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Forget Competitions – Attendees Just Want to Play Around!

Your next event belongs to gamers. I don’t mean a bunch of geeky teenagers indulging their fantasies until their skin clears up. These gamers are the majority of the people in the audience, the trade show, workshops, weddings and your customer base. Are business games and competitions really valuable?

It’s projected that by the end of 2013, nearly 40 percent the U.S. workforce will consist of Millennials — ages 18-35. Generation X will be about 22 percent. CareerBuilders reports that one-third of U.S. workers say their boss is younger than they are.

The new audience doesn’t conduct business or compete the “traditional way.”  They have been playing video games since birth. Where their parents and grandparents learned competition by playing or watching sports, this group learned a new concept … gaming.  There’s a huge difference. And that should make a huge difference in how you present meetings and events for them.

Let The Games Begin

For example, in January, 43.5 million people played FarmVille 2 on Facebook. The average player is about 40 years old. Hmmm – that’s Generation X. Research from the Entertainment Software Association shows the average age of a gamer in 2012 was 30 – hello, Millennials!

There’s even a business link to the game. In FarmVille 2, players build and run their own virtual farms, chickens and all.  Okay, it’s not as lusty as stalking the woods of the World of Warcraft, clad in armor and chopping up various and sundry monsters. But who says animal husbandry doesn’t have its rewards?

Rethink Games and Gaming

Gamification is a big word with too many syllables. What it means to you moving forward is that it can change how you use competitions at your next event.

Toss the idea of the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  As my kids remind me, it’s so last century. Think in terms of achievement, involvement, collaboration, feedback, emotional and social connections, fun, recognition and rewards. Those are the triggers for younger colleagues and customers.

Gaming demands more design and preplanning, but it’s where these audiences are taking us. So let’s start breaking down the elements that reach them. I admit I’m still experimenting with the concepts but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

How to Play Around

Just using technology to play a traditional game doesn’t work. The goal in gaming isn’t finding the winning teams or crowning a “winner”; it’s changing or molding behaviors that create business results. You want people to collaborate and enjoy themselves.

Gaming allows people to experiment in a situation where it’s okay to fail.

Here are the basic things you need:

A Story – Make it a quest, a journey. Give it a place, characters, costumes and names.

Create Engagement – Let people explore, be expressive. Not everyone has to play the same way. The objective is to create behaviors that generate the desired results.

Make It Simple & Challenging – What behaviors do you want to reinforce? Don’t make a game out of the obvious and keep it simple. Add some obstacles and challenges that require collaboration.

Give Them Stuff – Part of the fun is the opportunity to get stuff. Badges, pins, ribbons… people love rewards as they go along. You are rewarding actions and a behavior … not results.

Flexible Concept of Teams – Players can work together on a challenge but aren’t tied together for the entire game. Shake things up. Not everyone has a strong herd instinct.

Not Too Structured – Resist the temptation to over-manage it. Format is good; strict rules aren’t.

Positions Instead of Scores – At the core of gaming is sharing. Let people know the positions of the other players. Have a Leader Board. You aren’t keeping score; you’re tracking the achievements. It’s not so much about having a winner and a loser. It’s about status and progress.

The Game is About Not Losing

Not splitting hairs here, but as my 13-year-old son explained, in gaming it’s less about winning than not losing. You play, and even though you may not win, you learn things that you use next time. It’s about winning over time and not just one game.

Gamification can put pleasure back into the process of running a business or being a member of one. If you had a choice between pleasure and work, what would you choose? So have some fun. You can create more success at your next meeting or event for younger audiences by emphasizing learning, doing the things that create the best results, overcoming obstacles, solving problems and achievement.

Accomplishment, achievement, rewards and pleasure. Sounds like winning to me. Hey, want to play around?

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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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