Tech Trends: Gameification In Trade Show Exhibits & Displays

“Gameification” is a word that’s just begun to start reaching the lips of marketers in the mainstream, but it’s a trend that could have big impact on trade show exhibits & displays, and definitely on marketing in general. Even if it’s not something your company may be interested in right now, it’s probably something you should be aware of, and watching for in your competition’s expo appearances!

Gameification is pretty much what it sounds like – adding game-like elements to real world activities. Far from being frivolous, there has actually been a lot of cognitive research into the use of game elements in a number of ways in business, including:multiple ipad kiosk stands

  • Learning strategies
  • User engagement
  • Reward structures
  • Morale and motivation
  • And more

It’s an exciting field, and it came about simply through researching why video games were so addictive, especially for children and teens. Much of it turned out to hinge on well-known psychological effects. Game elements tend to inspire more endorphin production in people’s brains, for one thing. That’s the “feel good” brain chemical that’s associated with exercise, learning, and other fun activities.

Simply put, gameification can make your expo booth visitors feel better, literally. It’s not hard to imagine how that can translate to more enthusiastic leads!

How Gameification Ties Into Trade Show Exhibits & Displays

Yeah, it’s out there, but the Internet is inspiring different disciplines to come together and share ideas. Plus, these ideas are beginning to appearat trade show displays near you. Plenty of AAA-level companies are interested in the idea as well.

The basic theory is that game-like elements add a bit of competition to the expo display. Competition stimulates endorphin production, as well as boosting the players’ awareness of their environment, focusing their attention, and often finding satisfaction through self-expression.

Which is to say, it’s fun. But is fun such a bad thing if it boosts your post-exposition lead conversions?

Studying video game theory has also shed new insights into personal motivation structures. Even though “points” are totally arbitrary, people still happily compete against others, or just themselves, to earn more – even if they have no actual value. People like seeing their names or initials on high score boards.

Gameification also has some insights into reward structures. Games like Farmville have thoroughly explored the relationship between effort and reward, and have found new techniques to inspire more action on the part of their users.

So even though at first glance, it seems silly to be talking about video games and trade show booth design in one place, there’s some real substance here.

Bringing Game Elements Into Your Trade Show Displays

So, if this sounds like something you might want to experiment with in your own exposition setups, how might you implement it? Really, there are a lot of options!ipad trade show kiosk lightbox MOD-1361

In Person

In terms of running games within your trade show display itself, the sky is the limit. Something as simple as a history quiz with a company T-shirt as a prize would be a fine example, if you’re running on a low budget.

A scavenger hunt would be another excellent option, for a number of reasons. With expositions potentially moving towards more green space in coming years, this would be a great way to get people running around the grounds on your behalf. It could even be tied into social media services, like FourSquare, to add “virtual” locations they have to touch.

Actual Video Games

It’s even better if you’ve branched out into having tablets and other high-tech devices at your trade show displays. iPads lend themselves perfectly to becoming little edutainment stations. (We’ve recently had to break out iPad kiosks into their own category to accommodate growing client demand for iPad trade show kiosks.)

Plenty of companies have begun producing their own in-house apps to advertise their products, such as Volkswagen creating free driving simulators for their latest cars. Even something like a “design your dream office” style app could be gameified, if it included an element of judging.

Online Interactions

When bringing these ideas to your trade show displays, don’t forget about social media options. If you do implement an app with design options, make sure there are ways for people to show them off! Bragging about your achievements online is another element of gameification.large counter top with ipad insert

Plus, of course, this could also further advance your social media strategies! Having a load of people reporting on how much fun they had at your booth is bound to help your online recognition.


This is shakier ground, since you run the risk of seeming manipulative. None the less, many businesses have found success offering direct incentives for online activity, such as how many likes or shares a Facebook post gets. At the moment, this isn’t something to implement at random, but keep it in mind if you come up with a promotion or future expo display that it could fit.

Dangers To Gameification?

It’s easy to look at new trends like this with a skeptical eye. A lot of companies may worry that bringing these game-like elements to their exposition displays may make them seem frivolous, or that they’ll alienate their existing customer base.

These are, of course, questions you can only answer for yourself. Certain professions like to cultivate an air of professionalism, and it may be more difficult to implement game elements in these situations. On the other hand, when even the recent George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is installing tablet kiosks that present President Bush’s policy decisions as a “What would you do?” game… well, clearly the idea has taken hold.

Trade Show Displays Just Keep On A’Changin’

The trade show industry has been reinventing itself based on new tech trends for hundreds of years, and that’s not going to be changing any time soon. As video games inspire cognitive researchers to probe further into questions of how to motivate and reward people, plenty of other industries are finding value in the research.

These trends, of course, are ones that will continue to develop over the coming years and aren’t something you would have to jump onto immediately. With a bit of warning, however, you can start thinking about whether gameification could be right for your expo displays!

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