When I sat down with Judy Payne, CMP – Director of Meetings and Events at Gamestop, to record an episode of The Meeting Space podcast in the spring, I was very excited to learn what she and her team do for their 4000 people in-person convention, in the virtual format. She was willing to share her insights with me and here are some snapshots for you!

MB: Your meetings are known for the experiential factor. And transforming that into virtual space, as I mentioned earlier, was probably a task cut out for you and your team in 2020. Tell me, how did you start the process of planning your annual meeting in the virtual world?

Judy: It was very daunting at first because you know, how do you really replicate something that’s just so engaging and so explosive? Right? Our vendors are incredible. And they bring these customized and incredible sets to each of these, even small, training rooms. Every small training room that we have, feels like it’s a general session, right? We put that much production into every single room that we have. On arrival day, we have food trucks, massages, and experiences. And you can go get in a green screen or do VR. There are just so many things to do that we didn’t want to lose the engagement. We didn’t want to lose that spark, even though we knew we couldn’t really replicate it in the virtual world. So we sat down together and we thought what can we do? And how? We would sit down and go through every single element of our event to figure out okay, what can we take virtual and what do we need to drop? What really makes sense?

And you know, one of the biggest things for us was the connections that people have at our conference. Our annual conference is around 4000 leaders that come in from across the US. And they all come in, share peer-to-peer experiences, and learnings, and see the latest and greatest games that are coming out for the holiday. So it’s really that peer-to-peer connection that they also find very important.

We started off by creating a Facebook group. And we invited all of our attendees to join this Facebook group, so they can communicate all throughout the experience,

We really couldn’t just do four or five days in a row, like a normal meeting. We decided to drag our meeting out every Wednesday, for about eight weeks. Now, the biggest thing with that is we’d be able to cover all the launches for our vendors.

It was just several hours every Wednesday and that is what made it a little easier for attendees to attend.

The biggest thing for us was over eight weeks, not losing the momentum, and finding ways to string along engagement throughout the whole process. We found an inexpensive app, Woobox, that allows you to upload photos and videos and create little micro websites, where you can have contests. Then attendees would upload content from Woobox into the Facebook group, where the engagement happened. That one little program really helped increase our engagement throughout the process.

MB: Okay, so let’s summarize. We have a Facebook page and we have eight weeks, a few hours every Wednesday. By the way, how did that work out for you and your team? Because I know it is exhausting just to survive four to five days of an in-person conference. How is it having a conference top of mind for eight weeks?

Judy: You know, we were fooled going in – we thought it’s just virtual. It’ll be easier than in person.

And while the program was eight weeks, we actually continued with the engagement all the way to Black Friday. So the full length of our work was over 13 weeks long. We were exhausted. And, you know, we poured our heart and soul into this because we really wanted the attendees to have really great experience in the store.

Some of the different things we wanted to achieve – we wanted it to feel like you were walking from room to room to room, just like on-site. Or mix it up so you’re not just sitting in front of a computer screen all day. We were able to use several different mediums in order to push out our content.

When we would have our General Sessions, (if you’ve ever been in a GameStop, if you have kids under the age of 14, or husbands or spouse gamers) you would notice that there is a TV screen up in the GameStop store. We were able to use the TVs within our stores and push our General Session before the stores opened – This allowed us to do high production, explosive sound, and lots of videos – really cool stuff!

And then when store managers and employees would walk to the back of the stores, attendees could use iPads to experience the vendor training rooms throughout the day – just so it doesn’t feel like they’re sitting in one spot for the experience.

We also really worked with our vendors, because you know, one of the best things about being at the conference is typically the food. We purchased gift cards as sponsorships and we were able to customize the gift cards. We sent out 4000 e-gift cards the night before an event so that morning, everybody can purchase food on their way to the office, before the morning event. We really tried to capture every aspect.

We did a lot of visa e-gift cards and sent them out for snacks.

We even worked with Domino’s Pizza and sent every single store across the US pizza on Black Friday.

(Next week we will continue with Gamification and Sponsor Engagement Strategies)

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