I had the pleasure of participating in and MC’ing for Badgeville‘s big gamification summit this week in San Francisco. Badgeville is a client of ours, so I might be a little biased, but I walked away from the event truly impressed with the breadth and quality of content presented by a wide variety of marketers and subject matter experts, as well as the quality and engagement of the attendees.
Tons of great takeaways from the event, but here were some that still have me thinking.
1. It’s not about gamification (and will be less so moving forward)
Two angles to this. First, gamification is just a means to an ends. The ends, in this case, is about driving behavior and performance from your audience – customers, prospects, employees. Further, the “future” of gamification (as Tim Chang pointed out) will be far more subtle. It won’t be as much about points and badges, and will likely evolve to become more subtle, and more integrated into the experience we have with a particular brand or company. That integration and subtly will further reinforce the fact that, though important, gamification (like a lot of things we sell) is simply a bridge between a problem we have, and the outcome we seek.
2. Marketing alone isn’t enough to drive audience engagement
If you simply layer game mechanics into your programs as an add-on, you’ll likely fail to achieve the full impact of driving audience behavior and performance. Not to say implementing a marketing-driven program isn’t a great first phase or proof of concept, but it’s clear that the most successful audience engagement programs today have game mechanics deeply embedded into the overall experience and product. Again, this may take time to achieve. But it’s where the real value and performance happens.
3. Great customer conferences don’t talk much about themselves
I’m guessing you’ve been to both. Some conferences put on by companies that clearly have something to sell make that painfully obvious. The whole event feels like a sales pitch. Other companies use the event platform as an opportunity to drive and accelerate credibility and interest around an idea. If they do that job right, the sales opportunities will still be there. But so will longer-term sales conversion opportunities, increased referrals and word of mouth, etc.
4. Breaks are overrated
The afternoon of the first day of this conference was a bit of a marathon. After lunch, we went for four-plus hours straight. Lots of speakers, panels, case studies, research reports and more. There was a five-minute break planned but we were running late so blew right through it. I think we were all ready for the signature cocktails by 5:00, but because the content itself was so good, it was worth packing the afternoon with that much more content. We’re all adults, and can get ourselves to the restroom or for a coffee refresh in the hallway. As long as there are other scheduled networking opportunities throughout the day (morning, lunch, afterward), better to power through more great content and increase attendee ROI.
5. The afternoon snack may be THE most important part of your event catering plan (and the cheapest)
Think about it. It doesn’t take much. A plate of cookies. Bowls of popcorn. Malt balls. Something to snack on and keep the energy high. This may be the most underrated part of event catering, but arguably the most important and most appreciated by attendees.
6. We all struggle with this (even the experts and leaders)
A side benefit of events like this is that they become an indirect form of professional and group therapy. Misery with company is still misery, but it’s certainly encouraging to hear super-smart people struggle with the same things you are. The rules are changing, our customers are changing, our organizations are only getting more complex. The mountain keeps getting taller, but you have to keep climbing. When a big brand executing well includes worst practices and mistakes with their best practices presentation, it’s incredibly helpful stuff.
7. You really need a note-taking strategy for a conference like this
I have a relatively structured note-taking strategy when I travel, and thank goodness because I was typing, drawing and tweeting like crazy through most of the event. That note-taking strategy has to not only maximize your capture of good ideas, but make it easy to take action on them when you get home.
8. Dale Carnegie would have loved gamification
Dale’s book How To Win Friends & Influence People can be boiled down to three words – focus on them. On stage Wednesday afternoon, Sean O’Driscoll from Ant’s Eye View may have given the quote of the week on this point: “There are a lot of ugly babies out there, but nobody has one.” We see what we want to see, and that’s really all that matters. Successful gamification execution combines a deep customer understanding with translation through the sometimes irrational opinions and behaviors we default to for ourselves.
9. The people in the room are just the tip of the iceberg
This event had about 400 attendees in the building. But after just the first day, those attendees had generated over 1,000 tweets reaching more than 400,000 followers and generating more than 4.2 million impressions. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s 1,000 additional individuals impacted by event content for every one physical attendee. And although there’s a clear, clear difference between being there for two days and catching (maybe) the occasional outbound tweet, that’s an awful lot of pass-along for little to no additional cost. If you’re not implementing an active social strategy into every event you produce (no matter how big, offline and online), you’re missing a huge opportunity.
10. You will be overwhelmed if you try to do all this at once (pick a few, triage the rest)
At the airport on the way home, I spoke with a few attendees who were clearly both impressed and overwhelmed with what they’d just learned. They had dozens of ideas and best practices to get started on, not to mention the fire drills and existing priorities waiting for them back at the office. But instead of tackling everything, pick just 1-2 things. Put those on your immediate to-do list and table the rest (at least until next week). If you can be disciplined enough to continue making progress on that list over time, you afford yourself the luxury of not burning yourself out too quickly.