5 Life-Savers for Your First Expo

Welcome to the Jungle!

Attending your first expo can seem like a shot in the dark. After having worked on your project for so long, it is the first big test: it’s time to gauge the reaction from the outside world. Being such a ‘‘hit or miss’’ situation, it can be very stressful for the team, and that’s without mentioning the price of attending such events.

As an independent video game studio, we know too well the feeling. While it’s impossible to predict the future, there is a way to put all the chances on your side. After having attended several events, we came up with a list of 5 tips that will help you prepare for your first expo.

1. Choose Your Spot Wisely

First things first, you need to get in touch with the staff and pay for your booth spot. Most exhibitors decide to go with a 10x10 booth, which is the cheapest and most reasonable option for a first show. If you’re not at the last minute, you can generally choose your booth’s location on the floor.

It may seem like a trivial matter, but having a good spot can greatly increase your visibility and traffic throughout the expo. There are 2 things that need to be evaluated when it comes to choosing your spot: the overall location on the floor and the location in the alley itself.

It’s important to see the whole picture here. A great spot on paper can be terrible once you’ve arrived there. Try to avoid the spots on the outer alleys of the expo and those near the bathrooms (self-explanatory). Finally, look around to see what kind of products or games will be showcased nearby. Some are extremely loud or obnoxious, and you might grow tired of them very quickly.

Finally, look at alley itself. Here at Bishop Games, we always choose a corner spot. Why? Because you can attract the traffic from two different angles. Corners are also where 4 different alleys collide, making it the most frequented areas of the show floor.

Our corner spot at PAX South 2015 brought a lot of people to the booth.

2. Book Everything ASAP

Time is of the essence. You need to act quickly once you’ve secured your booth spot. Depending on the scale of the event, hotel and transportation prices may increase quite a lot as time passes. The sooner you book your flight/hotel, the cheaper it will be. The same goes for the event’s services if you plan on using them (internet, renting, installation).

If you are really on a budget, consider checking out AirBnB instead of hotels. We’ve been using that alternative for the past year and we haven’t looked back since.

3. Check the Press List and Adapt your Message

Every big convention has a media list available for exhibitors. Get your hands on it as soon as it is available and get to work! There are different approaches when it comes to talking to the press; some email the same message to everyone, some others write a personalized one for every media…

At Bishop Games, we start by looking at each media on the list and what type of content/games it usually covers. There’s honestly no point in contacting a website specialized in strategy games if your game is an indie platformer. You’re wasting your time and theirs. It also shows them that you’re simply copy-pasting your email to everyone, which can be considered rude.

It’s also very time-consuming to write a personalized email to each media. What I recommend here is to be smart. If you are a big fan of that media and have an interesting thing to say that relates to your product and their content, do it. Otherwise, go straight to the point and ask for a meeting so they can see/try your product.

Press is an important part of a successful expo. IGN featured Light Fall at PAX South 2015 and the video reached 60 000 views in a matter of days.

4- Be Original and Eye-Candy

Another important point that can benefit your exposure is to have a neat looking booth. If you can catch people’s attention as they walk through the alley, you’ve done half of the job already!

Use your product’s strengths to your advantage. For example, if you have a party game with high-tempo music, bring a sound bar system and crank up the volume (to a respectful level). On the other hand, if your product is an immersive experience in a unique setting, decorate your booth in a similar manner to recreate the same emotions.

In our case, Light Fall is usually praised because of its beautiful art style. As such, we always bring the biggest TVs possible and all of our booth’s merchandise is showcasing the beauty of the game.

5- Use Social Media to Bring More Traffic

Last but not least, use social media to your advantage. In a big event like PAX, you can hop on Twitter and follow numerous hashtags about the convention. Be sure to find the popular hashtags and use them every time you tweet about the convention.

Doing that will put you in contact with a brand new audience, an audience that would not know you otherwise. Taking it a step further, try to create some sort of contest in a way to advertise your booth.

The logic is the same as tip number 4, you want to catch people’s attention. This time you not only reach out people from the nearby alley, but everyone following the convention’s hashtags.

In our case, we had a deal with Razer for PAX East 2015. Razer gave us some goodies to hand out for free. We advertised as such on Twitter and created a contest to win prizes around our demo. It definitely brought a lot of people to our booth.

The finisher: once people are at your booth, it’s time to seal the deal with your call-to-arm action plan. If you have a newsletter or any other way to keep contact with the people interested in your product, now is the time to push it.

We usually bring notepads or an iPad so people can write down their email address to follow the development of the game, and it works surprisingly well! It’s a good way to keep in touch once the event is over so you don’t lose the traction you worked so hard to build.

Creating a contest to win Razer goodies brought a lot of exposure at PAX East 2015.

To conclude, we’re not marketing gurus or anything of the sort but these tips have helped us greatly in our expos. While simply following these tips won’t ensure the success of your expo, it will be a good start!

If you want to learn more about the ups and downs of indie development, follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

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