Thursday, March 07, 2013
Apps and Games - How Do They Impact Your Conference? (and How Will They Impact The Future?)
Gamification is hot topic in the meetings industry. We all want our conferences to be more fun and engaging, and thus mobile apps have become an attractive option to get people playing. When people share experiences they establish bonds, and that is what live events are all about (human-to-human interaction).
I am a fan and user of technology, and the right tool can be amazing (I find anytime I am critical of anything "tech" there are those who think I want to return to the horse and buggy.. NOT TRUE). However, if thirty people at a conference of one thousand participants play the mobile app scavenger hunt game, there is some question to whether the utilization of the app is a "rousing success".
Several conferences introduce apps for gamification and other purposes, only to have a majority of participants ignore the fun. Many people do not play, and thus it is not a real community activity. Then the organizers use Jedi mind tricks on the audience ("These are not the droids you are looking for") telling the crowd how successful the game has been in creating community. But when people are not playing the game (or outwardly mocking it in the hallways), it is not really useful. The use of technology or gamification are not magical solutions to the age-old issue of getting people engaged while at an event.
Community is not something one can force upon attendees... it either evolves at the event or it does not.... and a only a few people playing a mobile scavenger hunt will not impact the overall vibe.
Should we not have apps or games at conferences? God no...that is NOT what I am saying. We should use implement technology. We must experiment with new ideas or nothing will ever change. But do not stand up and talk about how great it is when an audience thinks it is a silly waste of time or difficult to navigate. Treat it with honesty and get proper feedback on why people did or did not engage.
I recently attended an event where their app was the "star" of the show in the eyes of the organizers..... but the attendees found it hard to use, did not like the registration process, and ignored the games. When I asked people how they liked the app they shrugged. Nobody wanted to admit the app was a flop, but it had no impact on the event.
We all miss the boat when we do anything that takes the spotlight off the people in the audience. Falling in love with technology over the the "conference attendee experience" is a mistake that can easily be made when planning an event. Is it not ironic that we ask people to network with each other and then plunge them into their phones at every break?
What are your thoughts on conference apps, games, and other shiny new tech? Where are they working... or not working? How will they be better in the future?
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com