The annual Sustainable Meetings Conference, organized by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), convened in Montreal this year on April 22-25. Much of the event focused on “gamification” and the “blink” concept. Here’s what we talked about.
Let the games begin!
In 2011, GMIC gained acclaim and recognition for the “gamification” at its annual conference. Attendees were divided into random groups and allotted time throughout the conference to meet and plan a fictitious, sustainable event. Just as in most real events, the game event planning included obstacles, aka “curveballs,” that each group had to overcome. Competition was heated, and points were earned for various accomplishments (tweeting with the conference hashtag, completing assigned event-planning tasks and checking in with assigned codes during breakout sessions, among others.)
This year, Elizabeth Henderson, M.E., Des. (Twitter: @ehenderson), chief sustainability strategist of Meeting Change, led a session on applying gaming to an event, identified the pros and cons of 2011’s game, and detailed the planning for this year’s game and app.
“Gamification,” Henderson said, “is the process of game-designed thinking and mechanics designed to engage and solve problems. At an event, it is used to engage attendees and help them learn.”
“The goals are to gain insight, build a network and develop solutions,” she said. “It is a tool, and it only does what you make it do. It’s not for everyone or every event. Don’t just do it because it’s sparkly.”
“Game On!” was designed to immerse players in a sustainable event universe in which they could immediately apply what they had learned. It was immersive, extremely competitive and created a powerful sense of momentum. Although the guiding concepts worked well, some attendees found it intimidating and/or distracting.
“The goal was to create an immediate network that bonded quickly and allowed the sharing of skills and knowledge,” Henderson said. “We wanted the game to teach that trying to solve a problem on your own isn’t always as effective as bringing like-minded individuals together to collaborate.”
Based on feedback from 2011 attendees, she explained, “Game On!” included changes that allowed more individual and optional play, and created more opportunities for players and teams to earn points and virtual accomplishment badges, which were new this year.
“A lot of thought went into creating something that attendees could use as a tool even after the event,” Henderson said. The result: an advanced conference app designed by QuickMobile. New features included a live Twitter feed, an event photo gallery, and availability for attendees to direct-message one another as well as a real-time news feed with updates from the GMIC website.
Henderson suggested these key takeaways to conference organizers:
- Be clear about the behaviors you want to reinforce. This becomes the game focus.
- Know your audience.
- Technology is a true enabler, allowing participation, collaboration and tracking.
- Leaders are important to the success of your game. Anyone can be a leader.
- Be prepared for anything. Adapt.
Ready, set, blink!
Henderson and Judy Kucharuk (Twitter: @judylaine), two of the leading ladies in GMIC education, created the Blink concept while talking one day at an airport. Thinking about how humans blink an average of 15,000 times a day — more than an hour’s worth of closed eyes — came the idea to consider what you don’t see during that time. In other words, consider what you miss.
Applying this concept to events is all about finding connections you may have missed and commonalities with people you may not have had a chance to speak to. The Blink session was enlightening, inspiring and conversation-starting.
“Blink presentations are intended to be two to five minutes long, and are all about discovering the connections we have that we didn’t even know existed,” Kucharuk said.
Blink presenters ranged from Greg Ruby (Twitter: @GregRuby), musing on “things that make you go ‘hmmm,’ ” to Julie Baylor, CHA (Twitter: @JulieBaylor), speaking on “the hotel green certification process,” to Mitchell Beer (Twitter: @mitchellbeer), on “how to read a standard.” Henderson shared her poetic creativity with an “ode to the bedbugs.”
A number of attendees said they intend to incorporate the Blink concept into future sessions they plan.
Weaving a tapestry of education
Another successful experiment was the integration of conference “weavers.”
Prior to the event, registrants were asked to volunteer as weavers. They were challenged with finding a common thread or message among the education sessions, and then asked to share them in a stage presentation the final day of the event. There were no guidelines about their presentations, and they could deliver it in any way they wanted. Completely unrehearsed, these presenters brought value and credibility to the education that GMIC delivers. Here are some of my favorites:
“You’re an agent of change. Focus on individual transformation and motivation, and make an impact on the individual.”
“Our message is about connectedness. Through the mobile app and use of technology, we can create a larger community through our spheres of influence.”
“The messaging of green strategies creates value with organizations. I am a sustainability cheerleader.”
“How do we influence people to practice and apply sustainable actions? While the results are seen in the long term, the effects provide instant gratification.”
PYM has been a member, supporter and media sponsor for GMIC since 2009. To learn more, please visit gmicglobal.org.