Networking could seem pretty obvious topic, yet there are rules to this part of the industry that many do not know about. Walk around fairs, shake hands, collect business cards… In theory, it all sounds extremely simple!
However, there are some points that need to be kept in mind when we plan to expand our contacts list. During Ludicious 2018, in a rather enlightening dialogue on the subject, Vlad Micu, Katleen Ewers and Michael Liebe offered food for thought about the best strategies you can adopt. As promised, here’s our summary!
Why Should You Network?
Any freelancer in any field will be able to confirm this: networking is as important as the quality of one’s work. The more people you know, the more likely you are to know more, exponentially increasing your chances of getting hired or funded.
It is essential to step into the arena every once in a while. Doing so lets you give a face to your business, meet people and show interest in other people’s work. Additionally, especially in the gaming industry, it is not difficult for these meetings to develop into solid friendships or trustful relationships, unlocking even more possibilities.
An example? Coder A knows journalist B and is looking for a graphic designer that can help their game convey a certain message. At the same time B knows C, a very good and rather well known artist who at the moment is looking for a job. B also knows that A is a trustworthy and skillful person, so they decide to act as an intermediary between the two; a collaboration is born between A and C. B also earns an exclusive preview of the game for their publication.
Or again, introducing yourself at an event could be the way to put your project under the eyes of the right people, in a much more intimate and relevant manner than what an email could do. Pitching to a publisher or getting feedback is a lot more effective, if done in person.
But how is it done? Do we really know how to introduce ourselves, look professional and summarize our project in the short time frame of a meeting?
Networking Never Ends
The winning card of a good a contacts hunter is to be always updated. No matter which field you work in, you should learn to recognize faces, watch videos and read news. This can turn out to be the most effective way to stand out. “Especially in the world of video games – explained Vlad – even the CEOs of big companies are dressed in a very casual way. And they often do it on purpose “.
He told us of when, at E3, no one except him was able to recognize Sony president and CEO Hazuo Hirai – and how his game was the only one among the indies that were on display he tried Again: stay up to date and read all the time, especially before an event, so that you can know its guests and recognize their appearance. This is the only key to success and without doing that you risk losing numerous opportunities.
The Networker Starter Kit
Comics or video-game conventions provide a very informal environment and allow you to pick a rather casual attire. There is no need to be forced into particularly elegant clothes, nor to adopt different manners than your usual ones.
As far as clothing or accessories are concerned, you might want to wear something original that will make you recognizable on every occasion.
In addition to being always clean and tidy (an already difficult task, if you walk all day indoor, in very high temperatures), you’ll need a distinctive mark. Whether it is a jewel, a haircut, or a particular combination of colors, we highly recommend you to choose a style or an outfit to be recognized by. Like Mark Zuckerberg and his famous gray t-shirt or Ethan Klein’s woolen cap, you will become what you wear.
Following this tip, our Jodie did a great job wearing a baseball cap during PGC and Gamesforum. Probably, she’ll for ever be the “hat girl”, but she will be remembered! How about you?
Another essential tool is the business card. This must contain an email address, the name of your company, your own, a website and a way to find you on social media. It should also be white and have enough space for a few notes: just in case you need it. Forget intricate designs or colors, and forget different shapes than the standard! The business card should be practical before anything else.
Finally, you will need to have a curated and active Linkedin profile, so that people can find you once the even is over!
What Do I Do Now?
Having followed our advice to the letter, you’ll make it into a convention, armed with accessories and business cards. Where should you go from here? What should you say? It is easy to get lost in front of many people; but do not despair!
Start by trying out a game, interacting with the developer, asking questions about it and showing you interested. You must be passionate and sincerely attentive to what is said to you. Only then you’ll be able to introduce yourself and talk about your work. First make those in front of you feel important, then talk about yourself, hinting something about why you should keep in touch, and leaving a business card for the follow-up. There is no need to speak in depth at the fair: there’ll be time for that later, via email or social media! The important thing is to make a good impression on those in front of you, avoiding to bore them down or to hold them back.
You can try using the person’s name: remember it and greet them by chance, passing by the next day. That may seem like a stalker technique, but in fact it is very useful not to stay in the shadows! Introduce yourself while you’re all taking a break and chat in groups. Get to know the greatest number of people, without distinction. Do not be afraid, jump into the fray and show with your body language that you are available to chat. If you forget the folded arms and the rigid attitude, people will naturally come to you.
A Couple Pro Tips
Do not be afraid to attend large conventions! As Vlad recalled, the most productive events he took part in have been in Asia, India or South America. If that’s the case – he advised – identify other minorities, know them and join them as you all get a feel for the place. Visit the event with those whom you have something in common but be ready to split from them at any time, if you want to do different activities.
Do not bring out your business card from pockets close to your “dirty” body parts. Steer clear of pants or fanny packs … it is not respectful to pull out a card from there, especially for some Asian cultures. Keep them in your bag or backpack instead, in a dedicated and accessible pocket.
If you want to approach someone, but they’re in a hurry or you are afraid of disturbing them, be tactical. Start by saying that you are going somewhere else, or looking for friends. Compliment them for what they said at the conference, for the game they’re working on, or find something that concerns them. Ask a couple of questions, which have to be targeted and effective. Say who you are and what you do, leave a business card and bid them goodbye, moving away; do it all in less than five minutes. This technique especially useful to approach big industry names who are often busy.
Is This It?
Absolutely not! Once you have gathered enough contacts, it’s time to work them. A good follow-up will come in handy if performed promptly.
As soon as you have a free moment, send an e-mail to whomever you think is most appropriate. Follow the others on Twitter and LinkedIn, leaving a short message about where you met. A simple “Hey, it was a pleasure to meet you at this or that event, thanks for the chat!” can open a lot of doors.