Virtual events have swiftly become the norm; but while organisers have grown to appreciate their many advantages, keeping audiences engaged remains a challenge. In many cases, audiences have simply become fatigued by online events that seem too long, too predictable, and lacking personalisation. The result is too high a proportion of audience members zoning out; or even worse, logging off.
For many virtual events, the missing engagement ingredient is gamification. Implemented creatively, gamified elements can boost an audience’s interaction with event content, promote in-depth learning, and keep connections active in the virtual space. Once an audience has encountered an enriched gamified experience, their long-term commitment usually follows.
At the first all-digital CES in January, gamification led to some creative solutions that gave brands a cool presence and kept the audience engaged and entertained onscreen. Let's dive into more proven ideas and how they can be used to enhance experience and engagement for your own virtual events:
Boosting content interaction with mini games
Good event content is only useful if the audience engages with it. In virtual events, content can be dispersed and offered in a variety of forms, from text to video to animation. The result can be content that’s more than ‘good’—it can be dazzling.
Indeed, as people tend to crave entertainment, gamification can actually help attendees stay focused on the content that will contribute to achieving the event’s goals. For example, mini games can be offered in virtual booths to encourage audiences to consume and interact with key branded content. This kind of two-way communication—as opposed to simple ‘click to open/play’—can create better memories of the event.
The Cars in the Cloud virtual showcase is an example on how mini games can boost visitor engagement with content. The space was created for automotive specialists to connect and interact with customers, partners and experts. Visitors could explore brand garages, engage with their content as much as possible, and find hidden ‘Easter eggs’ for a chance to win prizes. The platform gave brands a unique digital presence and generated over 10,000 content interactions.
Big tech options aren’t always necessary or even the best way to encourage engagement. There is a vast array of simple yet effective solutions to achieve same objective. In the following example, a simple cross-platform trick was enough to engage and delight an audience:
An AR launch gambit helped to make HP Malaysia’s launch and partner event an exceptionally interactive success. During the live webcast, viewers could be rewarded by sharing their AR experience on social media.
Boost traffic with a points system
Nothing gets an event off to a worse start than mandating attendance. If the content tends to be a bit dull and dry as well, it’s virtually guaranteed that your captive virtual audience will wander off, in mind if not in body.
Building game mechanics into the event can make a night-and-day difference. Features like points accumulation, level-up and leaderboards can make the whole event become a ‘game’. This strategy not only incentivise attendance and attention, but stir up some friendly competition and keep the audience coming back as well. As an added bonus, tracking where attendees win their points can indicate ways to refine the event’s content.
At the China Mobile Global Partner Conference, points were awarded to participants for everything from registration and sign-up to daily check-ins and browsing content. The purpose was to keep them coming to each of the event’s three days. All points accumulated above a certain level were redeemable for gifts. The results were impressive: more than 100 million engagements and 50 million unique visitors were recorded on the event’s online platform.
Avatars improve networking
Certain events stand or fall on the quality of their networking opportunities. For virtual events of this kind, the challenge is to make the online experience as immersive, immediate and natural as it is to mingle, meet and ‘talk shop’ in real life.
Avatars are increasingly popular in this respect, as they allow a personal directness in interactions that simply doesn’t exist in a chatroom. In both cases, avatars give participants an intimate sense that they truly are gathered together in the same place at the same time.
Some avatars solutions can already closely mimic the look and atmosphere of a physical event. At the 5th Global Virtual Reality Conference (above), guests’ avatars moved freely around the virtual space and even made micro expressions and gestures.
Pre-event chatrooms that use avatars are also useful to kick off networking between organisers, speakers and attendees, helping to foster a sticky community for the event even when none of the members have met in person.
The most recent CES featured more examples of gamification with avatars. More than 400 avatar-guests roved around an online party featuring a short digital performance by Billie Eilish. As they circulated around the virtual space, attendees could chat with fellow guests using video, and even hear passing conversations.
Procter & Gamble’s virtual LifeLab was another intriguing experience at CES. After creating their avatars, visitors could explore the space and interact to find out more about the brand’s products and initiatives. Over the course of three days, according to P&G, LifeLab hosted 4,000 visits, with each lasting an average of 20 minutes.
From the organiser’s point of view, virtual events offer unique advantages that can leverage them beyond physical events in terms of audience diversity, size and reach. It’s an achievable goal—but only if the audience is engaged in the content. That’s where gamification comes in.
When designing gamified elements, planners must stay focused on the event goals, not only to ensure that the gamification is relevant, but that it won’t simply overwhelm the content. The line between gamified virtual event and online gaming site should never be a blurry one.
Gregory Crandall is senior vice-president, Global Activation Team, at Pico Group.