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How to Design an Effective Gamification Program Photography courtesy of Digital Blue Photography (

How to Design an Effective Gamification Program

Meeting planners are hearing a lot about how important it is to include some game elements into their meetings apps. Here are some practical tips on how to do just that from a session at this year's IRF Invitational.

QuickMobile's Trevor Roald provided a gamification game plan at the IRF Invitational. Photography courtesy of Digital Blue Photography (

Gamification is a trend we’ll likely continue to see more of—people already are spending 3 billion hours gaming per week globally, Trevor Roald told participants at the IRF Invitational, held May 28–June 1 at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort in San Jose del Cabo on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

A “mobile technology evangelist” with QuickMobile, Roald shared some tips for getting gamification right. First up is to understand that it’s about a lot more than fun and prizes—gamification can drive organizational efficiencies, he said. In fact, according to a study by Gartner, 70 percent of organizations plan to use at least one gamification option in 2014.

The key, Roald said, is to build experiences that will motivate people to change their behavior. To do that, you must have a good feel for who your audience is and design your game to address that specific audience. Are your people achievers who thrive on winning awards and gaining public prestige? Do they like to discover things for themselves rather than have the game dictate how long they have to accomplish a goal? Are they more in it for the social interaction than the game itself?

Roald said to think in terms of game mechanics (the “what”) and game dynamics (the “how”—this is the human element). For example, awarding points, badges, and the ability to move up to new levels provides both awards and status, and being able to win challenges gives people a sense of achievement. A group of salespeople might love the sense of competition they get when you provide a leaderboard that tracks points in real time; while a group of nonprofit executives might find a game mechanic involving gifting and charity appealing to their sense of altruism. All too often one or both of these key elements is missing or mismatched, which may be why 80 percent of games this year will fail, according to the Gartner study.

4 Key Gamification Elements

1. Goals

Determine the overall business goals of the organization, then narrow those down to your specific event goals: Do you want to grow attendance? Generate more revenue? What do you want attendees to achieve through playing the game?

2. Rules of the Game

It can be tempting to go for every bell and whistle, but don’t get too confusing, complex, or overwhelming, he warned. Make sure your rules are clear, and that the game is fair, achievable, and goal-oriented. Again, keep your attendees’ motivators in mind when setting up the rules.

3. Feedback System/Rewards

Build in rewarding moments—and don’t “punish” participants by doing things like deducting points for not completing certain goals. Also, think about whether your players will be more motivated by the intrinsic reward that comes from the sheer fun of playing the game, or extrinsic rewards such as points awarded for scanning QR codes from exhibitors. Research shows that rewards that make people feel good about themselves are more powerful than those that make others feel good about them. It can be demotivating for some if they see they’re nowhere near the top of the leaderboard, so think about creating random rewards to engage those who aren’t among the high-scorers.

4. Voluntary Participation

“Keep it fun—don’t force them into it,” said Roald. If you try to force people to play, all your work will backfire. Think about ways you can make the game so fun that they can’t help but want to play.

For more on gamification, download the IRF’s Game Mechanics, Incentives & Recognition whitepaper.

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