I was going to write a blog about my experience exhibiting at Paris Games Week and compare it to GamesCom, but rather quickly it turned into a list of what to take when going to a conference (a bit like those vacation packing checklists). Maybe not as fun to read, but definitely more useful.
Also I want to thank tinyBuild for their blog on surviving a game convention, which was really helpful for me this year.
Here we go.
Stuff you always need to take with you.
- Business cards - obviously, put your name, contact info, and website on it. Maybe use the back to show a nice image of your latest project. It is free promotion and it looks nicer than a boring corporate business card, so people will remember you better. Make sure to bring enough!
- Presentation - have a presentation showing projects you did, projects you’re working on and concepts. Maybe some videos if you have them. Put it on both your phone and tablet so you’ll always have it with you. You never know who you’ll bump into!
- Demo - make sure you have a WORKING demo with you. Better to show less stuff that’s working than a lot of stuff that doesn’t work. More on ‘the demo’ later.
- Mints & deodorant - Always have these close by. Everybody smells after three days of standing at their booth and going to parties till late in the night, there is no shame in that. But there is no reason to leave it like that.
- Internet; get a local sim-card or try a Karma hotspot
You are looking for publishers
So your main goal for this show is to find people who want to give you money?
- Prepare your pitch! There are a lot of good articles on Gamasutra about that. (1, 2, 3)
- Make appointments beforehand - people will be fully booked by the time they get to a conference so make sure to contact them beforehand and make an appointment.
- Bring a hard copy appointment schedule - Better safe than sorry, you don’t want to miss your meeting because your phone was out of juice or internet connection and you didn’t remember what meetings you had.
- Research - look up who you are meeting with on LinkedIn, what games did this publisher recently release? Did they win any prizes? Use this knowledge to compliment them, show them you know stuff and impress them. Meeting with publishers is like going on a first date.
- Pen & Paper - Old fashioned? Yes, but you won’t have your tablet or laptop available to type stuff because that is showing your demo.
You are looking for press
Basically you are craving for attention. Youtubers with a million followers, famous Twitch players, journalists, anyone who will spread the word about your game.
- Prepare another pitch! Pitching to press is different from pitching to publishers.
- Make appointments beforehand; Try to leave some space between meetings, because they can easily run over.
- Have a press kit ready, and always follow-up by sending an e-mail with a link to your press kit. Check presskit() by @tha_rami for an easy to set-up presskit.
You have a booth
Hurray, you have your own booth, arcade cabinet or whatever. That is awesome because now you can show your game to the public. It is also horrible, because standing at a booth is like having a thousand speed-dates in a few days.
- Make sure your booth is asshole proof - controllers, monitors, dev kits, pcs, tablets, cables make sure they are all connected to the table. Because people will steal your stuff and you won’t be able to keep an eye on your stuff all the time.
- Throat relievers - Strepsils, Anta-flu, Ricola, cough medicine - anything that will help your throat, because you will be doing a lot of talking.
- Giveaways - Always have something for people to take. People love free stuff, so it’ll draw them to you. And it gives them something to remember you by when they come home. It can be anything, flyers, candy, buttons, t-shirts, stickers.
- Game controls hand-out - a laminated hand-out to give to players waiting in line so they will already know the controls and can start right away when it’s their turn.
- Food and drinks - bring water and energy bars or fruit, you’ll get hungry and thirsty and won’t always be able to leave your booth. (Also: food at convention centers is often crap and expensive).
- Banner - make something nice that draws attention to your game.
You’re just going for the talks
Really? Going just to listen seems like a waste of time, most of the talks will be available online anyway. It may be worth adding something else to make your trip more worthwhile. Meet-up with some other developers, do some live blogging, go to parties, or maybe even try to be a speaker yourself? In any case here is what you’ll need:
- Social media set-up - set-up your Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for the conference by creating lists of speakers and other interesting streams.
Pack like a pro
These are some things that may always come in handy, but are not a necessity.
- T-shirts - print t-shirts with your company or game logo on it. Have more than one if you plan to wear it all week!
- Free keys - print business cards and with steam/iOS keys on them so you can give them to that special person.
- Money - don’t be cheap, when you talk to someone offer them a drink or pay for lunch. Especially when you want to impress them. Don’t stand there waiting for others to pay.
Also check this video to help you packing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIk8v__Osm8
Finally we’ve come back to the demo. Please remember: A demo is not the latest build of your game! It is designed for showing the core experience of your game to a new audience in a short session!
- Don’t try to show everything - show the core. Maybe create content just for the show. A level which is easier or shorter than it would normally be, but does allow a new player to jump right in.
- Have a video to show all the other cool stuff that is in the game and leave the players wanting more.
- Automatically go to the video when no one is playing.
- Don’t explain everything. People just want to have fun, not play a lengthy tutorial for a game they may never buy.
- Localize your game for the host country. People will understand your game better and it is polite. Maybe learn to speak some basic words.
- Make sure everything works!
Stuff you would also need to take when going on holiday, which I’ve put here just for packing convenience.
- Laptop + charger
- Phone + charger
- Power adaptor + power board; to save money on buying multiple power adaptors for all the items you need to plug in.
- Flight/train/bus ticket
- Hotel / AirBNB reservation
- Clean clothes and underwear
- Comfortable shoes; you’ll be doing a lot of standing, walking, dancing
- Toiletries; don’t expect the AirBnB to have everything ;)
- Something to read, get your mind of things