How To Make Team Competition Fun
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Add A Competitive Element To Your eLearning Design

Who says that eLearning must be a dry, boring experience? While empowering people with new information that they can put to good use, it’s important to use strategies that make training fun. One such strategy is a team competition. Incorporating competition generates engagement and excitement around a training campaign. Here are some tips to help set up your design to inject fun and a little friendly competition into your training campaign.

Competition With Intent

Refrain from creating a training competition just to have a competition. Instead, incorporate it into an overarching training campaign or initiative. Create an activation period several weeks before the start of the competition. During this time frame, you will let people know what’s coming.

You want people to get psyched and sign up and commit to participating before the competition begins, so this lead-up period is crucial. Some ideas include:

  • Give the competition a title that is unique and hints at things to come
  • Send emails or post short videos to your eLearning platform that promote the event
  • Give a glimpse into some of the competitive elements that will be interspersed with the actual training
  • Use creatives elements that generate a lot of buzz and excitement well before the competition’s start date

Perhaps the competition is a component of a more extensive campaign, such as a new product launch or service offering. The training and competition should begin before the larger campaign and end right before the product launch or service offering. Doing so ensures the knowledge gained during the training is fresh on their minds when the new product or service is available to your customers.

By making the competition part of an overarching campaign and including components to get them excited during the activation period, you generate more significant levels of participation, engagement, and buy-in from participants, their managers, and executive-level staff.

Define Success

As part of the campaign, clearly define the competition for the audience. They need to understand:

  • What are the objectives of the competition for both individuals and teams?
  • What are they going to learn?
  • How will participating in the competition improve their knowledge and skills as individuals and as a team?
  • What is expected of them?
  • What are the outcomes of the competition?

Identify individual and team goals and objectives that will result in a specific outcome. Don’t wait until the start of the competition to reveal this information. Set the expectations during the activation period, leading up to the first day of competition.

Structure For Success

The structure of your team competition is essential to its success. Competitions need a beginning, middle, and end. You don’t want a design where everything is the same from start to finish. Mixing it up with different media will sustain engagement, enjoyment, and address different learning styles. When you get to the middle of the competition, you may find the level of engagement starting to wane. At the middle mark, introduce a fun activity that changes the pace. Launch an even more competitive element in the middle of a competition, like timed quizzes based on how fast people respond. If you’re using incentives, offer the ability to earn more points or more Program currency.

Think of the middle of the competition as a bridge in a song. The bridge of a song adds an element of extra energy or surprise. Simply bring in some transitional components to carry participants to the end. When it comes to gameplay, chunk content into bite-sized pieces for easy consumption. Include interactive games as a way to keep people engaged and coming back every week to reinforce your message.

If you find a tiebreaker is needed, having timed elements is a great way to break ties. Again, timed quizzes are a great way to get people to think fast on their feet, and you can measure the fastest response times to break the tie.

Consider a multi-dimensional competition that includes individuals and teams. The game can pit individuals against one another in training performance, but also collectively as a team. This helps improve individual performance within their team and then collectively against other teams. It helps drive teamwork and galvanize teams. It becomes almost a tribal thing.

Creative Communications

In addition to communications sent during the activation period, it’s essential to have regular touchpoints with participants throughout the competition. All communications should include a Call-To-Action and address the “me, my, my”:

  • What’s in it for the participant?
  • What’s in it for their team?
  • What’s in it for their management?
  • What’s in it for their community? (If you include a give-back in your competition)

Consider you may have latecomers and decide how you will handle that situation. You’ll find that people who join a competition late may feel all is lost because they are a newcomer. You want people to train with you, so always remind them there is time to get involved in all the fun.

If your eLearning platform allows, use gamification to communicate and keep the competition interesting. Examples include:

  • Leaderboards to show team-to-team performance
  • Group chat capabilities
  • Ability to earn badging and trophies
  • Smack-talk area (moderated, of course!)
  • Message boards
  • Competition dashboards for at-a-glance team performance, participant information, and more
  • Thematic elements, such as interactive maps that show the journey or progress of individuals and teams as they move through the competition

Remember, even though the competition occurs on a digital platform, use printed materials too. In an eLearning environment, everything that is presented can be supported by printed material. There is no rule stating that you cannot provide printed materials that support your messaging.

Team competitions are perfect vehicles for introducing media that are more tangible to use for interaction. Here are some examples we’ve had great success using:

  • Traditional learning flashcards
  • Scratch cards
  • Trading cards

Trading cards can not only include your key messaging; individuals and teams can collect a series of cards. You might be surprised at the level of excitement this brings to participants.

Whatever types of communications you choose to include in your training competition, ensure they are informative, have an element of fun or surprise, and always include a Call-To-Action.

Assembling Your Teams

You can’t have a successful team competition without clearly defining the team structure for your participants. Align your competition with clearly-defined team boundaries. Ideally, these are boundaries familiar to those who will be participating.

For example, large retail brands organize their stores by districts or regions. As such, they may already have in-house competitions between regions or districts, so these are natural boundaries to them. If you have a business and are trying to drive participation or engagement, departments might compete with one another. If you can find out what natural boundaries exist among your target audience, try to utilize them in your competition.

Understand friendly rivalries. The rivals could be those they are competing against within the district, or they could be located outside of those natural boundaries. For example, there could be a store down the street or another part of the state that is a rival. They are from the same family of stores but perhaps have different general managers. Consider these types of friendly competitions when establishing your design.

Build in the ability to nominate a team leader. It’s not a must, but we’ve found it helpful in our competitions if someone leads the team. These team leaders make great team cheerleaders or team champions.

A Cause For Buy-In

If you’re looking to get strong buy-in from participants, consider using cause marketing as part of your training competition. At the end of the competition, reward participants with the opportunity to give back in some way.

Causes can be aligned with the organization’s philanthropic endeavors, such as education, diseases, or local causes. Each team can choose its local cause. By allowing teams to select the recipient or cause, you get greater buy-in and engagement across all levels, including participants and their management.

Cause marketing not only helps the recipients of the reward, but it also helps build brand advocacy and drive business for you and the organizations of the participants. Be sure the cause is part of your design and communications from the outset.

Team Up For Training

Wrapping your training campaign around a competition adds a unique component to your eLearning program. It creates more excitement and engagement around training while helping communities or charitable organizations.

Consider making the team competition a yearly event. When set up and carried out effectively, it will be something your participants look forward to year after year.

Have you used competitions as part of your eLearning program? If so, I’d like to learn more about the competition elements that were a part of your design.

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