How to Gamify Virtual Events for More Engagement

Three expert tips for making your digital meetings more memorable.

virtual gaming

For better or for worse, the pandemic ushered in the future of large-scale events faster than anyone could have predicted. Yes, there have been hybrid event models in the past and many experts had been talking about the future of virtual events, but Covid-19 put things into hyperdrive and forced meeting planners to think fast and innovate in order to survive. 

Pandemic-era disruption led to major advances in the workplace, with the hybridization of work becoming a permanent feature of global business. Events and meetings also adapted to this tectonic shift, blending virtual and in-person components to create a whole new experience. But how do meetings maintain the value of in-person connections when some attendees are remote and others are meeting face-to-face?

The answer may be to gamify the virtual meeting space in order to recreate some of the serendipity and novelty of in-person-only events. Virtual events are nothing new, but as we push into the future of the hybrid workplace, companies and conferences are turning to massive virtual games to break up the monotony and provide a natural place for attendees to bond.

What I’ve learned working with multinationals like Microsoft, Nespresso, Intel, AXPO, AstraZeneca and Hermes is that they are seeking ways for their employees to bond virtually, whether locally or with teams distributed across the globe. But if planners don’t innovate within these virtual and hybrid spaces, events will quickly become stale and unimpactful. We need to design events that are more memorable and also genuinely fun!

Seeing these trends unfold in real-time, my company focused on building an entirely new product for hybrid meetings and events. We saw a need for a hybrid event platform that incorporates multiplayer games into virtual get-togethers. We knew from experience the psychological benefits of incorporating games in virtual team building. We also knew that any hybrid event platform needs space for attendees to form deeper bonds — and games are the perfect way to do that. 

Leaning on my experience, here are a few tips for creating noteworthy, memorable and fun games for virtual events.

Create Spaces for Colleagues to Invest in Each Other

Playing a game, especially a multiplayer game where players must work together to solve puzzles and advance, is a natural way to get attendees or co-workers to invest in each other and the project as a whole. When we are designing games for our clients, one of our focuses is to create experiences within the games that force players to interact with each other in real-time via their streaming cameras, similar to the popular gaming platform Twitch. 

During a Zoom happy hour that has become a common breakout activity among large-scale virtual events and conferences, attendees can simply remain in the background if they choose. But in a live gaming experience, attendees are forced to become active participants and must get to know and trust one another in order to succeed.

In addition, companies can award prizes for high-scoring teams to further entice cooperation among co-workers or attendees. It’s a win-win in the long run, as studies have shown that shared effort causes people to care more about one another and helps build trust.

Increase Engagement via Breaks and Innovative Event Design

Who doesn’t like games? This one should be obvious, but it’s how companies are incorporating these games into their programs that really matters and helps to increase engagement.

In the virtual event space, staring at the computer screen and sitting through speech after Q&A after roundtable discussion can put you into a hypnotic state after more than a few hours. Therefore, a growing number of companies are turning to game designers to break the mold of these conferences by creating event platforms that are interactive and immersive, allowing players to explore a virtual map of the conference and most importantly, compete against and with other attendees to keep things fresh. If you can’t physically step outside for a breather, the next best thing is to step into a virtual game and clear your mind for a bit so that you are refreshed and ready for the next session.

Incorporate Learning by Doing

One of the more unique aspects of gamification in the event space is how companies are incorporating games into their corporate training programs. This has come in all shapes and forms, but more recently companies are turning to us to create training simulators for workplace safety. Others are looking for gamified training exercises for new products that their sales teams will use.

Whatever the objective, the key is making the learning process fun and engaging. Instead of flipping through PowerPoint slides during a company event, innovative corporations are asking employees to compete against each other in virtual escape room games that teach the same things, but it in a way that is fresh and memorable.

Bringing Games to Your Next Meeting

As you explore new tools for engaging attendees at your next meeting, keep in mind that the possibilities are endless. Let your creativity guide you, and then find the right platform or tool that allows you to provide the space for natural bonding. It’s really not as odd or bizarre as it seems. We’ve not only spent the pandemic relying on our smartphones to communicate with friends, family and colleagues, that’s been going on for years before Covid-19 changed everything. 

Whether with family on FaceTime, friends on social media or strangers in an online game, many of us are familiar with creating connections on a digital platform. So, lean into that familiarity and create a new way to spice up your virtual meeting experience. Your attendees will love it and it will help build excitement for other upcoming events.

Virgile Loisance is the CEO of Emeraude Escape, where he leads a team of game designers as they build tailor-made corporate gamification solutions for global corporations. He is based in Paris.