Attending Your First Convention Post KS
Even though I've been attending the Origins Game Fair regularly since 2000 and had attended a few times before that, this year was special for me since it was less than two months after my first published game "Legends and Lies" had been released. While I spent the lion's share of the convention running and promoting the game, I formulated a few key strategies I would like to share with anyone preparing to get the word out about their game at a gaming convention. Here they are, in no particular order:
1) Carry your game with you at all times. What I considered my "guerrilla" marketing was always having my game with me and visible. Gamers are naturally curious, especially when they see a game they may not have seen before. Over the course of the convention, many people struck up conversations with me because they saw the game in my hand or sitting out on the table while I was playing other games, or even while I was eating lunch. If you have people with you that are willing to carry a game with them, the more the merrier. It's free and effective. This actually leads to my next strategy...
2) Have a thirty second pitch. When people ask you about a game, they are not usually looking for a full rules explanation, so you should have a 15-30 second pitch about your game covering it's theme, basic mechanics and what makes it cool or unique. If they want more after that, you can expand starting with the area that seemed to be of most interest to them. You can usually tell what that is by the questions they ask or the reaction they have when you talk about the game.
3) Invest in a banner or something to draw people to your area. I spent about $100 on a six foot portable standing banner, and it was worth every penny. People would stop by just to see what the game was about, and I found out later that the banner was being used by the game headquarters table to aid with directing players to their games. "Do you see that banner with the waving alien? Your game is past that and to the left".
4) Promote at the convention. It goes without saying that you should have been promoting your game's premier before the convention, but there is no reason to stop once the convention starts. Flyers can either be handed out or posted around the convention center (check with convention staff to see if this is allowed), but I also found great success with free promo cards. What worked for me was setting out packs of promo cards, along with a paper that listed my event times and reference numbers. Whatever you use, including the event number is important because you want to make it as easy as possible for anyone wanting to join your game to sign up.
5) If you don't have an outgoing personality, bring someone who does. I saw several small and/or new game publishers either sitting in their booths reading or just sitting at a table waiting for people to come to them. That is a surefire way to waste your time (and money in the case of a booth), because little to no interest is being generated. I understand that not all of us are good or comfortable with dealing with the public, but if you are one of those people who has some trouble drawing a crowd, get help that is outgoing.
6) Schedule your game for early in the convention, off-hours and times that don't conflict with popular events. By far the busiest day I had running my game was the first day of the convention. Most of my events were full, and some were well over capacity. The reason for this, I believe, was that there were far fewer choices on the first day, especially before late afternoon. As a result, people were more willing to take a shot with an unknown or new game. Also, the dealer's hall did not open until the following day. My least busy time was Friday afternoon which was one of the most packed times for events, so it goes to show you that timing is everything.
7) Have fun, and let your enthusiasm for your game show. I know running games all day, even your own, can be taxing and get repetitive. Always keep in mind what it was that drove you to create your game and what you love about it, as that will naturally shine through. If you are not excited about your game, you can't expect anyone else to be either.
8) Have a sales plan in place. Assuming you don't have a table or booth yourself, if possible get your game into the dealer's room, and steer anyone wanting the game to the dealers that carry it. This can generate interest and sales. You should also make sure the people selling your game know you are running it at the convention so they can point people who are interested in your direction too. If that's not an option, and you are selling directly (assuming the convention allows it), be sure to have enough copies with you and information in the form of a card or flyer with your website so people know how to purchase your game after the convention.
9) Plan to connect with fans post-convention. This is one of things I didn't do until I realized late in the convention that I was missing opportunities to build up Shoot Again Games Facebook and Twitter followings. The benefits of this should be obvious if you are planning on producing any more games or expansions. I wish I had thought to have a little sticker, postcard or flyer that said "follow us at" and the info on it. I will next time.
By the end of the convention it was clear that attending conventions is something I need to be being more of and I recommend anyone who is interested in generating more interest post-Kickstarter do the same.
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This article was originally published in July of 2014.