Making a game is hard. Talking about your game is even harder.
Game developers are often passionate about their job. They know everything about their own game. Everything! From maximum draw call count to the latest version number. But when it comes to actually talk about their game, in a non technical way, they suddendly can't say a word. The silence is even louder when they have to talk with a person who can help them on a topic they don't master (marketing, communication or funding).
At a certain point you will surely find yourself in a game event where you will want to talk about your game. The most common case is a networking meeting or a game event (PAX, GDC, Game Connection...) where a lot of people with big wallets can help your game become more than an unknown project. Even if you don't need money or help, these meetings are a great way to meet other developers (if you can afford them).
You can find a lot of advice about how to improve your networking skills on the Internet. But this is a long process, requiring you to attend a lot of meetings to practice and become better. For the laziest ones here are essentials tips you need to know in order to survive any networking meeting.
Things to have in your bag
Talking to a total stranger who doesn't care about your game is enough stress. Don't impose yourself long minutes of embarassment because you have forgotten to bring basic yet essentials things with you.
You must have business cards and you must have a lot of them. During events it's possible that you give a lot of cards and it's important to not miss a good contact because you forgot to take enough.
That said, don't throw them to people's face. Nothing is more anoying than someone you don't know who starts giving you a business card even before a name. Don't be that kind of person. Take time before giving it. A business card is like a mark of respect and trust.
Classic mistake is to put other people cards in your card holder. Don't do that. If you do, you take the risk to show your interlocutor who you have already met. Sometimes it can be problematic.
Computer / tablet / smartphone
When you plan to talk to someone you have to know things about that person. Do your homework. Use your connected device to Google them. Look for their current position, games they worked on, games they have published... that kind of information. You can make the difference if you can answer to "Do you know what we do at [INSERT-A-COMPANY-NAME-HERE]?".
Never forget your pen. Never. It will be important at the end of your meeting.
How to introduce yourself
Chat introduction is surely the most important cause of stress in a networking event. Unfortunately, without introduction you won't talk to anyone. There is actually no reason to be stressed out. It's way easier than your think.
Be short and concise : My name is ... I am a ... I work on ... Short sentences will help making your point understandable.
Never talk about technical stuff if you're not asked to. Even if your game is awesome talk about it as if the person in front of you has no idea of what you're working on. You have to explain the core concept before anything else.
Don't forget that you're nothing. Don't presume that your reputation or the awesomeness of your game precede you. Be humble and patient. Don't be a jerk.
If you know who you want to talk to
Try to not be too impressed. Even if she is a CEO / President / Semi Goddess there are good chances that she is a human being after all. Don't stress too much about missing your introduction with an important people. If you do a lame performance, and if you don't put the person on fire or set you on fire during the chat, they probably won't remember you. The most important the person is, the most people try to reach them to talk about their stuff all day long. Cool down, they won't remember how lame you were.
Entering a circle
During events people talk a lot. And they rarely talk alone. Two people (or more) talking together is a circle.
Try to identify the tone of the talk. If it's friendly you can come closer. If it's too businessish don't move. Wait for the right moment to enter the circle.
Once you're close, be sure that every people has seen you. Eye contacts are a good way to know if you can join or not. Then let people talk, and join the circle with a good question. I like questions because you can enter, and have a direct contact with one of the people in the circle. Once you have your answer you are part of the circle and can continue to talk until you can introduce yourself and your needs. Easy.
What to do at the end of a chat
Ask for a business card
As it's not recommended to ALWAYS give your business card, don't ALWAYS ask for business card. If the chat was good and you feel you'll need to contact the person later ask for their card politely.
But when you have talked with someone more than 10 minutes, it was probably interesting, so please, don't forget to ask for a contact. Without that it would mean these 10 minutes were useless. I've seen too many shy game developers forgetting to ask for a business card and regret it later.
Write down your feelings
If you followed my advice, you should have a pen in your bag. Good, it's time to use it.
Once the meeting is over, write down your feelings about it.
Personnaly I write down basic but important informations:
- the date
- the context (why and where we met)
- in what the person can help me
- what do interest this person
- a grade on 5 points representing the vibe the person gave me
Ok, the grad can seem mean, but it helps me to remember my first impression. First impressions are important to me.
In the end
You will have to meet strangers. Sometimes it will be a matter of surviving. Don't stress too much, the only thing you have to do is to explain how awesome your game is... and follow the rules. Remember that networking can be a real "science" if you want to dig more. Internet will help you. Keep faith, don't be shy, you have nothing to loose. The only thing that could happen would be to actually get some money for your game!