Conferences are a great resource for individuals and companies working in games. There are a huge number of conferences on different aspects of game development around the world. Well known events such as E3 and GDC bring huge crowds and can be great events to attend, not to mention PAX and other events. Everyone who is anyone in games generally finds themselves drawn to these events, and if you are located in a different geographical location, the chance to meet face to face is not to be missed.
There are so many conferences and events, in fact, that it can be a little overwhelming. We find we have to pick and choose those events that will give us the biggest bang for the company buck. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s easy to get lost at an event like GDC and find yourself partying among the masses at the Microsoft party or other great events.
For the Sound Librarian team, an event such as Game Sound Con, AES or even GDC, is a chance to network, meet with business partners and potential clients, and generally build our business profile. We’re not attending for fun, that’s a pleasant side effect. We love living and working in Australia, but that puts us at a geographic distance that is vital to overcome. The same does apply even if you’re located in a different city or state. These events bring everyone together and if you’re off raving and doing shots at a huge party, you’re missing out on the most important part of the event.
Building a business relationship is about more than mutually beneficial projects or work for hire, it’s about getting to know people. If you had to choose between a complete stranger or that person you spent a couple of hours talking about generative audio with when looking for someone to do sound design for your new game, who are you going to talk to first?
A caveat has to go in here. You cannot attend these events and functions and spend your entire time asking people if they have work for you. Letting people know you’re available is fine, but it can’t be business all the time. There’s a fine balance to be found and it’s part of the challenge of building a successful career in games. We like to hang out at the after parties, or the after after parties because we LIKE each other. It’s no fun to hang out with someone who irritates you by asking for work every time you see them. Networking really is just about getting to know people, finding areas of common interest and generally having fun. It’s where work and play blur. And in all honesty, sometimes after the third party on a single night and talking yourself hoarse, the last thing you want to do is get up and be on a panel at 9am, or go see someone present on a topic of interest. This is where the work comes in. You network and build relationships at night and have business meetings, attend panels or talks, and be all business during the day.
It’s exhausting, and usually we’ve lost our voices by the end, but no matter how much you need sleep, you need to make the most of the time you have. As a side note, we suggest you avoid getting drunk. Having a few with everyone at the after party is certainly reasonable, but pace yourself. There is nothing more unprofessional than falling over drunk when networking or turning up hung-over to a meeting the next day (or worse, missing it!). Back to wearing your business hat, remember, even the parties are business, you’re there to get to know people and find out who you’d like to work with in the future.
This might seem a cold and calculating approach to attending these events, and it’s important to remember that we also attend them because we are passionate about game audio. We love hearing what everyone is doing, keeping tabs on new ideas, sharing good news and getting excited about new games we’d like to play. The reason we work in this industry is because of our passion, so these events are great value on a more personal level as well. It is about showing respect for the people around you. These are talented, passionate and extremely busy people. Many of them are tons of fun to hang out with, but enjoying yourself without losing control is the best balance of being relaxed while still being able to communicate.
But if you’re serious about this and want to make the most of the opportunity to attend these events, never underestimate the value of face to face contact in building relationships, working through challenges and building a future in this industry.