Leveraging Gamification in the Events World

EPISODE 24|Leveraging Gamification in the Events World

If you have been looking for a new way to boost your events and realize true engagement, then today's podcast is for you!

Brooke and Cody sit down with Cindy Lo, CEO of Red Velvet Events, to get her take on utilizing gamification for events and how you can then track your ROI. Cindy also shares her advice for getting exhibitors and sponsors to interact with attendees on a virtual level. From exhibit hall bingo to branding, Cindy shares all the tips and tricks!

Guest

  • Cindy Lo, CEO, Red Velvet Events

Hosts

  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskn, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent

Related resources

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Transcript

Cody Liskh
Cindy THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING, can you start by just giving us a little bit of background on how you started red velvet events. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Yes, well thank you both for inviting me again and to join us today. So, we started red velvet events almost 17 and a half years ago. And interestingly enough, it was actually post 9/11. So I always tell people, you know, as we're going through this different time and challenging time there is some positive light that I think there will be some new Beginnings and also newly found virtual events that will come out of all this. And when we first started, we were definitely focused more on corporate meetings B2B and a few social events. But as we grew, we, we recognize that what we were really good out where the live experiential events and activations and incentives. 

Brooke Gracey
Those Are some of my favorites as well. 

Cody Liskh
Know I talked to you, Cindy I you told me that you're committed to doing everything you can as a business to avoid layoffs, which I think is awesome. And it sounds like that's your top priority their red velvet. When did you decide that this was your priority? And what did those initial conversations sound like 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Yeah, I know this is a great question because honestly, we are because things are changing so fast and rapid at this time, we are evaluating it every day. It's not even a weekly conversation, which I thought it would be. But where it started from was, we asked ourselves if we really had to let the team go-to kind of save on the cash. What would that put us? And honestly, we are a services business. So, we don't have catering, we don't have florists we are who we are and We take so much pride and who we bring to the table for me to even lose one team member. It really did not bode well with me. So, since we did have a combination of savings and thanks to the PPP, which is the payroll protection program from the federal government.
You know, we've made a plan on what we can do to keep the team alive. However, We have had to be very transparent with our team every Monday during our team meetings on what that exactly means So this past Monday we actually shared with them, hey, this is our new financial goal if we want to actually get all the way to the end of the year And notice I said end of the year, because previously if someone had heard me on this, they would have heard me say just through the summer. Well now we've officially changed our forecasting to look at all the way through the end of the year, you know, this is how much money we need to make So we have definitely gotten very creative. We've learned a lot about virtual events and we're even doing other things that don't even have to do with events, just to keep the team together. 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, sounds like. So, you're planning some events may be virtual but certainly not as many as you were let's say the same time last year so How are you maintaining your customer base. I mean, I feel like this is the question on everyone's minds if we're not doing the events how are we interacting with our customers. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
No, it's true Brooke and people asked like you're not supposed to be selling during this time it's a pandemic and I agree no one wants to talk to a car salesman, you know, and I'm putting air quotes here. So this is the podcast.
But it is the fact that you do have a relationship. So, what was interesting is because we're based in Austin and South by Southwest was one of the first big us events that got canceled. We were very greatly affected. In fact, so March six is live is like a D day because that was the day the City of Austin declared South by Southwest officially canceled. However, we already started getting Nervous inquiries from our corporate clients on March, the first. So, we knew we could already feel the nervousness, they had about been south by can be canceled. Do we need to pull out And because of all that we, I feel like we've been in this pivot for nine weeks? So we've had an extra week over most people an extra week or two over most people and When that happened, that week of March six, we immediately reached out to all of our clients, the ones that had not even talked about canceling We just said, We know you're about to hear a lot of stuff from Austin. We know that you're watching South by Southwest and we want to reassure you That we've been through a crisis before, you know, and we're going to be here, and we want to work with you throughout. We don't know what this will be. Honestly, I did not think it was going to be as bad as it is now, but we want it to just know that we were going to be there and that's been our constant message. And actually, that's why we also pivoted into additional services is we recognize that not everyone can pivot to a virtual event. So, can we help them in other ways? 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, I remember that day. I remember when it was announced south by was canceled. And have being an Oregon, you know, not Austin. It felt very impactful. It felt like Okay, we know that this is a big deal. And that things are going to change for the foreseeable future, and now it's all about virtual and I know that you guys do a lot of consultations on virtual events. How did you guys become those experts and what is it that sets of those conversations with your team, apart from anyone else. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events) 

 Yeah, no, I think this is a good question because there's actually a lot more competition in this market than there was in the live activation market. And I have to, I am always telling our clients, first and foremost, Prior to march 1 we had always pitched virtual all the time, but our clients left and right would give us excuses, like, yeah, it's not the right time or maybe we'll just do it for that one speaker that can't fly in so that really isn't virtual that's just filming someone and bringing them in, you know, and putting them on the live screen.
A true virtual event is really having multiple you know breakout sessions people prerecorded some live. And actually, everyone is online. So, it's kind of like us on this, you know, call as well. How we became the experts honestly is practice. I tell people all the time You're going to get a lot of people telling you that they're doing virtual, but you should ask a lot of questions because no one out there has all the answers. And if they say they do, I'll be honest, I think they're lying to you because we too are still learning Daily and this week we have a large multi-thousand person conference going on right now virtually And I've already learned a lot more new things. I was like, okay, we can't do this next time, because this is how the audience is engaging And so it's taking that feedback and putting it back in. And I will say, that's what makes us different from others.
I keep pushing our team to remind ourselves that don't settle on just what the application can give you push ourselves just like how we push ourselves with activations We know how humans like to be engaged. They want to be seen and heard. So, if you're all of a sudden thousand you just have your little name. Okay. And you're in this virtual environment. What are we going to do to make them feel special because it is so easy to get lost? And let's be honest on those virtual meetings. It's very easy for me to go ahead and check social media or check email and not pay attention to the speaker. So, I think it's even harder to do virtual events successfully. 

Brooke Gracey
I agree with you. 

Cody Liskh
Yeah, and I know you said that you are learning everybody here at this Cvent We're all learning about virtual events. Do you like this is new uncharted territory, really, what are you noticing with everybody running virtual events right now? 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
So I made this analogy. And it's funny, I because do you remember the first time you got your email address, like way back when, you know, Like at that time, you know, people didn't know what exactly to do with it. And so, other than like maybe send a high to a friend and then you started seeing people some affording snail mail that you know became like Florida chains and you're like, No, that's not really the purpose of email and I still remember the first time someone used email as a marketing campaign. I was like that's genius. They're getting me to do an action and so right now where I draw that similarity is in the virtual events. It's the Wild Wild West. Everyone is trying to throw spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks and it's unfortunate because guess what we have a lot of grace right now that I don't know how long will have that before. And so, I think people need to take away what's working and what's not working so I mean a perfect enables I remember when we were doing our rehearsal My speaker wasn't working. And we were talking about what can we do to ensure that the sound and the audio quality is going to be good. And it's doing rehearsals something as basic as that prior to going online versus struggling because then It's again a really bad experience. And I can't tell you how many webinars. I've been on lately, where they're struggling with that and you've just lost your audience because you have just a split second to keep them. Yeah. 

Brooke Gracey
I like what you said there about this is sort of like a grace period right now. So it's like we're all learning Yeah, but they're the bar is being set and it's raised every single day and it's up to us as marketers and event producers to Be in the know and to be doing the best of the best. And I also have been hearing you know people talking about this kind of video fatigue, too, right, like We're all we're I'm constantly staring at my computer all day long. Even though I'm talking to other people. And so, you know when the grace period kind of feels like it's over. What does that concept mean to you and what you know what are some of the tactics that We're doing to combat this video fatigue? 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Yeah, no, I agree. So, you know, I was watching someone else doing this live webinar. Are they were. It's a virtual meeting because they were, they were actually live and engaging. I noticed they actually incorporated dance breaks now you have to obviously know your audience. If this is going to work because I'm going, to be honest. My husband is right now on also a virtual conference and he's a tech guy. And if I said oh in 10 MINUTES, WE'RE GONNA HAVE A Dance break. He would literally roll his eyes and go. You've got to be effing kidding me; this is not what I signed up for. But in this case, this other virtual meeting. It works because the majority of the people attending, or moms and they were looking to have something fun and different and to related And so I thought that you know that works. So again, going back to knowing your audience, figuring out what can you do because you need a break it up.
If you think you can do eight hours of video content straight back to back, you're going to lose your audience so fast. It's just not reasonable. And one of the things I've noticed, and I don't know why the developers haven't figured this out. There needs to be a way in the chat room so that you can easily thread a conversation. So, if I, for example, Cody start at one and I want to actually respond back to Cody. I can hit reply. So, it's in a thread and instead. What's happening is that the chat room is just filling up with all these noises and let's be honest if you don't type faster read fast, you're going to feel left out. And the whole point of having a virtual meeting is to feel inclusive and also to reach new markets that maybe couldn't fly to your event before. So, there is still a lot of positive things about having a virtual event.
But I think we have, we still have a lot of gaps that we have to, you know, mix. I mean a to meet and get there. 

Brooke Gracey
I agree. It's not engagement. You know, we've been doing live events and activations for a really long time. We know that people's attention spans are like tiny and now you sit them in front of a computer where their families running around. I was literally just on a meeting with some of my coworkers and one of them just stopped and was like my kid just fell off like If she's going to cry or laugh. You know, I mean, we have so many distractions and People always at live events done some gamification, you know, like Just get people moving around, interacting with one another. It's a great way to connect. How are we leveraging gamification when it comes to virtual? 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
I will say there are some that are doing it better than others. I do highly encourage gamification. So, I'll use this week of virtual meetings as an example. One of the things they're trying to do right now is like a virtual bingo card. Every time you visit one of the exhibitors you get like a stamp and you get to kind of brag about it too. So, like if you get to 20 points, you get to push it out onto the market wall to say, Hey, Cindy low here I got 20 points. And so, because when people start to realize, wait, what is 20 points equal and then they realize, oh, we're going to give this away for next year or Because there's different prizes, prize levels. It's like people that do want to again participate THAT WAY ARE GOING TO YOU HAVE TO BE OKAY, THAT not everyone's going to want to gamify
But gamify is the easiest. I always tell people, for people to fit in when they don't know anyone in that room. And that's where I will say take the time to really think about how you can do it and do it well and you've got to make sure that there is something for everyone. So, for example, they even encouraged us something as basic as Hey, take a picture of the coffee mug Your, your drinking out of today and hashtag this and show it to us so that we can see it that way. And this was just, I mean, again, it's not. It doesn't have to be the complicated gamification where, you know, you have to do a virtual reality or augmented reality. It can be as something as basic as doing something for us so we can see that you're engaged and another because they don't have video. This is a virtual meeting that there's no video. It's only unless you again share through Instagram or Twitter. They were trying to come up with different ways. So, they actually had different fonts allowed to pick in the chat room so that you can kind of show your personality. And I thought that was clever because that's, that's one little touch that was very easy. And yes, there's only seven, you can choose from. But still, my point is, is that you can choose one that makes you happy, you know, And you could change the color so you could stand out a little bit more So, so I going back to that question. I think it is definitely something you spend time on, And I may be jumping the agenda here a little bit. But one of the things that I think there is a misnomer, is that when you go from live event to virtual event It's cheaper and it's easier and I disagree. It's not a may save you a little bit of money, but honestly, what I have found so far because of the learning curve.
It's about the same because you're going to need staff, more people because we're going to want a moderator in each of the breakout rooms, we're going to want different people looking at all the You know, different areas. So, it's a little bit different and staffing
But the other is that you do you need to really sit there and produce it with a producer’s hat on. Don't think like, Oh, I can just tell XYZ person to prepare the content and then let it go. You really need to think about it from a producer’s eyes and go is my audience can really be you know entertained and are they going to find value in the content. 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, no, I am I was surprised over the past couple of months. How do putting on virtual events does take very much production I and a team. You know, it takes a whole team. I'm even doing a bingo game for my friends tomorrow night And I'm like, trying to produce it and we're doing a test tonight, you know, because it's like we're, we've never done it before it lets Kind of figure it out and you touched on something else when we were talking about gamification but personalization, the fonts and things like That this layer of personalization that we have always focused on during live events and activations have to be part of the virtual experience and 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
People are craving it. I will say, What something you said earlier, because I was like, I do want to make sure I've mentioned this Is, you know how I always alluded to, and we're doing a lot of live activations where we got a lot of our ideas from was like festival stations because they were just doing such a good job of engaging the audience live and in person. Well, I have to give credit to actually the gaming community right now that's pushing us to really rethink how a virtual meeting can be done so Not, not last week about two weekends ago fortnight had another one of their concerts, but it was so well produced that everyone in the meetings and events world was talking about it and I don't even play fortnight. So of course, I had to go online, look at the videos I had to understand. I wanted to understand what made it so impactful why everyone was talking that this was the way that virtual meetings would be graded against and I saw why because there was personalization. There was a sense of community and there was a sense of fun.
And so it's like all of those mixed into one and it did not happen overnight. That's the thing is that that's where we got to remind our clients that You're going to be building over this community over time And it's going to be important for us to have the right tone and the right message and the right delivery mechanism So that it all comes together. When you do your one big annual meeting. And again, I don't. I'm hoping that virtual meetings are not going to be forever and ever. I think it will be hybrid But, in the meantime, at least again till the end of the year. I do see virtual meetings, more of a reality, and a necessity than anything. 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, I mean, and you bring up a good point like we've been doing virtual events there are communities out there who have been doing that's Virtual and doing it. Well, it's time to tap into that expertise and see how we can bring it to the larger meetings and events industry. Yeah. 

Cody Liskh
Yeah, Cindy. You said earlier that you are on kind of an unsuccessful webinar. So, you've been on plenty of those but like in my mind before this even happened I kind of confused webinar with the virtual event and you said the same Legally different. Yeah. What are the differences between the two? And, you know, how should we think about them differently. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
So, to me, a webinar is something like as basic as a zoom you're trying to provide some key content and maybe a 45-minute snippet where you'll probably have one panelist You could have a panel, I guess. But the main thing is surrounding one topic and you're just trying to push the information out. And yes, there might be some light engagement, but it's really just in the chat room or you can fire some questions off but it's, that's it. And it's one and done. Whereas in a virtual meeting you are talking about keynotes. You're talking about sponsors, you're talking about also Usually, more, more than 100 people at a time. So, so, and honestly, I have. I haven't seen where it's in between. I see. They're like, it's right around 100 or some thousands So there's that. I don't know why. There hasn't been really that medium spot. I'm not sure.
But like this week's meeting is several thousand and honestly, if we had come together in person, it would have been much higher as well. I think people were just not sure if they want it to pay that much to go to a virtual meeting. And that's the other thing to keep in mind is that the reason why people go to meetings is to do several things. One is to conduct business to is to make connections that they can't normally make when they are behind a computer or behind a cell phone. So, if you can't give them that in your virtual meeting you really need to think twice about how much you're going to charge. And what you're going to deliver as a marketing message because you could then just be a really well-conducted like Almost like a fancy YouTube channel. And that's not what people want. People The reason why they're coming to virtual meetings and events is because they want to be engaged and they want to be a part of a community. So that's where I would say plan from that angle and ask yourself, How Am I really getting them to all be the cheerleaders and to rah our brand or our mission when they come out of this meeting. 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, and I mean a lot of events aren't charging too right? So, there's a lot of events that would have charged face to face, but now it's kind of free virtual which then brings up the whole question of ROI. So How are we tracking ROI in these virtual events?
Are we looking for engagement? We're being told, you know, we shouldn't be selling, which we know we're just connected right so that's usually a large part of the ROI mean how are you talking to your clients about this. And are there any cool ideas around sponsorship to 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
It's a, it's a little bit. I hit or miss right now. Some sponsors have been very upfront and honest with us, saying that I don't want to sponsor that that's not what I was agreeing to when I Agree to sponsor XYZ event I was really wanting to be there in person. So, how we try to show them the ROI is one beautiful benefit of being digital is now I do get metrics. So I really can tell when someone comes to my event If they stay logged in and on my active screen for however many minutes so being able to actually give them more metrics, what was before, if I was actually in a hotel Ballroom. Unless I put everyone on RF id, name badges. I couldn't tell you how long someone would be in a general session, you know, So, so there is that upside the other, which I've been trying to really push people to understand is that if you are going to get sponsors You do need to figure out how can you pair up the registered attendee list to do one on one appointments with them. Don't make it just this. Hey, blanket exhibit room go over to the marketplace and sign up I want you to really go and go, oh, I know you and I know you mentioned you need help with registration online. I know someone over at Cvent and I'm going to schedule a one on one appointment and because this meeting was free. We ask that you keep your 15-minute appointment with them because this is how we get our content delivered to you for free. Because any attendee knows good events do not get produced for free. They know there's a catch. And so, I'm all about transparency, explain to them. And if we also lay it out. And maybe that's what we need to do going forward is that, you know, In exchange for this, this has been sponsored by, let's say Cvent we are asking that you accept the 15-minute post-meeting conversation to me I think that is more than fair to say that is how we're charging for these events.
Because, because it is. I mean, right now with Google and YouTube There's so much free content out there, but not all is created equal. And I'd rather someone come to me and say this is what we're going to do and Take the time to that the speaker, because to me what I don't care for is when it's a sponsored event. And then the person sponsoring It is the speaker doesn't make sense. I'd rather it be like someone that I really can't listen to normally and the fact that Cvent pays for it And I understand that. That's my you know my exchange. I'm all good for that. Yeah. 

Brooke Gracey
Absolutely. You gotta have the good content authors or it's really easy for someone to leave. It's not hopping on a plane and go home. It's literally like 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Just yes, it's just close it out. 

Brooke Gracey
Never. Yeah. It's True 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
It's true.

Cody Liskh
Cindy this I knew this is going to be such an awesome podcast episode So thank you so much for joining. I gotta ask you, you know if you had to leave our event professionals with just one takeaway or A piece of advice when engaging audiences effectively with these virtual events. Would that be 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
One. Oh. Just it's only one. 

Cody Liskh
That's why it's the hardest question, which is why 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Don't underestimate good branding because and I hate to use this as an example because obviously, this was a failed event, but the fry festival, you know I actually studied that event. And I was like, wow. How did they commit so many people to buy these tickets with It's a first-time event, blah, blah, blah? And it was because they branded it well.
And if you want to get out of the gate you know and do this first time virtual event You want to make sure you get the biggest audience and the best ROI and everything takes the time and spend it on the branding and makes sure your whole message is cohesive because to me the worst thing when I see very ugly DIY branding and I can't help myself I just want to go in and fix it all. 

Brooke Gracey
I'm the same way, Cindy. 

Brooke Gracey
We gotta get you got to get people excited, whether it be making your event your virtual event and put some theme around it. Is it a block party? Just make fun and people will come, you know, 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
And also, people will talk about it because My gosh, that was so smart like I've seen some silly internal zoom calls people will just tell them, hey, can everyone bring a silly hat. Or Can everyone wear their jerseys or favorite jerseys. I mean, it's just something as basic as that you don't have to go out and buy anything new, but just make it engaging because people want to be a part of a community. Remember, yeah. 

Brooke Gracey
And we're born, we want to be.

Cody Liskh
I want to couch Chela Brooke. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
I know the first time I saw someone brand. I was like, Dang it. 

Brooke Gracey
I know 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
That was 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
I had thought of that. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
It is 

Cody Liskh
Well, Cindy before we let you go, is there anything you Want to promote or share with our listeners. You know we are again like I said, pushing additional services. In addition to our normal virtual consulting And a lot of people ask me why it has nothing to do with events and I realized that you know, for us it's about giving back to the community because we know a lot of our peers have been recently furloughed or laid off. And they might be just looking for that you know pep talk or maybe some career advice or maybe they've decided just like I did after post 911 start their own business. So, we've actually added a bunch of just Non-events related services that our team is really good at and it's on our website. So if they go to www.RedVelvetevents.COM They can see it at the bottom link and it takes them to a shopping cart, which If you had asked me even, you know, January, would I ever have had a shopping cart on our website, the answer would have been no because Who we were an agency we don't do that kind of stuff. But you know what, in times of crisis and a pandemic. We have to get gritty and resilient and so we even made some T-shirts to commemorate This quarantine and shelter in place. So, those that are in the event business might appreciate some of the witty phrases that we've put on T-shirts. 

Brooke Gracey
That's cool. Well, and I love adding things to my virtual shopping cart. So Probably be there before we know it. Was thinking you mentioned something earlier in our conversation about the Virtual dance party. What if we have a little Virtual dance party and dance our way out of this. 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Oh, I love it. I get ready. 

Brooke Gracey
That Cindy, thank you so much for joining us. This is one of the best conversations we've had you have such great energy and everyone else, we will put links to everything we're talking about here in the podcast description and Cody. 

Brooke Gracey
Cue music and dance party. 

Cody Liskh
Let's do it. 

Brooke Gracey
Okay. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
I love it. I'm gonna hold up. Oh, yeah. I know I wish my dog was here. 

Brooke Gracey
The roof. 

Brooke Gracey
Hello, spring.

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Actually, getting up and moving. Doesn't it make you feel good and feel 

Brooke Gracey
You want to see us do the dance party where we also have this on video on YouTube. So, thank you again, Cindy. 

Cindy Lo (Red Velvet Events)
Thank you. For having me 

Cody Liskh
Thank you.