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  • The Essential Convention Checklist

    [09.19.19]
    - Kevin Giguere
  •  Attending conventions is a fun and rewarding affair, but can also be immensely stressful and time consuming. With so many small elements to remember, planning ahead is not always possible and it's easy to let a few elements slide which can lead to many headaches down the road. Following multiple convention showings for Arelite Core and Tech Support, I decided that establishing a handy checklist would be very useful for my process.

    The purpose of this list is twofold. First, it can help you properly plan your convention and ensure that you get the most out of it. Second, using this checklist can help you avoid forgetting anything as you travel, first from your studio to the convention, then on your way back. It casts a wide net, so it can be equally used for a large convention like PAX or Gamescon, down to your local convention. Simply check off elements as they're complete and accounted for, and again when departing the convention to return home.

    The essential convention checklist

    Accommodations

    These are the essentials of your trip and will answer all of those "Where" questions.

    • Convention space

    The first step to attending any convention is securing your place in the convention itself. These events will always have limited space and the more high profile the convention, the faster these spaces will go. It's important to keep on top of when you can apply and never delay.

    Conventions can also be very expensive. If you can't afford booth fees, consider some alternatives. The Indie Megabooth offers space at a discount, while other conventions may have contests which can yield discounted space and other benefits. Keep an eye out, you never know.

    • Lodging

    Hotels can rapidly run out of vacancy during large events, regardless of if they're officially sanctioned or not, so be sure to book your reservations as soon as you can. Alternatively, you can find other accommodations such as AirBNB or even friends who are local to the event.

    Lodging will also impact how you travel to and from the convention, which may incur additional costs. Some conventions will provide buses which tour certain hotels to pick up and drop off attendees, which can save you extra fees and hassle. Be sure to keep informed of all the conveniences the convention offers.

    • Traveling

    Will you be driving to the event? Taking the bus, the plane? Your method of traveling will likely impact what you bring along. Although there's always a bare minimum you need to carry, more bulky items like screens and computers may not be as easy to manage, may influence your means of traveling and what you actually choose to carry along, as opposed to acquiring on location. Likewise, if you're driving across a long distance, you may need to make additional stops for food and sleep, which will influence your budget. 

    Further tips are provided in the electronics and furniture sections of this event.

    • Side events

    Many non-sponsored events are often planned in addition to the main convention, such as meet and greets, game launches and other parties. These are a great opportunity to meet people but can also have limited availability. Be sure to find them ahead of time and RSVP accordingly. The convention's official forums will often provide you with an initial starting point, but the bigger, more prestigious events may require knowing someone on the inside. As you network within the industry and engage with different circles, you'll likely have access to these opportunities more frequently.

    Marketing

    Among the most important aspects of your convention experience, your ability to brand your game, put the message out there and ensure that convention attendees have a memorable time. The devil is in the details here and a bit of creativity can go a long way.

    • Booth

    Your booth will be your home base for the duration of the con and can be an extension of your game. You can choose to customize it extensively to give it flavor beyond the expected banners, such as custom plush toys or items which are reminiscent of your game. I saw a game about moving boxes which had a bunch of boxes spread about. Having an distinctive booth can bring in a greater audience as well.

    Because you'll be doing a lot of standing, consider having a cushioned carpet as well. This can help make your con more comfortable, as well as add that extra touch for the attendee who's been walking all over the place for several hours.

    • Banners

    These include self standing banners, hanging banners and any signage towards your game. Be mindful of your booth space when getting these produced, as sometimes you'll be limited and will not be able to display as intended. Also, try to frame your game logo high on the banner, which will help attendees see it when crowds are forming.

    • Promo cards

    These are printed cards for distribution, which will provide all the relevant information about your game. At the least, it should include the name of the game and a link where people can find it. You can also include social media links and company logos, along with any promotional elements you deem necessary like screenshots and text.

    I recommend less text and more punchy blurbs. Give people a message which will be easy to remember and will stick with them in the sea of other games they'll see that day.

    • SWAG

    Any gear that you'll be giving away to promote your game. This includes T-Shirts, pins, or anything else you may conceive of. Keep in mind that SWAG can get very expensive, and that it's ok to limit how many buttons you put out so that you have some for the entire event. Also make sure that you always have articles ready for the influencers who may later come back and review your game.

    • Branded clothes

    The clothes you'll be wearing over the course of the convention, often t-shirts with your game's or company's logo, but you can also get creative like having some cosplay representing one of your characters, or anything else which will stand out in a crowd and draw people to your booth. Anything distinctive will give attendees a reason to give your game a second glance.

    • Business cards

    These won't be distributed as openly, but always keep a good amount on yourself as you travel to different events and during the convention. This gives influencers and media a direct way of getting back to you, but can also help with your networking and preparing future business plans. Also, be sure to get other people's business cards in general, which will enable you to do direct follow-ups if needed.

    • Mailing List

    Mailing lists allow you to keep in touch directly with your audience. Although social media like Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools, you can never be assured that your message will reach them since not every message gets properly delivered. Because mailing lists belong to you, you have a higher degree of control and will have an easier time getting your fans onboard.

    • Game copies

    If your game is out, you should be selling copies of your game on location. Simply print a series of codes and try to get those sales in. Because attendees will go home with plenty of different trinkets and promo cards, it's easy for your game to be lost in the fray, but a sale on location is an assured thing.

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