We recently had the opportunity to create, launch and sustain a holistic gamification strategy for more than 2,300 hospitality leaders during a three-day conference. The results? An actively engaged group of attendees and lessons in the beauty of strategy and embracing organic growth, especially when it takes on a life of its own. 

Lesson No. 1: Strategy wins.

In keeping the audience at the center of our universe, we knew hotel leaders care most about connecting with people. No way could we put a winning strategy in place that was rigid or complex. Also, let’s be real. They’re at a conference; there’s a lot going on.

So, we developed a strategy that gave attendees ownership and choice. Every action tied back to client objectives and coordinated with activities happening at conference (a.k.a. real life). Attendees could play all or some of the game elements to offer an opportunity for anyone to genuinely engage.

Why? Because we knew that’s what would work for this audience. And it did.

Lesson No. 2: There’s a reason they call it organic growth.

Honestly, it’s hard to predict success even if you check all the right strategic boxes, especially in this setting. At best, our expectation was about 50 percent engagement. Getting half the group to “play along” wouldn’t be bad. Turns out, engagement numbers grew beyond that, landing upwards of 80+ percent — which was exciting and scary. Attendees were engaging 24/7 about every aspect of conference.

There was a myriad of friendly competition. One group decided to meet up (in person) for drinks at conference, dubbing themselves the #originalleaderboard. Players evolved the game rules, which was cool with us. Our team even had to make some on-the-fly adjustments to our own execution tactics.

The organic growth was awesome, but it really took on an uncontrollable life of its own — so much so that an unexpected lesson emerged.

Lesson No. 1 (again), Version 2.0: Strategy still wins.

There’s a certain level of humility that comes with admitting the fact that you didn’t know your strategy was going to result in such an enthusiastic response. Fortunately, the framework in place herded the unexpected growth in a positive direction. Case in point for the power of strategy. All personalities had a chance to participate and engage in the app and, ultimately, conference. That’s a win for the client.