Three Lessons Event Professionals Can Learn from Pokémon Go


Pokémon Go is more than the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. It’s a global phenomenon, creating both joy and concern over its addictive appeal as well as interest among businesses for its commercial benefits. Since its general release on July 6, the mobile game — which challenges players to find, train, and do battle with the Pokémon made famous by Nintendo — has become the most popular app on the Apple app store and is rapidly becoming more popular than far more established apps such as Tinder and Twitter. And the game has exploded on social media. Now that a few weeks have gone by since Pokémon Go arrived, I have spent some time pondering its lessons for event professionals. Here are three that stand out.

  1. Gamification Works — But You Have to Do It Right

One of the reasons Pokémon Go works is that the game mechanics are outstanding. Niantic (the company that launched the game) got everything right, from the joy of hunting Pokémon and accumulating points; the allure of discovering PokéStops (where you find goodies for captured Pokémon) and gyms (where you train and do battle); and the time-honored appeal of joining a team and squaring off in epic battles. The game mechanics are the reason the game appeals to both Pokémon fans and people who never heard of Pikachu.

Of course, events have employed gamification for some time. But there’s a difference between gamification and good gamification. Good gamification relies on the elements that Pokémon Go combines. Don’t gamify an event just to give attendees something different to do. Spend some time playing Pokémon Go to understand how to design a game that will engage and delight.

For more on the topic, see our recently published blog post, “How to Gamify an Event with Social Media.”

  1. People Will Leave Their Comfort Zones if You Give Them a Good Reason

It has been said that Pokémon Go does what many fitness trackers aspire to do: get people out of the comfort of their homes and out walking around.

Although you can find Pokémon in the confines of your own home or work environment, you need to explore the outside world to take advantage of the game’s best features, such as supplying your Pokémon with goodies at PokéStops or battling other teams at gyms. (Perhaps you’ve seen players clustered at public parks or museums.) Playing the game also means joining teams and meeting other players in the real world as you explore. All of those experiences require people to stretch their comfort zones. But the game succeeds by giving players a reason to discover the new (in this case, tapping into the joy of playing a game).

The obvious joy that players experience exploring the outside world is a reminder to event professionals to find ways to open up events by getting attendees to stretch their comfort zones (usually the comfort of the familiar indoor speaking room). You can achieve this objective in many ways, including encouraging outdoor breaks to hosting sessions in outdoor venues. (Juliann Kelley of One Smooth Stone recently took advantage of the outdoor settings in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when planning an employee incentive event.)

  1. Emerging Technology Enriches the Experience

Pokémon Go is a breakthrough for augmented reality, a technology that overlays content such as imagery on to the real world (as opposed to virtual reality, which takes you into a make-believe world with the use of a special viewer). Pokémon Go would have been fun without augmented reality, but the augmented reality feature in the app (which turns your smartphone into an augmented reality viewer) adds the element of surprise and discovery by sprinkling the lovable Pokémon into places you visit all the time, which creates curiosity (where will the Pokémon appear next?).

If you plan events, you should be asking yourself how emerging technology such as augmented reality or drones can create a wow factor for your audience. Don’t embrace technology for the sake of technology. But succeeding in events means staying on top of new trends, and augmented reality is one of them. Whether you employ it at an event, make sure you understand its applications and value.

Pokémon Go is no flash in the pan. Right now we’re experiencing Phase I of its popularity — everyday people making the game go viral. Phase II is rapidly approaching: brands capitalizing on the game to inspire more players across multiple locations, which will extend the game’s appeal. Pokémon Go will be here awhile. Now is the time to learn from it.

Image source: YouTube

We Love Live. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s