We hosted our most spectacular display of creativity yet earlier this month when our events team let their imaginations run wild and created Outside the Box. The completion of the extensive summer refurbishment works means we’re better placed than ever transform our blank canvas space into any number of interactive and experiential events – think award ceremonies, banquets, fashion shows, parties and more.
To truly engage guests in the three-part experience we’d created – secret garden, pop-up circus tent and 1950s drive-thru cinema – we joined forces with creative agency Marmalade on Toast to create a mobile game that would see guests compete to win high value prizes. It got our guests searching around the themed rooms looking for clues that would give them the answers to our prize pool quiz. The haul of prizes up for grabs was pretty spectacular, including an iPad Air, an Apple Watch, a Champagne afternoon tea at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, a cluster of overnight stays at luxury London hotels and lunch at The Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton, amongst others.
Here Marmalade on Toast director Simon Harmer reveals why mobile gaming at events brings guests together for memorable, immersive fun.
How important do you think it is for technology to be used to provide more immersive experiences at events?
Very. Technology has been prevalent at events for some time, but what we do is different. We want to engage users and make them feel immersed in something different, as opposed to a dry, boring offering that might just tell them what is happening or who is speaking. During the evening everyone’s reaction was one of pure joy, hence the name of the app: ‘YAY’. It’s all about fun but with an underlying brief, which was, in this instance, to get people to visit certain areas of the venue, showcase the innovative technology and show the QEII Centre as an engaging and fun brand.
How do you manage the balance between creating a game that gets people interested without making it complicated?
Simplicity is the key to everything we do at Marmalade on Toast. It’s one of our core values. The complexity comes in what happens behind the scenes. This is where our great development team do all the hard work. Once we have a brief, we figure out the simplest way to deliver it – it’s all about the user. We want them to engage as quickly and easily as possible.
Are there any specific requirements for venues that want to use mobile technology in their events? If so, how did the QEII Centre meet those requirements?
Yes, I think there are. There are the tangible, logistical requirements such as a good WiFi or 3G/4G signals (the QEII Centre has superb WiFi) and there are also the ‘softer’ aspects – a good brief, an open mind and having some clear objectives.
In your experience, what types of mobile technology are most popular at conferences and events?
In the past there has been a tendency to use apps to guide people, tell them what is on and when, who is talking. There is value in this but in our experience the real engagement comes when users have fun and feel they are doing something a little different. Events can be boring, so if you get people playing a game, especially when prizes are involved, it really works. In fact we know from our stats that games like these have people coming back again and again. If people have a fun and engaging experience using these apps in a certain venue, they immediately associate those attributes with the venue itself.
Are there any emerging trends in mobile technology that venues and event planners should be keeping an eye out for?
The use of web apps is a key one for us. We deliver apps that just require a simple URL. This can be sent as an SMS or email, so that just one click allows any user to play on any device (tablets, desktop or any smartphone). This approach – simple, flexible and consistent – is a huge benefit, so there’s no need to download apps or create separate apps for different devices or operating systems. Keep it simple!
“If people have a fun and engaging experience using these apps in a certain venue, they immediately associate those attributes with the venue itself.” – Simon Harmer, Marmalade on Toast