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Gamification Spurs Innovation @JennG_

Last month, Collinson Media’s Editor-in-Chief Christine Born and I attended Social Media Week in New York City, one of 12 simultaneous locations around the globe hosting events ranging from the business behind social media to implementation. In true social fashion, pop-up events were held across the city—some buttoned-up (with lots of food) at locations like Bloomberg and Thomas Reuters and other more laid-back at local marketing, advertising and PR agencies.

The common theme was one of camaraderie among early adopters who are all trying to navigate this still new landscape to improve their businesses. One of the most applicable and interesting sessions I attended was led by Gabe Zichermann, CEO of Gamification.co. Not only was the subject relevant to meetings, but the psychology and science behind gamification’s ability to stimulate creativity and innovation was fascinating.

Gamification: n. the process of using game thinking and mechanics to engage users.

When those in the meetings and tourism industry hear the term gaming, they might think first of casinos. Others might think of a middle-aged man playing World of Warcraft in his basement. Those looking to transform meetings think of engaging participants in a system that stimulates learning.

“There really are few self-starters in the world,” Zichermann says. While there are entrepreneurs with ideas they can’t wait to get out, most people need specific challenges to encourage stimulation.

“Games present the most compelling and flexible way to do that,” said Zichermann. Trying to engage an audience with a contest that asks them to submit a video might get a few responses. However the quantity, quality and creative expression of the entries will rise if the contest introduces simple constraints such as send a video of yourself with our magazine in front of a landmark talking about why you love our conference.

Zichermann explained more about why gaming works this way, specifically for events, in this video interview.

Creating a game at your event does require more than adding a competition or check-ins. Games work when they incorporate feedback, friends and fun. Feedback stimulates the challenge/achievement loop in participants’ brains and taps into their desire to do it over and over again. Successful games create an experience participants want to do and share. For instance, a loyalty program that introduces a game adds a viral nature to something that is otherwise private. Fun is different for everyone, so it’s important to know your audience and what constitutes fun for them. Forced participation is usually not the answer. “Even if [the game] is more fun than whatever tragic data entry they would be doing otherwise, if the appeal is ‘You will have fun and play this game,’ they generally will not,” advised Zichermann.

Have you incorporated gaming into your event using an app, check-ins or teambuilding? We’d like to know how it worked.

Read more about Zichermann’s Gamification Summit or how his company, Dopamine, can create a game for your event.