There’s no avoiding conferences these days. Every year, a handful of companies host a large number of them across the country, whether it’s a comic-book related event (like San Diego Comic-Con), a gaming oriented tournament (EVO 2K in Las Vegas) or a more informative, educational type of conference (like this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco).
Whatever the case, there are those that are new to these events, and, at first, may be overwhelmed by what they may have to offer. Fortunately, as a veteran of several of these events, I have some sage advice that will certainly come in handy when it comes to getting the most out of them.
Heed these tips well, because they’ll definitely come in handy when you’re hitting the show floor for the first time.
Wear Comfortable Shoes:
This cannot be stressed enough. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking at a conference, whether it’s running around on the show floor to see what all has to be offered, or making your way to a forthcoming appointment in an adjacent hotel. This requires a lot of walking around, so make sure you have a good pair of shoes on you. They can be sneakers or dress shoes, but make sure they aren’t providing any discomfort for the sake of looks, because you’ll have some major callouses as a result. Try to get some comforters for them as well, as you feet will thank you for them the next day.
Don’t Be Shy:
Most of the time, conference events such as GDC or PAX East are a great way to meet up with other people and chat about things in the industry. Some of you may not be used to this, working online all the time or afraid of how to approach someone at an event. But these type of get-togethers are made to have people reach out to one another, so don’t be afraid to give them a try. Bring a stack of business cards, find a good conversation or speaking event that appeals to you, and reach out to others. You’ll be surprised just how much you have in common with some of these folks.
Explore and Learn:
Another convenient thing you’ll find at most of these conferences is how many new companies are on the floor presenting interesting new ideas. For instance, at GDC this week, there will be a huge emphasis on new virtual reality machines, including a team-up between HTC and Valve that’s likely to debut this year. With that, explore a little bit. Roam the show floor and see what’s all out there. Talk to companies and get some perspective as to why they’re working on a certain project. And, provided the line isn’t too long, go ahead and try it out. You may just discover one of the hottest new trends out there, even if it’s by accident.
Don’t Miss Out On Parties, But Remain Steadfast:
During conferences, it’s easy for companies to hold parties in an effort to get people together and provide a good time after the daily events of a show unfold. Most of the time, newcomers won’t get invites to these, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying to stop by.
Some of these parties, depending on capacity, are easy to accommodate newcomers, and they provide a great open door for people to come in and talk with others about various business. And even if it’s not an official party, bars in the area – like the always-crowded main one at the W Hotel in San Francisco – are a superb way to network, even if you’re just getting your feet wet.
At this parties, be sure to have a good time. Don’t be so super-serious about your project, but do talk about it, and where its fascinations lie. Have a good time with it, don’t always take a head-on seller approach. After all, these people are considered your peers, and usually they’ll provide a good open ear, provided it’s not a full-on “buy this” approach.
Also, at parties, it can be a little easy for people to drink too much and not be themselves. In this case, make sure to remain hydrated. Having a drink isn’t a bad thing, but have some water on hand so that things don’t get too out of touch. Have fun, but don’t go over the top.
Keep Uber On Call:
Finally, when it comes to traveling, being on foot can be a real pain, especially if you’re staying at a hotel a few blocks away. Plus, at night, it can be dangerous if you’re on your own. In that case, it helps to have the Uber or Lyft app on hand, so you can safely call for a ride back to the hotel. It may cost a few dollars, but you’ll make it back in one piece and be ready to start the next day with ease. Plus, if you have had a bit much to drink, it certainly beats trying to stumble your way back to your hotel room.
Good luck, and remember – have a good time! The quieter you stay at conferences, the less people learn about you. Go, talk, explore, have fun!