tell us—just scanning.