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Networking tips for indies

By on April 29, 2014
Image shared on a CC license by Joe Abbruscato
Image shared on a CC license by Joe Abbruscato
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This is a guest post from Arpita Kapoor of Indian game developer Mech Mocha.

For indie game developers like you and me, it’s always difficult to manage multiple things on hand. One time this becomes prominent, is when you’re attending an event. You’ll be interacting with zillions of people, like we had to at the Game Developers’ Conference. You’ll be meeting editors, game enthusiasts, aficionados, and you might have to showcase your game to the audience as well.

While we recently shared some meaningful tips on showcasing your game at important events, it is of great importance that you network with the right people as well. Game conferences such as E3, Casual Connect Asia are coming up on the timeline, and here are some tips that you might find useful.

Social media as a precursor

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Tweet about the event a couple of days beforehand. By this time the event organizers usually come up with the official hashtag and other attendees do keep a track of it.You might as well tweet a Hello to a couple of important people that you wish to get in touch with beforehand. The art is to not go overboard to the extent that the person makes all sorts of efforts to avoid you in person.

Try to pay special attention to people whom you really want to connect. As an example, we tweeted to Chelsea Stark, Mashable before GDC with Pablo’s hair colored like hers!

Names and faces

I don’t know if you are a “faces” person or a “names” person, but you or one of your team members has got to be one of these. With tonnes of people running into each other at a conference or evening parties, people who either remember faces or names will network faster.

Now, you’ll reason that conferences have passes with names on it, but you are relying on probability. All big names usually wear their pass in reverse & not so big ones just fall prey to their pass naturally getting reversed. All in all, only if you know the face is when you won’t loose on meeting the next big shot. At GDC, we just ran into Ed Fries at a help desk in South hall and guess what? His pass was reversed. But who doesn’t recognize Ed Fries by face? We started talking to him about random stuff, his family wanting to visit India etc., and his pass did turn over naturally and it just said “ Ed Fries ”. Now by any chance if you didn’t know who Ed Fries is by name, nobody on earth can help you!

Know your purpose

You are an indie and you don’t have budgets to spend on conference vacations, please know your targets. Take inspiration from Daenerys Targaryen in GOT (Got a good start to the 4th season, right?). What’s your goal ? What are you looking for?

  • Publishers (Fix meeting beforehand, these guys don’t hang out on streets)
  • Investors (Fix Meetings, obviously!!)
  • Fellow Devs (Go to IGF Showcase, Indie Megabooth or any equivalent showcases, indie parties, parties and parties)
  • Press (Go to Press parties such as those organized by Venturebeat, Touch Arcade, et al. Hangout around press only rooms at conferences)

Be clear on what your goals are for the show. Focus on those, evaluate how you did daily at the end of each day at the conference and improve. On the other hand, here’s a key cheat from Jason Della Rocca, Co-Founder, Execution Labs, Montreal that will help you avoid going too touchy about your goal:

Even if you have a specific goal (eg, getting a deal, finding funding, etc), it is better for you to just relax and view networking as an opportunity to share and make friends. Ask for advice on your project, give a tip to someone in need, and generally be curious and sincere. No one wants to get a hard pitch/sale while they are mingling with colleagues.

Flirt, but don’t propose

No one has the time to listen to your entire story. You can’t expect people to listen about the efforts you put in while developing your game while the world around was playing Flappy Bird! But, you need to make sure, that you’ve conveyed an important aspect of your game or your progress that helps them recall your name with ease.

Follow the rules of THE ACT game. Don’t overdo it. Keep some conversation starters ready, talk about your own country, how is the game industry at your place. With us, everyone on the globe is inquisitive enough to know the future of India as a mobile games market , so we talk about that. You find your own but have crisp not so obvious conversation starters! Ask for their business card and give yours. Give them a badge/pin/sticker etc with your game’s character on it. Make it happen!

Be in the right place

Talks, sessions and expo are just to make you feel good about the whole event. Most networking happens at parties and hotel lobbies.You don’t need anyone’s permission to hang out at a hotel lobby, for GDC it’s Marriott, W , Inter Continental etc. For parties, keep looking early on EventBrite, PocketGamer GDC Party Guide, FellowShip of GDC Parties group etc. Register early as most parties are limited by venue capacity.

Other than publicly announced parties, there are these ‘sexy’ ones that need private invites (such as those organized by Microsoft, Touch Arcade, Ubisoft), start asking a few people you know in the industry to get you some invites, just ASK, if they can, they will. Now these parties won’t bring in deals for you, but you’ll meet people that can connect you further in the tree.

We met guys from Triple Point PR at the Pocket Gamer party, we met Dean Takahashi at the VentureBeat Party, we met developers from Get Set Games at Chartboost party, we met Josh Presseisen from Crescent Moon Games at Marriott lobby, we met Kalle from Rovio outside the Game Connection building. Now we won’t tell you what we got out of meeting these people, but you can guess that it’s fairly helpful!

Don’t underestimate the power of unusual places

You can really meet relevant people while waiting at a bus stop near the conference area, in a queue for a party, in a line at Starbucks around the conference area, at the airport while you are coming in or going back. Use these events for a quick chat. Ever heard of the elevator pitch?

These are some of the many tips that come handy when visiting such important conferences. As most of us indie devs travel from a different time zone altogether in order to attend such events, it becomes even more important to make sure that we make the most of it. We hope you find these tips useful. Do share your own experiences as well!

About Arpita Kapoor

Arpita is the Founder/Chief-Mocha at Mech Mocha Game Studios, an independent studio based in Ahmedabad, India. She is recipient of Most Prominent Female Indie at Indie Prize Awards , Casual Connect Europe and a past IGDA GDC Scholar. Her studio Mech Mocha is also part of one of India's best start-up accelerator programs - iAccelerator, IIM-A and they were part Chartboost University program as well. Arpita is also a Technical consultant at DIGIT, India's best Technology Magazine and is a programmer by profession. She loves cooking and dogs as much as games.