5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Event Content

Behind-the-Scenes With GeekGirlCon’s Video Game Programming

One of the many Game Team planning meetings.

GeekGirlCon gave me a supportive space to explore roles as a staff UX designer, Manager of Digital Experience, Gaming Workshop Coordinator and my current role, Video Game Coordinator. When I moved past internal operations roles I discovered what I really felt passionate about: making awesome programming at GeekGirlCon a reality.

It is important to share the behind-the-scenes of what we do and learn in various roles because we serve our geek community. Our motivations are important and it’s rarely visible how we approach the work that goes into putting on an annual convention. We can also share how we do that with folks looking to do something similar. So how did I approach programming for Video Games at GeekGirlCon’17? All great organizing starts with a list. Here’s mine:

1. Make The Ultimate Wish List

Every year, the Games Team brainstorms our wish list for the upcoming year’s convention. Unlike the rest of the convention’s programming which is juried, the Games Team creates their own content, from Tabletop to Video Games. What do attendees tell us they want to see content-wise? What is currently making waves in gaming? What sounds impossible but really amazing? What are our priorities? Are we on mission? Are we supporting our values?

Alyssa with our scrum board.

Our wish lists start BIG and we edit, edit, edit. I had a huge list. The things on my list that got the biggest responses ended up being the ones I pursued: the Let’s Play Stage and Tournaments. While both the Let’s Play Stage and Tournaments were ambitious on their own, I had to go wild. What about live streaming the whole thing?

2. Look In Your Own Backyard

The logistics for streaming were costly and wouldn’t happen without sponsorship. To pitch the idea to a sponsor, the first step was to create a schedule of content. We chose to stream the Let’s Play Stage. The stage would be a series of 1-hour Let’s Play sessions in front of a live audience. I reached out to folks I knew who worked at local studios and who loved eSports and gaming.

Attendees get one-on-one time with you and your content. The time feels personal and you foster a great community connection.

The great thing about the Let’s Play Stage is that it is a low touch investment. My goal was to make it as easy as possible for folks to be involved and for both sides to feel like it was a huge win. Bring a build of your game and talk about it/play it for an hour for an audience/engage with them. Attendees get one-on-one time with you and your content. The time feels personal and you foster a great community connection.

I could immediately think of five people who had rad games I wanted to hear about. Also, I guessed some of the folks within the GeekGirlCon org felt the same way. The great thing about a volunteer org is that people are there because they’re passionate. This was no different. GeekGirlCon staff were thrilled to be involved.

I also like to check in with other teams to explore opportunities to work together. We have so much great content in the works that talking to the all-up Programming Team was a must. What were they up to? Could we work together on content? When we found time to chat, I learned about a potential panel of voice-over actresses. Some of which had worked on video games. I collaborated with Meagan, our Director of Programming to draft pitches for how the voice-over folks could be involved.

3. Go Wild But Have a Plan B

While all the above was happening, I kept hearing a voice ask, “What are you going to do if the streaming plan doesn’t work out?” That voice was my manager, Alyssa. As tough as it was to hear, Alyssa was right. Things were trending favorably in that direction. But convention planning is an emotional rollercoaster. Until we have final, final confirmations in-hand, we can’t let out those sighs of relief.

Actual footage of us coming up with wild ideas.

So what was our plan B? Well, even if we didn’t get the streaming sponsorship, the Let’s Play Stage would still be a rad addition to our programming. Also, we could explore posting the content to our media channels post-event. It wouldn’t go without documentation, especially if the content was that good. While we didn’t need a finalized schedule to do the pitch, it was almost done when we had our initial conversations. On the sponsorship side, we had two contenders. Ultimately, sponsorship didn’t happen. But having a strategy early on to support our sponsorship pitch for next year was a good move.

4. Master Your Communication

Planning is only part of the process. Managing the process and seeing it through to the day of the event is just as important. Imagine GeekGirlCon is your whole world. You send out emails about programming and people take weeks to get back to you. Are you not being clear enough in your communication? Did the email get buried? Are you contacting the right person?

Frustrating? Sure. But your whole world is not everyone’s whole world. The good news is if you start early, you have time to worry. The other good news is, you don’t have to worry. 99% of the time the awesome people you’ve been working with are just busy being awesome. Following up is part of the job. So is keeping everyone in the loop. Plan out what your series of messaging will look like and stick to it. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Be brief and to the point — this is your communications mantra!
  • In the intro email share how many emails they will get, what they will be about and when they can expect to hear from you
  • Encourage them to contact you whenever they have a question or concern
  • When asking for things call out dates and use bullet points for items you’re asking for
  • Include an alternate way to reach you and the dates of the event (People are busy! This is super helpful)
  • CC a colleague on everything (Like a manager) — keep both sides honest!

In the unfortunate event that you have to sever ties with a partner, send an email expressing your concerns. It can be difficult but necessary to step away from a commitment, for either party. I like to err on the side of understanding but also, it’s a learning opportunity. There are just some folks you won’t work with again, depending on the severity of the situation.

5. Be Proactive, It’s Good For You

A big part of the programming schedule is the copy that gives attendees an idea of what to expect. There’s a Smash Sisters tournament? Awesome! What style? Are there prizes? Sign-ups? If you think follow-up emails are difficult to wrangle, so is getting that copy.

Being proactive is a great way to make both you and your partners happy. Since you’ve talked about how they want to show up at the event, you have some idea of their plan. Why not write a first draft of their blurb for them? Write it as if it’s the final copy as they might use it. (I’ve actually had that happen!) Even if they don’t use it, you’ve started the process. Sometimes, the biggest hurdle is starting. Amirite?

GeekGirlCon’16. Photo by Danny Ngan.

One of my favorite things about programming is working with others to make it a reality. I have some scaffolding in my head but the magic really happens when all the voices involved are heard. And I’m here to give you the platform to showcase the awesome work that you do. Being passionate about gaming and GeekGirlCon makes it easy to stayed motivated when things are great and when things get rough. And I’m always learning how to be the best partner I can be. Learning comes from doing. And one of the best outcomes of learning is sharing those new insights with others.

Tap the , share and follow me on Twitter for updates about official Video Game programming for GeekGirlCon’17!