How to Make the Most out of Attending a Conference

Aurora Klæboe Berg
Jul 15, 2016 · 11 min read

Attending conferences can be a huge waste if you don’t spend your time wisely. I wanted to share how I prepare for, attend, and follow-up after any conference to make the most out of attending:

Preparations

Preparation, preparation, preparation. It’s the one thing that matters the most. However, if you only have time to prepare one thing before attending a conference, it should be to set a clear and measurable goal, which is where we’ll start:

Set a clear and measurable company and personal goal

When I was part of the game studio Dirtybit, one conference goal was to “Pitch Dean Takahashi to write about Fun Run 2 when it launches”, which I managed during Slush in 2014 and it resulted in this article.

Now that I’m part of Megacool, my goal for GDC is to meet and excite enough game developers to onboard 25 of them to our beta by the end of April.

An example of a personal goal is to step out of my comfort zone and make 75 new connections from networking. To make it more attainable, I’ll aim for 15 new connections each day.

Review the program for relevant presentations and plot them in your calendar

Most of my friends working for service providers (i.e. B2B companies, enterprise software vendors) don’t spend time going to talks. However, I have found that if you really want to build a strong relationship with a game studio, listening to their presentation, and using it in follow-ups and meetings, really helps to build rapport. It’s a great way to understand their struggles and concerns, and most importantly where you fit in and can provide value. I’ve been on both sides of this table.

Book meetings in advance

Hot tip: If you are a scrappy game developer you should try to book your service provider meetings during meal times to reduce your costs. If you are a scrappy service provider you should try to book coffee meetings to avoid expensive meal or drink costs.

Get a speaker slot!

My presentation from Casual Connect in San Francisco 2016.

In my experience, all speakers get their ticket for free, which means a lot of money saved for scrappy startups. This is especially true for service provider startups as there is a huge price difference for conference attendance for game studios and service providers. The hard part is that most conferences choose speakers half a year in advance, which is farther ahead than most startups are able to plan!

Another important benefit from speaking is that you are invited to special events, like the speaker dinner. This is a great place to mingle with industry veterans, interesting creators and decision makers, over a delicious meal. If you’re lucky, they might learn something about you that they will share with others. I experienced this as part of Dirtybit at Casual Connect in Amsterdam in 2015, where Corum Group after we spoke with them during one of the special events. They mentioned Fun Run in their presentation as an example of a game that had $0 user acquisition costs and still hit the top charts!

Picture from Corum Group’s presentation at Casual Connect in Amsterdam 2015

Announce on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that you will attend the conference

Update your company website, social media sites, LinkedIn, AngelList and CrunchBase profiles

Attendance — Meetings

Come prepared

Take notes during the meeting

Show, don’t tell!

1. Live demo showing how the product works in a live game. The demo takes approximately 1 minute.

2. iMessage chat with different GIFs from our live games to show what it would look like for a receiving player.

3. GIFs showing the various implementations you can do with Megacool.

Schedule time for post-meeting work

Attendance — Presentations

I usually give a presenter 5 minutes to convince me it’s worth my time

Be present — take notes!

Grab speakers before they go on stage, not after!

Team Crossy Road after a successful and engaging presentation at GDC 2015

Ask questions

Attendance — Networking

Bring business cards, demo, pen and a notebook to networking

Go to networking events

Choose smaller events over large parties

Create opportunity for an ice breaker

Maximize serendipity

  • What do you think of the conference?
  • What’s your favorite presentation so far?
  • Are you attending any exciting parties tonight?
  • Caught any new Pokémons here?

A way to measure how many people you talk to is by tracking how many business cards you’ve received.

Establish common ground before talking business

Practice leaving conversations

After the conference

Allow yourself to refuel after the conference

Schedule time for follow-ups during the days after the conference

Add relevant email addresses to your email/contact/CRM list

Add your new contacts on LinkedIn and remind them how you met and say thanks

“Hi X, Thanks a lot for meeting with me at GDC. I hope you had a great and valuable experience. [Reference something from your conversation]. Looking forward to keeping in touch! Cheers, Aurora”

This is important, as most people have a hard time remembering who was who and giving some indication on how you met increases the chance of being accepted.

Follow your new contacts on Twitter

Evaluate your participation at the conference

You should also think carefully of whether it was valuable enough to attend the conference in the first place…


Why am I reading this?

In the spirit of attending GDC 2017 in San Francisco, you’ve now read my updated best practice list for attending a conference. This is based on the original 17 Steps to Hack a Conference I wrote in 2015. I hope you found some valuable takeaways. If you have some clever conference attendance or networking tips that I’ve missed out on I’d love to hear about them!

Let me know if you are around to meet up during GDC 2017!

Megacool Blog

This is the Megacool Blog

Aurora Klæboe Berg

Written by

Interim COO @Medal.tv / Co-Founder & CEO @megacool_co. Previously @DirtybitGames, creator of @TheFunRun (100M downloads). MSc Engineering & Entrepreneurship.

Megacool Blog

This is the Megacool Blog

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