There are a tonne of conferences happening around the world, like the world-famous Gamescom itself. Even E3 announced they plan to make a comeback real soon this year. So it’s a tonne of buzz within the community. When there’s buzz, there’s opportunity. And it’s a big opportunity for you to connect with people while you still have the chance.
It’s not to say you should book your seats to all the conferences and huff and puff your way to each one of them. That’s just insanity, if not impossible. But with the right pre-planning process, attending just one game conference can make a world of difference. So here’s a snappy A to Z of how you can take care of yourself and hit your goals and expectations when you’re at a game developers conference.
The yearly budget review gets most of us thinking about which conferences to go to and which to skip. It’s also when you can start negotiating for better multi-show deals, better floor positions and added value stuff like hanging banner branding. Last minute panic shopping is a nightmare, trust me…
The most important meal of the day, it’s often said, and never more so when you’re going to be on your feet for eight hours in daylight and probably more at night.
Whether Outlook, Google or a printed Excel sheet, try to avoid overbooking yourself with meetings. Some inevitably overrun and half the point of a game conference is the ability to wander the floor and have unplanned conversations with potential contacts.
Things have moved on since the old days in terms of the work/play balance but folks in the games industry still enjoy playtime and burning the candle at both ends. If you’re young enough to hit the parties and still be switching the stand on at 9AM then all credit to you, but I’d suggest front-loading your meeting schedule to leave a more mellow agenda towards the end of the show.
The Star of the Show, and while you may have secured your own spot in the venue, you’re not the only VIP in the room. Be nice to them; when the inevitable calamity happens or your WiFi drops off, they’ll be much more likely to go out of their way to do you a solid.
Unless you work for yourself or the tightest of low budget start-ups, you don’t have to get the cheapest flight in. You’ll never be at your best if you start a show after 4 hours of sleep and a 4AM flight.
USB sticks, free pens, iPads, Steam codes – don’t put them in a bowl at the front of your stand – there are numerous punters who probably don’t even work in games who trawl conferences collecting freebies. Instead have one big stand-out branded prize and do a draw from all the meetings and contacts you made during the event, ensuring you get their correct contact details.
Hotels vs apartments
I personally favour the value offered by a luxury AirBnB near the game conference venue. Less costly and more homely than a hotel with the added benefit that you can have a remote office set-up so you and your team can work pre and post conference. In Barcelona, I once found a converted tug boat with a party terrace for half the price of four hotel rooms, so don’t be afraid of getting creative with your digs.
Events like Gamescom are a great opportunity for professionals in the field to connect and work together. Attending the event can have a massive impact on your career, as you get to network with potential business partners and employers.
Statistically, you are unlikely to work for Sony, Activision Blizzard or Valve, with stands the size of Texas. More often than not, a well-designed 3×3 stand with adequate seating space will fit your needs perfectly. Alternatively, you could go solo and book your meetings in hotel lobbies like 80% of attendees.
Know your customer
Strike a balance between generating new business and taking time to meet with your current base. They’re being aggressively targeted by your competitors at the very same event, so show them some love.
By 1PM, you and your team will be hitting a sugar crash. Make sure you, your team and your promotional staff are fed and watered in good time. It’s always a good idea to cover the cost too – it generates valuable goodwill and they’ll be more likely to go the extra mile for you.
Have you ever felt your heart almost jump out of your chest when you should be at an important meeting, but you keep walking around and can’t find the meeting place? In my experience at events, having a map at hand is crucial for attendees (regardless of whether it is a map of the city or the game conference venue).
It might be your tenth Gamescom, GDC or Pax East but don’t forget how intimidating it was when you first wandered into the cavernous ExCeL (or Earls Court, if you can remember that far back). The games industry might be a giant industry, value-wise, but let’s not forget the friendliness that made it great to start with.
Careers are transitional, even more so in games and as much as we all like the idea of working our way to the top of one firm, odds are you’ll be changing job some time within the next three years. If you’re looking for a change, there is no better place to research and meet with your future employer than a trade show, so take advantage of having them all within 500 feet of you.
Plan in advance
Pick a stand building company who is already building stands at the game conference and have it written in the contract that everything will be ready by 4pm the day before the show starts.
If someone in the games press asks you for an interview or for a vox pop, go for it. The same goes for pre- and post-event feedback. It’s good for the event’s future development and it’s free PR for you. Plus, it never hurts to promote your own personal brand once in a while.
For competitors, for your staff, for the event organisers, for women in games, for the janitors clearing up your mess, and for yourself. This is essential and unequivocal.
Back to the standing again, killer Louboutins (or uncomfortable Brogues) are not your friend if your ankles fuse by day three.
Avoid over packing and keep your airport queue time and shoulder strain to a minimum.
Understand your market
It’s amazing how much better your conversion rate becomes when you’ve looked into the companies you’re meeting. Even a ten minute Google search can give you enough insights to show you understand where you could offer an invaluable service and will set you apart from the majority who seem to wing it. Differentiation and a targeted offering will significantly increase your closing rates.
Multivitamins, vitamin B complex, and iron are your friends. A large (refillable) bottle of water can be your best friend. Take them with you.
Try and recycle as much of your stand as you can – these things don’t come cheap and the amount of unnecessary wastage these conferences generate is shocking. Again, a decent stand builder will help with this if you put it into the original brief.
There’s no magic bullet for a successful game conference, but if you set challenging but achievable sales targets, motivate your team (incentivise if necessary) and focus on quality rather than quantity of meetings then you’ll be on the right track.
Look after yourself – between international game developers conferences and events, your body, and soul can take a pounding, so play within your means and manage your time realistically.
If your employers don’t offer a day in lieu after a weekend conference, they should. Take a day off to recharge anyway. If you’re the boss, look after your most valuable resource and give your team a day off in lieu. Most likely they’ve earned it. If not somehow – pushing boundaries won’t do good to anyone. Have a break, take a deep breath, and learn from any mistakes.
Got any tips yourself?
Attending game developers conference like GDC, Pax East or Gamescom can be a great opportunity for professionals in the games industry to network, learn, and grow. You can make the most of your time at these events by following these tips and seizing opportunities. If you reached this far, we have another guide written by an Events Manager worth checking out.
Remember to be respectful to your competitors and those around you, and don’t forget to enjoy the experience. Who knows, attending a conference might just be the key to unlocking your next career move or discovering your dream customer.
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