This year’s GDC just ended, making one thing certain: conference season is upon us. If you have read a few of my posts this year, you will notice that I have discussed a lot about getting the most out of game conferences as a presenter. If you’re showcasing your indie game this year, ensuring the booth and your indie game’s demo is perfect is crucial to making the game conference work for you and reaping its benefits. New players, more exposure, even more attention on your game and brand as a whole, etc. is one of the best things that can come out of exhibiting at a game conference.
Yet, do not think that by attending a game conference, you have to solely show off your game and noting more. In fact, you can attend a conference without having a game on display and still reap the rewards of the conference as a result!
You see, game conferences are great for spreading ideas and learning about the industry we love. It allows you to speak with other indie developers as well, as you do your part to learn and grow your brand. Here are the best ways to get the most out of game conferences, and as a result, learn and watch your brand blossom to new heights.
Prioritize the events/discussions you want to attend
You are not going to be able to attend every event at the conference – not even close. In fact, you probably will not be able to attend every event that interests you. As a result, prioritize the ones you want to attend by making a list and create a rough schedule of the events you want to attend. This will ensure that the presentations you want to see will not be missed.
Explore the floor
Consider spending a full day just walking around, talking with other developers, and learning about their experiences. You will learn a lot – especially if you are just starting out developing games. Bring a small notebook with you (or a voice recording if you wish) and learn, learn, learn! Soak up all the knowledge you gain during the day, and enjoy the day.
Bring business cards and network
Of course, you want to network when you have the opportunity (and you will). Order business cards (and ensure they are designed appropriately) so you can hand them out to those you network with. The more memorable the business card, the more they will remember you, and who knows? Maybe you will run into some true talent that will help you to improve your games for the better! You never know what to expect whenever you’re out there rummaging around attendees and having discussions with professionals about all things gaming. Awesome things may happen that you seriously affect your brand in a positive way, so have a business card handy!
Introduce yourself with one sentence
It may not sound challenging, but you want this to sound flawless. You want to accurately portray yourself and your brand with one simple sentence, so work on perfecting this. You will be saying this line over and over to those you meet whenever you introduce yourself, and if you are stammering and stuttering over yourself, it is going to leave a poor impression.
On that train of thought, be approachable (by looking open and engaged at all times) and do not be afraid to approach people yourself. This is a given – besides, what’s the point of attending a conference if you don’t communicate with anyone? Introduce yourself to anyone you want to meet. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Don’t make non-work plans during the evening
This kind of sounds strict, but think about it: if you left a great impression on a few indie developers during the day, gave them a business card, and they invite you out to grab a quick bite and chill out, that’s an opportunity to learn even more! Some of the best learning takes place during the after-hours of a conference when people don’t have anywhere to be, and if you are away visiting friends that live in the city, you are certainly going to miss out. Conferences can be fun, but this isn’t a vacation. It’s work –a chance to improve your brand and your games. You’re there to learn, not relax – remember that.
Touch base the moment you return to your office
When you return from the trip, don’t rest just yet. Pull out those business cards you undoubtedly obtained during your meeting with fellow indie developers and thank them for your time. Ensure that you reference something you talked about in the email so they know you really valued speaking with them. They’ll almost certainly email you back, thank you for the kind words, and hopefully a professional relationship can form.
Notice what is happening: you are forming a network of colleagues that can answer any question you may have when they arise. This is powerful (and is more than worth the cost of attending the convention), because not only will you have learned something attending the conference, but you will also have knowledgeable individuals ready to help you whenever you run into problems with your game or your future games. Knowledge is power, but so is a strong, intelligent network of like-minded individuals.
Do you have any additional tips for attending a conference solely for learning purposes? Let us know in the comments below!