Working in the mobile and social gaming industry, the one thing you can always count on is that the next big networking event is right around the corner. In the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, we saw at least eight major gaming events in cities such as London, Montreal, Tel Aviv, Paris, and China.

With the Game Developers Conference 2015 quickly approaching (Monday through Friday in San Francisco), I thought now would be an ideal moment to dive into how to best optimize your time at game industry events.

Consider this post your personal GDC Survival Guide.

As the time and costs of attending events continues to skyrocket, so does the reluctance of sending staff. No matter the size of the gaming company, meticulous budgeting is always important. The last thing you want to do is return with disappointing feedback for your team and management. In order to avoid this scenario and give you the upper hand, here are a few steps to optimize your ROI in advance of the major 2015 gaming events.

Set clearly defined goals for event networking

Attending events with clear and concise goals can result in a variety of valuable outcomes including:

  • Recruiting
  • Collecting competitive intelligence
  • Vendor and consultant sourcing
  • Partner sourcing
  • Prospecting for new customers

Before committing your attendance to events, set achievable goals for the kinds of contacts you want to make. Secure a list of attendees confirmed for these events by emailing the organizer, and make specific note of people you want to meet who could be advantageous to accomplishing your goals. Other ways to locate fellow attendees include online meeting systems the event will typically set up, or by searching for interaction on the event’s Twitter hashtag.

Don’t forget that others are, in part, attending these events to meet people just like you. Take the first step in cultivating that connection. There is no substitute for a quality network — hence the adage “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Unless you begin on the top (which almost never happens), it takes time to grow a personal network, so it is crucial to start early and be dedicated to meeting the right people. As with any industry, collecting stacks of business cards that will end up in your drawer isn’t helpful and can be a wasteful time sink. A good standard to consider is that the business card is only as valuable as the context surrounding it. Carry a pen with you and make sure to write down where you met that individual and what was discussed. If you’re mindful of the contextual elements of each conversation, your chances of fostering a positive relationship grow significantly.

Make the most of your exposure

When promoting your participation at an event, think with a PR mindset. Begin by listing out the many outlets for pre-event publicity. This includes items such as press releases, blog posts, leveraging media relations, and social media profiles. The secret is to find unique ways to get people excited about meeting you at the event or attending your presentation. Consider planning a breakfast with other attendees who are in similar genres and platforms as your company to discuss the industry away from the planned activities and presentation.

An underrated tactic to maximize your exposure at an event is to capture multiple angles of the event with, videos, photos and live tweets. This makes it easier to summarize the event once you’re back in the office. Other tactics that should be taken into consideration toward making the most of your exposure include:

  • Prewrite tweets and updates, and decide on a hashtag in advance to keep things consistent
  • Announce your session through a media alert and share it with event-listing sites and create events on Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Share your presentation deck via Slideshare
  • Schedule interviews with the media to discuss your topic prior to the presentation, but make sure to do this well in advance, as major events such as GDC keep journalists extremely busy
  • Connect with other speakers in advance
  • Create a teaser for your presentation
  • Announce your event attendance through email and your social channels
  • As a general rule, it’s always best to upload all your important event collaterals to dropbox or other cloud based services for easy access. Doing so will also make it much easier to share with relevant contacts.

During the event

Once you arrive onsite, it’s game time.  You have prepared, and it’s now time to execute. A best practice to make the most of an event is by interacting with people you don’t know or haven’t previously met. Grab their attention by asking engaging questions and taking the time to listen to their answers. A successful question is one that usually allows the person to talk about their company while helping you understand their service or business. Be mindful of their time and understand that you aren’t the only one trying to network with others.

To have a better idea of what a “good” question is, I would recommend for you to quickly read Master Networker’s “Ask the Right Questions” for some more creative ideas.

Remember these tips:

  • Create content the audience can participate with: Take photos of the audience and post to our Facebook page so they can tag themselves.
  • Use tweetable, shareable content in your presentation
  • Give something away to motivate desired behaviors, such as asking questions
  • Always include a report or fulfillment piece in your “thank you” page
  • Have someone on your team monitoring tweets and buzz about your company during your presentation. Interact with online dialogue as appropriate
  • Listen – This last point might sound trivial, but carefully listening and paying attention to the information being shared with can sometimes be tricky, especially in crowded, busy events such as GDC.

Postevent: Follow up

Networking during the event is the start — but it’s all about how you close. It’s what you do right after an industry event that matters most, and that’s usually when the hard work begins. This is when initial interest in collaboration fades quickly as priorities move on to the next event or initiative.

It’s best to get email follow-ups done as early as possible, while the discussion points are still fresh in your mind. The games industry is constantly growing, and professional roles within a company are always shifting, so there’s no telling where the contacts you make today will lead to in the future.

Following these simple and effective steps will help turn each event into a well-oiled marketing/PR machine that will not only create consistency in your approach throughout the year, but allow for much more effective return on investment and increased exposure for you and the company you represent.

Oren Todoros is the mobile PR specialist at Plarium.com, a hardcore social and mobile gaming studio with over 200 million players worldwide.