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Games drive virtual event engagement

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In April, attendees at the Cisco Virtual Partner Summit unlocked more than 19,000 achievements in an event game that guided them to participate in activities and that demonstrated the effectiveness of employing gaming strategy in virtual environments. “Gamification can be applied very carefully to help guide what you want [attendees] to do before, during and after the event,” said Dannette Veale, digital engagements and technology strategist at Cisco Systems. “There are a lot of different ways to move that attendee through the path.” Attendees earned their first 50 points by registering and then worked their way up the leaderboard by participating in executive chat sessions, attending presentations and engaging in other elements of the event that organizers had detailed in a set of posted guidelines. The leaderboard showed the top participants' rankings and a real-time feed of activity as players worked their way toward the reward—entry in a drawing to win technical gadgets that in a competitive atmosphere were seen as secondary to unofficial bragging rights. “Emotion is key for a good event,” Veale said, and each action was linked to an event goal. “I look at my strategy and apply tactics to reinforce what I'm trying to achieve.” Organizers sit down before the event and review past performance as well as current event marketing goals. Once they create an overall event plan, they look for places where game strategy could strengthen participation. “It's a layer on top of your event,” said Dennis Shiao, director of product marketing at InXpo Inc., the virtual event platform provider for Cisco's VPS. The company first introduced its gaming feature in 2010 and continues to develop new functionalities while emphasizing that the development of engaging content remains critical to a successful event. “It's not a silver bullet. All [of an] event's strength still comes back to the core value that it delivers.” Veale focuses on aligning a game with elements that she can measure. Cisco is more interested in driving engagement than one-off clicks, so rewards are based, for example, on the duration of a chat session, not simply popping out a chat message to say hello. The company wanted to increase the amount of time attendees spent in sessions, increase interaction and motivate attendees to view content outside of the general sessions. The game structure has produced better results than promotional packages around each desired action could achieve, Veale said. The number of questions submitted during executive chats rose from 12 to more than 50 when game strategy was applied. Attendees spent about 90 minutes in each general session and attended ancillary sessions at higher rates than they had in the past. Moreover, the number of attendees who filled out a post-show survey increased, jumping from 13% to 30% of overall participants and giving Cisco organizers more insight into ways to improve the event—and the game—the next time. “It's a key point for us to plan year over year,” Veale said.
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