Note: This post is the first in a three-part series:
Conference season is in full swing this week with the start of the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA. GDC starts today in fact, so if you are attending one of the most anticipated conferences of the year, then you need to be prepared before you go. Thanks to the Game Development section of Tuts+ along with my own recommendations, below are the best ways to network at GDC 2015.
Know who is attending
One of my biggest recommendations regarding networking at a conference is to never go alone. At the very least, you should have a few ideas regarding people that you know that are going to attend the conference and you should try to meet them there and hang out with them when possible. Going to a conference on your own can be daunting, and if you do not know anyone there, then you are going to certainly feel out of place and will not feel comfortable. I don’t know about you, but whenever I am attending a large conference where I do not know anyone, I usually find it easy to use an excuse to go back to my room and not do anything.
I’m not saying you are going to do this, but it is easy to feel uncomfortable and go into seclusion in your room. If you have someone that you know is at the conference, you at least have a chance to meet up with them and hang out for a few moments before you go back to the festivities of GDC. Above all, know this:
Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers
Seriously: you are going to have a lot of downtime. Whether you are waiting in line to watch a speaker or you are standing in line to grab a hot dog, you are going to be standing around a lot during GDC waiting for the next thing to happen. The beauty of GDC is that, unlike any other time in which you stand in line – whether we are talking about standing in line to go to movie, eat food, etc. – you have something in common with every person in your vicinity: a love of gaming!
Beyond that? You develop video games for a living; just like many of the attendees at GDC! Strike up a conversation with strangers whenever you get an opportunity, and you will probably find some people worth networking with. This will allow you to speak directly with indie developers that you would have never met, people that work with publishers that are looking for the next hot thing, and you will probably even find people that know people that can help you to expand your indie studio and get your foot into the door of something very special.
This brings me to another point about attending GDC for networking purposes: go to GDC with a plan. Don’t merely walk around hoping that you come across something that could help you expand your indie studio; instead, have a goal in mind. Whether you want to network with more indie developers or you want to find that potential publisher that could publish your next game, know the reason why you are showing up in the first place. You get out as much to put in at these conferences, so use this opportunity wisely to speak with people you would have never had the chance to speak with before.
Enjoy a speaker? Talk to them
This brings me to another point: if you enjoy a speaker, go up and talk to them! At the very least, let them know why you enjoyed their presentation, introduce yourself, and discuss some of the topics they brought up in the presentation. You should also do this with some of your idols that you meet as well. I watched Warren Spector – one of my idols – speak for a few moments at E3 a few years ago, and I always kick myself for being too busy that moment and not talking to him. Sure, I had a meeting with an indie developer to discuss his next game, so I suppose I probably should not have blown that person off. If you have the chance to speak with your idols about their presentation, do it; but be sure you…
Bring business cards
This is one of the most important items you need to bring in this list. Business cards are absolutely mandatory – and if you forget them, I would almost state that you should not even show up to GDC. We have said many times that the icon of your mobile game is the gatekeeper to your game; so too is your indie studio’s business card the gateway to earning new connections. We have discussed the value of designing the perfect business card for your indie studio before, so if you need to print off a whole bunch of business cards immediately? Check out that post to learn about the right way to design the perfect business card.
Be sure that your business card looks high quality as well. Spare no expense. I know someone that went to E3 one year and printed their business cards at the last second. The printing quality was extremely poor, the business card had mistakes (to which they marked them out with a permanent marker), and they had the guts to try and play it off like the business card intentionally looked bad. Nobody bought it, and as a result, the connections this person tried to make was ultimately in vain. Business cards show how much pride you taking your brand and how professional your really are; take them seriously, and you will network with the best.