Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eight Ways to Use QR Codes to Create More Engaging Events

This is a guest post written by Emily Breder.  Emily is the blogger and Relationships Manager for eEvent.com, a comprehensive event platform that helps events go viral on the web through tracking social sharing. A prolific writer and blogger on many topics, Emily also works with non-profits and local businesses, specializing in helping Baby Boomers adapt to new media.

 

With all the buzz going around about QR codes and creating more engagement at events, it’s no surprise that people like Mike McCurry are looking for more ideas on how to use them. He offered me this opportunity to guest post after I mentioned a QR scavenger hunt in a previous post he wrote.  So I tracked down someone who used this idea a few years back at the National Gymnastics Championship in Hartford, Connecticut, USA Gymnastics’ Director of New Media, Kent Koven.

‘Hide and Go Seek’ Hartford Game

QR codes were still at a relatively young stage of adaptation (still somewhat true today), so in order to have the analytics tracking that they wanted, they used Microsoft Mobi tags. “We sprinkled the tags all over Hartford in key spots related to the competition and accompanying convention,” Ken said.

“Hartford is a very ‘walkable’ city. On one end is the hotel, on the other side is the Visa Championships Arena where the camps were, and in the middle was the statehouse, a central hub for fan activities like autograph signings. The game created a path through the city to get more people active.”

Each tag had instructions on how to download the app, so that even the casual passer-by could participate. The introductory mobile web page asked for a name and email to enter into the game, which had prizes that ranged from tickets to major events to sponsored merchandise signed by gymnastics celebrities, all accompanied by Visa gift cards of varying amounts. Each tag was labeled with a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal, which indicated its point value.

The game was announced by the emcee throughout the week and at the end of it, the prizes were handed out. “It was a big surprise when we discovered that people had been doing it in teams,” Kent said. It makes sense, considering the fact that smartphones still only have about 30% adaption rate in the U.S., to make it a group activity, but they had simply stumbled across it. “The winners were laughing and swapping stories and tips when we handed out the prizes.” Kent said. USA Gymnastics is going to try something similar again this year.

Use QR codes to Create More Engaging Events

You’ll probably have to work with a mobile developer if you want the kind of comprehensive analytics that USA Gymnastics had, but the program itself shouldn’t be too complicated. Here are some pointers and ideas:

  • Gamify: Use points so that people can track their own progress and compare with others.
  • Follow the White Rabbit: Theme out your game with popular, recognizable elements that can become viral. Encourage creativity online and ask people to provide quotes and stories related to the theme.
  • Easter Eggs: Just like in DVD’s, plant your QR codes in key points and reward/recognize those with ‘Insider Knowledge’.
  • Workshop follow-up: If your event is educational in nature, have each class/workshop plant a few QR codes in key places with topical questions.
  • Social Connect: If you do a trivia contest, for example, have the answers posted on people’s Facebook page, automatically tagged with the event’s Fan Page so that other people can follow along.
  • Bring it back to the event: Again, and again. If you use points, offer badges for people to add to their name tags and give them special access and opportunities to engage with the big names at the event. Throw daily ‘gamify’ parties and have the speakers attend, with the VIP lounge gradually getting filled as the event progresses. This works better with multiple-day events.
  • Start it before the event! Plant the codes on your website and offer an advantage to those who share and get other people to sign up. The application I blog for, eEvent, has a gamification system like this built in already, which tracks all the information for you across all social media platforms.
  • Throw in some random elements. At the Hartford event, they had a few people walk around with t-shirts printed with tags. The pictures of people taking pictures of people adorned with tags, posted on Facebook or on other sites, are great for promotion and post-event blogging.

QR codes make it easy for event guests to have that often-elusive conversion from online to offline, and back again. Experiment, and let us know what happens!

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