How to Network at Game Industry Events

Thanks Marc Mencher and Dustin Clingman for this pearlette. Some quality bits and bobs, which, if you read thoroughly might answer some of your assignmnet questions:

The rules of social networking are somewhat like the rules for multiplayer programming, if you plan on supporting multiplayer in your game, there are certain rules and guidelines you must follow. As game industry event season is definitely upon us, we’ve put together a few guidelines to help you make the most of these events to boost your career and enhance your professional reputation. While some of these guidelines may sound fairly obvious and others a trifle Machiavellian, they are not designed to insult your intelligence or diminish your honesty. Rather, they are designed as reminders and pointers as to how to best showcase you, your personality, and your abilities.

It doesn't matter who you're talking to, as long as you’re talking.
To make the most of a networking event, spend 75 percent of your time with people you don't know. Sure, it’s okay to go to a function with a small group of friends, but use them as "home base". And if you find yourself spending too much time at home base, walk away from your group, go get a drink, or head outside to the smoking section. Even if you don’t smoke. Force yourself to meet people along the way.

Networking is a numbers game. 
In this game you’re making connections and getting your name circulating. Talking to people gets you jobs. U.S Department of Labor statistics show that 80% of jobs are unadvertised and
 obtained through networking. The ultimate goal in your networking efforts is to position yourself to interview and, even better, get hired for these unadvertised jobs. You never know who can help you, so talk to as many people as you can.

The most important information you want to get from people when networking is the names of other people you can contact. 
Never just out and out ask for a job unless the person you are networking with brings up the subject. Asking someone for employment is an immediate turn-off. Yes, you want a job and/or advance your career but when networking your focus should be on: gathering information to help tailor your resume presentation; gathering insider information and opinions; and finding mentors. The time for directly asking for a job or job advice occurs after a networking event, and once you have established an ongoing relationship.

Networking is really just focused socializing. Do it for life! 
Don’t let the prospect of networking scare you. Approach it as simply focused socializing. And for you types who don’t like the socializing thing – get over it. This is simply something you must learn to do. If you’ve taken the time to train yourself as a game programmer, then take the time to learn how to socialize. Most of your focused socializing will occur with other programmers, so it should be easy to get a conversation going if you bring up some game development issue. Most likely you’ve already had these kinds of conversations in the past. From this point forward, you are merely socializing with a particular goal in mind: to position yourself for the next opportunity. This does not necessarily mean the next job. It means the next opportunity. Networking also leads to business ideas and other opportunities.

Prepare yourself to network before the event.
It’s useful to have a couple of topics on general issues for conversation. Before a networking event, brush up on current affairs. And easy and painless way to do this is by purchasing, for example, a People Magazine, logging onto CNN, etc. And be sure to visit several game industry related websites to get updated on current game development issues. Be ready to engage in conversations, several kinds of conversations. For example, you should know the top selling games for the last quarter and for the year. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable socializing with strangers, so preparing yourself ahead of time will ease that discomfort. If you can’t think of an opening line when approaching people, how about just asking if they’ve had the opportunity to play the latest hot game? That will get the conversation flowing.

Assessing your networking performance.
After the networking opportunity is over, sit yourself down and evaluate your performance. How many business cards did you give out? How many did you get? What did you do that worked for you? What did you do that did not work? Can you think of another way to increase your effectiveness next time? Recognize that there is more to networking than greeting people. Develop a step-by-step plan for how you'll build relationships and how you can effectively tell your story.

To effectively network effectively at a trade show, bring a
 stack of business cards. Even if you’re not working at the moment, create your own clever personal business card. Get a personal website and email address that you will keep for the rest of your life. For example, www.YourName.com and YourFirstName@YourName.com work well. Business cards should be white on the back so people can take notes.

Networking can happen anywhere, any time. It isn't an activity confined to game industry events. Always carry business cards. You never know when or where you will encounter opportunities.

Enroll people in your life goals. Prepare a personal positioning pitch.
You want to be a game programmer so, by gosh, be one! And tell people about it. Don’t just share your dreams and goals with your friends and family, tell everyone you ever meet. Get together your own personal positioning "pitch" and use it everywhere you go. Does this mean that you can never socialize freely again? Will you always be performing? Well, yes and no. Don’t hang with people you don’t like, or participate in activities you don’t enjoy, simply because you think it will get a job. Rather, be as authentic and honest as you can be in life. But also be honest with yourself. Aren’t you already "on stage" when you socialize? Just focus what you do naturally. You socialize, so do it with a purpose and a 1-minute pitch in mind. This is a 1-minute summary of who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you hope to accomplish. It will take you time to create and hone this pitch, so be patient with yourself. You will find it easier to network if you prepare yourself ahead of time for the experience.

Enroll people in the belief that you are a game programmer. You will create one kind of pitch for socializing at game industry events like GDC and E3, and then another when following up in active job-hunting mode. Memorize your pitch. Be your pitch. This is why no one else but you can create it. It must be laced with your passion, and it will change as you accomplish, grow, and change focus in your life. If your pitch begins to sound like a script, then this is a sign that you may not be feeling totally in synch with what you are saying. If so, then rewrite your pitch. It is paramount that your body language, facial expression, tone of your voice all be congruent with what it is you are saying.

Here is a sample 1-minute pitch:

Pitch Goal: Establish credibility and fish for future Virtual Search business

Hi, my name is Marc Mencher. I am a programmer by training, I used to work for Spectrum Holobyte, Microprose and 3DO. I started programming games in high school on my TI calculator, but I guess I am dating myself now.

As I advanced in my career I began hiring for my own development teams but could not find recruiters who understood the games market. Therefore I started recruiting my own people. Who knew, years later, I would become a professional recruiter exclusively for the games industry?

In fact all the recruiters at Virtual Search worked in the game industry before joining our team. This means we have people who themselves understand the game development process. You want respected game industry experts representing you. Not someone who is clueless and only able to match buzzwords off a resume, or, worse yet, risk your confidentiality by blasting out your information to the planet, with no regard, focus, or direction.

At Virtual Search we’re about a long-term career management relationship. I am proud to say that Virtual Search has become the most respected recruiting firm servicing the games industry. Game companies rely on us exclusively to locate their pivotal talent.

Set a goal for the number of new contacts you want to make before the event begins. 
Be aware of time. Spending too much time with anyone defeats the purpose of networking. Your objective is to take advantage of the entire room. If you spend two to three minutes with each prospect, that gives you a possibility of 15 to 20 contacts per hour. Ten minutes each equals six contacts. When you're in a room full of prospects, every minute counts! Obviously the size of the event dictates the amount of time you should spend with each person.

Do your research to zero in on specific people.
Target six industry people you intend to meet and develop a connection with beyond a brief networking introduction. For example, you know that Pete Programmer, who created that new radical sci-fi action game from Nuclear Beach Software, will be presenting on graphic issues at the next GDC. You want to work for Nuclear Beach. This person would be a good target for you. Research Pete Programmer. Who is this guy? What other games did he create? What other game companies did he work for? Has he written any articles? Prepare yourself to connect with Pete.

Show up early to the event and stand close to the entrance at the beginning and end of the event.

Place your nametag where it can easily be read. 
The upper right hand side of your torso is the most common spot. Having your nametag hanging off a backpack does not make it easy for people to identify or approach you. And, trust us, it doesn’t look that cool.

Keep the conversation short and sweet, or people will lose interest. 
That is why having a one-minute sales pitch on yourself is so important.

Listen! Allow people to boast.  Show interest. Pay attention.
Listen to the other person you are connecting with. Remember that your goal is to gain and exchange information. Solicit the information you want by directing the conversation. You may have to start with a series of easy questions by walking your target down the path you design. You can’t accomplish your goals if you’re the person doing all of the talking. Ask open-ended questions of the other person like "What is it you enjoy most about your work? Where do you live? What hobbies do you have?"

Take notes.
Write notes on the back of the other person's business card or on a small pocket-size notebook you carry with you for easy note taking. If you can’t take notes during the conversation, then jot down whatever you can recall from the conversation immediately after you leave.

When you get to your hotel room or return from the networking event enter the names of the people you meet into a database or filing system.
Transfer all notes taken, personal information you learned, topics of conversation you spoke about, things you have in common, etc. Code these leads as "Industry Leads" in a personal database. You will need this information later as you attempt to continue the networking process.

Immediately, and always, follow up.
Follow-up is key to the networking process. After meeting a contact send a "great to meet you" e-mail. Reference any notes you took on the conversation you had with this person. If your listening skills were working then you will have plenty of fodder to use.

Do something constructive with the names and information you've gathered. Stay in touch with the most meaningful contacts.

While this time of year brings networking to the forefront, it should be a year-long practice. Constantly identify organizations, events, professional groups and social clubs whose members meet your profile characteristics, and get involved. Get to know people, and let them know what you do. Volunteer for committees, attend conferences, and maximize opportunities that might spin off from the formal sessions. And at each of these events apply the preceding guidelines and you will not only get in the game, you will stay in it.


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