Gamification: 9 Tips for Using Games in Meetings (From the School of Hard Knocks)

Board GameWhether you use board games, card games, computer games, social media games, or games in a game show format, gamification can be an effective strategy for engaging participants during meetings, training and development programs, conferences, and team building.

When it comes to games, one size does not fit all. For example, we have previously looked at how learning styles can be can be helpful in meeting design. The key is to effectively engaging participants through games is to ensure that the games selected are a good fit for the group. I learned this the hard way many years ago so I'll share this cautionary tale with you.

I re-designed a performance orientation for managers program and was very excited to try it out. (The programmed I inherited consisted of presentations and traditional exercises. As this was a mandatory programme, I omitted my usual step of obtaining participant profiles and learning styles inventories. I decorated the room with peripherals, put colorful tactile objects on the table and kicked off the session with a word search game in pairs.

It became clear very quickly that the group just wasn't "into it." I called a quick break to remove the peripherals and tactile objects. Fortunately, I had the course kit with the material for the traditional exercises. For the rest of the session, I gave participants a choice of the traditional exercise or the interactive learning activity for practice or review.

For some attendees, it was too late. Credibility was shot and it took strategic follow-up during the months following the session and working with them again to re-build it.

Games may not be the best fit for some groups. When using games:

  1. Form teams or set-up table groups based on learning styles.
  2. Always have a more traditional back-up exercises in your hip pocket in case some attendees prefer traditional approaches.
  3. Design the meeting or session based on group preferences, not your own.
  4. Give attendees choices. I'll describe how to set up and use a learning smorgasbord in a future post. The bottom line is that it's fine to have some table groups playing games and others covering the same content through case studies.
  5. The more complex the content, the simpler the game should be.
  6. Have paper back ups for app. powered games in case some attendees are struggling with the app.
  7. Use activities and games participants already enjoy as a foundation to design content-related games.
  8. Always thoroughly debrief games, particularly if there are analytical learners present who may not "get it" without processing the experience to identify key learning points.
  9. Match the debriefing approach to the group. While analytical learners need to spend a lot of time analyzing their experience, kinesthetic learners will be bored and frustrated. Use a breakout room and provide the groups with kinesthetic learners with an exercise to apply what they have learned to work or let them know that they are welcome to take a break.

For tips on debriefing games effectively, read  5 Ways to Debrief Conference Breakouts Groups (Without Boring Participants).

Photo Credit: Ryan Hyde

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