A Guide to Building Engagement at Corporate Events

Bill Finn
Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Recently overheard: "We don't do lead retrieval."

Really? Aren't trade shows and conferences designed to capture as many leads as possible for sales force follow-up?

booth Tag image

In this case, the overheard comment was made by a corporate events executive who, along with his staff, carefully structured their distributor trade show and conference to contain highly engaging attendee activities— all of which would deliver the contact information desired. The key to successful engagement lay in focusing on the mindset of the attendee, not the sales efforts of the exhibitor.

Constructing Engagement With Gamification

Gamification of events turns the tide in favor of the attendee. Where run-of-the-mill events sap the life from attendees in multi-hour blocks of aisle walking, gamification builds engagement and motivates attendees to play and energizes otherwise routine contact.

Let's look at the basics: Event producers and exhibitors spend hundreds and thousands on specialized lead capture systems with handheld devices and printed receipt rolls. Lead capture is initiated by the exhibitor, putting the attendee in a passive position. What action or investment could we possibly expect from a passive participant?

Gamification puts the attendee in control of their environment and builds engagement. A game integrated with a trade show or conference provides a landscape to explore in non-traditional, non-habitual ways.

When attendees are positively and actively engaged in activities that shift them out of their habitual comfort zone, they are more emotionally and intellectually available to engage with any number of opportunities exhibitors may have to offer.

Some examples:

  • Scavenger/clue hunt
  • Passport-style check-ins
  • Sweepstakes
  • Points-accrual competition for incentives

In any game there are always those who will "play" the system and bend or work around the rules to get an edge on the competition. Established rules need to acknowledge and provide considerations to keep game play fair.

Best practices for games

Consider the needs of the three audiences who engage in the game. These could be selectively considered business objectives for your game:


  • Easy-to-understand concept; don't make them think
  • Incentives that hold real value
  • Extended engagement toward a goal, instead of a single-instance participation
  • Continual game feedback; show them their progress and activity
  • Levels of achievement
  • Record of activity
  • Networking with fellow attendees
  • It's as easy as doing ________ on your mobile phone
  • Post-event resource value


  • Deliverers of consistent attendee traffic
  • Easy to understand
  • Empowerment with tools
  • Contact information of attendees, easily downloaded into Excel
  • Record of activity
  • Qualification of attendee level of interest
  • Follow-up opportunities
  • Extensible, exhibitor-driven engagement opportunities
  • Ease-of-use

Event Producers:

  • Integrate with event registration system or data
  • Integrate with social networking system for attendees
  • Easy to understand cost structure for distribution into event fees
  • Mobile compatible or integrates with existing mobile app
  • Double-duty as lead capture
  • Generates a heightened sense of excitement, fun and buzz around event
  • Post-event analytics that dig deep into attendee behavior trends

Case in point

At its recent Breakaway 2011 conference, IT certification non-profit CompTIA used BoothTag to generate heightened excitement, fun and engagement during its exhibitor trades how component.

Tag display card image

BoothTag provided Microsoft Tags for each exhibitor booth. Each individual at the conference (including exhibitor staff) created personal game accounts in the BoothTag mobile web app, which simulatenously gave them their own personal Tag. Attendees scanned exhibitor Tags and other attendee Tags to gain points toward a very attractive set of prize packages.

With each scan, information about the exhibitor, including web links to documents, social networking sites and video, was displayed for the attendee. Also on each scan, attendee and exhibitor information was automatically exchanged, so that each had a time and date-stamped record with contact information of who they spoke with.

As points accrued, attendees won incremental achievement prizes on their way "to the top.” A leaderboard prominently displayed the names of individuals with the most points accrued, the names of all individuals most recently scanning and connecting, and a Twitter stream with the event's hash tag and keywords.

All in all, the event was a success.

What they didn't expect

What was unexpected was the level of interest in the opportunities afforded by the BoothTag. With 100% exhibitor participation and 50% attendee participation (very strong for any engagement activity), a number of user-driven enhancements occurred:

Exhibitors downloaded their Tags from BoothTag's toolset and found ways to increase the prominence and availability of the Tags to attract attendees. They used everything from large, branded Tag signage to embroidered Tags on branded corporate apparel (think Tag on the sleeve of your polo shirt).

Attendees and exhibitors printed their Tags out and left copies in common areas for general scanning. Attendees found they could garner significant points by scanning the personal BoothTag barcodes of each other, which enhanced networking value.

CompTIA saw spikes in scan activity during seminars where BoothTag Tags were displayed on-screen and printed on tables—driving motivation to attend and engage not only on the exhibitor floor, but also in several hours of information-rich seminars.

Your Recipe

  • Combine an easy-to-understand, well-structured event game with a mobile web app foundation.
  • Deliver properly focused targeted game feedback and activity information to attendees, exhibitors and event producers.
  • Communicate about the game and its value to each target audience before, during and after the event.
  • Inspire attendees, exhibitors with your event producer's enthusiasm for the game.
  • Add liberal doses of enthusiasm throughout the event.

When all is said and done, you'll see and hear about an increased level of interest and exceeded expectations for your event.

To learn a little bit more about BoothTag's use of Tag at conferences, check out the video below.

What do you think about using Tag to increase engagement at trade shows and other corporate events? Let us know with your comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Recent Comments
  • Roy

    09/22/2011 , 9:03 AM
    Great article, we have used games for years at our events to solicit participation. With every one being exposed to smartphones and iPad’s, the people really seemed to be more motivated to participate, especially knowing they could win something in the end. The Tags were a big hit and people really wanted to keep up on their progress and see their names on the board and how many points they had.
  • Corporate Events NYC

    11/08/2011 , 3:22 AM
    Great ways to organize a corporate event and make them an enjoyable one.


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