Driving Human Connections with Mobile Devices and Games

The following article is written by guest blogger Jenise Fryatt. 

With a passion for emotional design, and the re-engineering of face-to-face interactions using social gaming, Ellen Dudley has a lot to say about harnessing the power of mobile devices at events. She will share her insights at an Event Camp Twin Cities session entitled “GameUp Your Events With Mobile Technology.”

Ellen left her biomedical engineering job in 2009 to design and organize events that would spark connections between people. Now, as co-founder of CrowdScanner, she experiments with technology to stimulate discussions between people in gatherings.

CrowdSanner’s psychological mobile games and visual design installations provoke people to hunt for what they have in common with others, and start conversations in fun and interactive ways.

I recently asked Ellen a few questions about mobile devices at events and her upcoming session at ECTC.


JENISE: Mobile technology at events has certainly come a long way: I’ve seen use of smartphones at conference sessions banned as well as evangelized.  Where do you think most event organizers and presenters stand now on this issue?

ELLEN: We are in a challenging time of transition. Not every attendee at an event is on the same wavelength in terms of smartphone uptake and usage so organizers have to create, manage and control content in both new and old forms, to make sure that all attendees feel included. Presenters have to come to terms with talking to a sea of laptops, and embrace back channels of conversation.

But with every change, there is huge opportunity. It is a risk to ignore, and a short term solution to ban smartphones – they are not going away. We are finally at the stage where enough attendees are using them to warrant more customized technology to enhance the event experience, but we need to experiment. That’s why EventCamp is so important. We need to keep updating and defining what needs to be improved, and focus on developing solutions with technology that make the event experience better for all involved.

It’s a time to be optimistic about how much more awesome an event can be.

JENISE: Without banning them, how can event planners keep smart phone use from being a distraction during sessions?

ELLEN: As an event planner, you are used to defining and directing the event experience and leading participants. They trust you, and follow you, so it all comes down to creating a mobile strategy, and implementing it.

Smartphone behavior has shown that we have a constant need and desire to be connected, which can now be somewhat satisfied with technology (whether this is a positive or otherwise remains to be seen). So just as you can meet your attendees’ needs to eat at your event, instead of letting them eat elsewhere, so too can you choose to meet their needs to be connected and engaged, by letting them share their thoughts, ideas and experiences with other attendees at the event, instead of letting them mentally leaving your event during a session to connect and share with others, elsewhere.

This need for connection i.e. your mobile strategy, is about asking yourself, how am I enabling attendees to connect and share with people at this event? How am I enabling them to feel involved?

A simple thing to do during sessions is to use twitter #hashtags, which work to a certain extent to keep attendees sharing with those in the same session. Creating an event social network lets attendees connect before and afterwards. Smartphone games can enhance networking sessions. Just as you need to find a caterer you trust, you need to find suitable technology to keep your attendees connected, present and immersed in your event.

JENISE: What kinds of gaming elements can be used with mobile devices to keep attendees engaged in an event?

ELLEN: Games are a great way to reward behavior, to entertain, to build morale and educate attendees, and create memorable experiences. Games can make something that’s hard, easier to do, by making it fun. If you can identify something that is lacking or could be improved at your event, that’s a good starting point to build a game around. It helps if you choose something that you know attendees will really benefit from.

Gaming elements can be light and dispersed throughout an event as an effective way promote certain behaviors; or they can be immersive, and can be a powerful tool to keep attendees feeling connected and engaged with one another as part of your mobile strategy. Just as there is a time for content, or a time for food, there can be a dedicated time for immersive gameplay.

It’s always important to make sure that everyone can play, if they wish to, and it should always be opt in.

JENISE: What do you hope participants will take away from your session?

ELLEN: I want you to have the desire to dive right in, to embrace a mobile strategy and get excited about the potential. I also want to empower you to make demands on us technologists to better serve your attendees’ needs. We can build amazing event technology together.

Jenise Fryatt’s blog Sound n’ Sight covers events industry thoughts and features with an audio visual and social media bent. Jenise is also co-owner/marketing director of Icon Presentations Audio Visual for Events located in Southern California. She describes herself as an “events industry cheerleader” who is also a yoga and improv devotee trying to stay in the present.

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2 Responses to Driving Human Connections with Mobile Devices and Games

  1. Midori says:

    Very exciting, we’ve engaged Ellen for our upcoming program in NYC for PCMA – great to see her name here!!

  2. Looking forward to PCMA as well!

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