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GDC BizDev Diaries: Managing 150+ Meetings for Twelve Companies Without Losing My Mind (Part 1 of 3)

The first in a series of posts outlining how our consulting firm handled business development and marketing meetings for twelve very different companies simultaneously at GDC 2015.

Jay realized he wasn't going to be the best "employee" after leading his first start up for three years so he decided to do it again.  He founded The Powell Group in 2010 and the team has grown steadily since.  He's been building relationships and negotiating contracts in the game industry for 17 years now and if it pertains to expanding business networks or promoting games and projects his team can probably help you at www.powellgroupconsulting.com 

As I’m writing this, it's mid-day Friday after GDC, and I'm somewhere over the Rockies headed back to our offices in North Carolina. We were only in San Francisco for three days this year but my team has been working on this show for nearly three months.

Managing trade shows wasn't something I had in mind when I opened the doors on The Powell Group in 2010. We were approached before GDC last year by a trade organization to manage the show for their delegates. I had spent the first seven years of my career as an agent, so I was very familiar with how to handle conferences from a business development perspective. We bid on the project and were awarded the contract. GDC 2014 went very well, and we were asked to take on the responsibility again this year.

In the course of a GDC week we are responsible for scheduling “quality” meetings for all our clients, managing an invitation-only dinner for this trade organization and a small group of industry executives, and finally scheduling meetings for The Powell Group. During our initial work in 2014 the phrase "quality meeting" kept coming up in all our discussions on expectations. I was a bit concerned as I know an individual's version of "quality" can be highly subjective. Finally I just asked during a call one day, "What do you all mean by a 'quality' meeting exactly?" I wanted a good definition of this to get an idea of what would be expected. There was a brief silence (during which I'm sure they were questioning who they had chosen for this job), and they said simply, "We only want meetings with companies that have a real interest in meeting with our delegates."  I chuckled and was immediately relieved. I smiled and explained that those were the ONLY meetings I ever scheduled for my clients or myself.

November 2014 (121 days until GDC)

We didn't start planning the 2014 show until January last year and we all wanted to get a head start this year. We negotiated and executed the contract in late October/ early November for the 2015 show. As we had worked together at one show already we were able to do this fairly quickly. All parties were clear on expectations, a budget was agreed upon, and GDC 2015 was officially underway. Once we had the agreement in place we began with a high-level overview of the development teams the group would be bringing this year. The Powell Group has its own clients as well, so through all the conversations we had to factor in the needs of our existing companies. Most of the teams that would be returning to the show we had worked with in 2014, there was only one newcomer. Again, this simplified the process as we didn't have to learn about the new delegates from scratch.

December 2014 (91 days until GDC)

The next step was to draft the application that would be sent to all of the potential companies belonging to the trade organization. This year we were invited to participate in that process, which allowed us to ask very targeted questions that we could use to estimate the amount of attention a potential company would need. The objective here wasn't to eliminate "difficult" clients, but to dictate how we would approach each company.

It's important to mention here that there is a drastic difference between the clients I had in the 90s and 2000s as agents and the clients my firm has now. In those days all of my clients were either developers or small regional publishers. Therefore the approach to every meeting was virtually the same:

  • Find out what the partner was looking for
  • Show or demo the game(s) that fit that description
  • Work towards a deal for publishing or distribution

Our company today still works with developers who need publishing partners but we also have teams that we help self-publish, technology-based companies like XLOC that are providing software solutions to publishers and developers, a group who wanted to share the various tax and cost benefits of expanding to their area, and one of the world's largest lottery ticket manufacturers who had a very interesting new take on F2P user acquisition. The bottom line: We needed to know as much as we could about each team to know how to approach GDC just for them and what resources would be needed on our side to do that.

Once we had that application drafted, it was sent to all the delegates and in a few weeks we were able to review the responses and make our decision on who would would be attending GDC with us. Once the decision was made we immediately went to work. I would be traveling to meet face to face with the teams in January and I didn't want to wait until then to let them know what information and materials we would need. Based on what each of our clients was doing at the show we crafted an outline of what they must prepare to have a successful show. Some companies needed demos, some needed videos, and a few just needed to be prepared with a slide deck. We outlined questions that would most likely come up in their meetings and helped them address these with the materials (or coached them on how best to respond in a meeting).

Next time I'll cover the chaos of scheduling and the bulk of the work leading up to the show.  In the meantime:

Key Takeaways

  1. You have to start planning far ahead of the show to determine your goals or the goals of the companies you are working with.
  2. Start getting your content for the show ready early to avoid a thrash just before it's time to leave.
  3. Always aim for quality meetings over quantity

If you need a refresher, here's my post on prepping for E3.

 

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