Lessons Learned: The Ultimate How to Organize and Run a Booth-Guide @Pixel_Maniacs
We had been attending the GamesCom in Cologne last week which was the first booth we ever had & want to share our experiences.
Hey there, it’s Ben from Pixel Maniacs,
We are definitely far away from being exhibition pros, but I wanted to share some of our experiences, maybe it helps some other gamedevs.
You might also have some advice for us, and might find my advice shitty :) I'd love to hear your feedback and extend this list to make it some kind of a collection of tipps for gaming exhibitors. These 2 sentences give me the opportunity to write whatever I want and to steal your thunder, feels good, man.
This posting is an improved version of this posting on reddit:
Special thanks go to the awesome comment of the redditor with the very creative and mind-inspiring username user/SplatterPoop.
Some background information:
we had 1 tiny booth promoting 1 game with 1 pc
twice a day we had a stage show with a gaming contest
What went wrong:
1) Hostel was way too far away from the exhibition
We wanted to save money and booked an airbnb about 43km (27 miles) away from the location. The hostel costed us about 100 euros per night for 4 people (plus potential damage which might happen in the absolutely theoretical cases of having stains on the wall and a 3 day old, "creamy" portal cake standing on the balcony). A hostel next to Koelnmesse (where gamescom takes place) would have been double or triple the price. I'd still prefer that as you need to calculate the downsides of the location:
We took about 1 hour (not 43 min as stated in the image below) from our airbnb to the exhibition, 4 people, twice a day, that is actually a lot of time (8 hours/day) that could be spent on cooler things than driving a car (like posting on reddit for instance).
Pro tip: If you already know that you will be showcasing your stuff at gamescom months in advance, make sure you book your room as soon as possible. I would advice you to do that 9 months before gamescom. Better earlier!
Besides that flexibility is relevant, too. Having a room near the exhibition gives you the opportunity to go back to your room if you have forgotten something etc.
Don't forget that the time your booth opens is exactly the time when everybody wants to get into the city. You want to sell your product and be a good host of your booth, if you're in a bad mood because of traffic jams that's a con :)
A cheap airbnb or hotel not too far away from the exhibition might make sense, although the price of the hotel itself might be much higher.
2) Arriving too late
We arrived the evening before the gamescom started. The design of our booth didn't match our expections so we had to think about possibilities to decorate it a bit. We bought adhesive foil to make the booth more colorful (as you might know, we have a game that has to do with coloring walls). Those foils where impossible to glue on the booth so we had to improvise again. As shops closed at 8 pm, you can imagine that we had a very stressful time fixing this.
We should have arrived 2 days before the GamesCom started, or at least in the morning 1 day before.
3) Not enough people
First I had planned to only send 1 dev to gamescom but then increased the number to 3 as we got the opportunity to be on stage of Teamspeak (Thanks to them btw) to host a small gaming contest with 10-20 players. Another employee joined us 1 day later.
Day 1 was only open for mainly press and trade visitors but it showed us that 3 people are not enough for one booth, especially if you have a show running simultaneously and want to share stuff on social media.
We needed people for the following tasks:
somebody has to be talking on stage (Teamspeak booth)
one person supporting the players on stage, playing our game (you can't support more than 10 players at once)
somebody permanently taking pictures and videos for your social media channels, maybe periscoping (is this a word?) or even twitching
somebody at the booth supporting the players, that are testing your game
somebody at the booth, who is still available for visitors (e.g. players, streamers, press, potential publishers etc.) and who is asking people if they want to join the contest or play our game. A lot of gamers watch the booth and would like to play, but are too shy to ask, if you ask them, they are immediately show interest in playing
you need to have breaks (yeah, it's listed in "tasks", I know, but it is kind of a task :))
Have min. 2 people on your booth, in my opinion 1 is not enough. If you have some kind of stage show, it's awesome to have somebody in the audience who films the event and promotes it on your social media channels
4) Buy cheap food and drinks BEFORE the first exhibition day starts
Sounds obvious, but we didn't think about that one. You'll be at your booth from 9am to 8pm and might go to a party afterwards. No supermarket is open (in Cologne or Germany in general) at the times you are not at your booth (they already close at 8pm in Germany). If you want to buy something to drink, you'll have to buy something at the exhibition. That means a coke for 4 euros vs. a sixpack of cokes for 4 euros in the next supermarket which will take you some time to go. That's valuable time you could otherwise use to meet other interesting people and do some networking.
Fill your car with cheap stuff from a supermarket for each day of your stay at the exhibition. That will save you the "this coke costs 4 euros but I'm thirsty"-money. I've done that today and bought tons of cheap ice cream. It was gone in about 3 minutes and brought a lot of gamers to our booth.
5) Plan at least a day off after the exhibition
I'm was going to work the day after our exhibition, which was a bad idea. You're going to work all day long for several days and might be going to parties at night (for networking!). Even if you don't drink much and don't party hard you definitely need a day off after such an intense week.
We planned to go to every party we can catch, but the regular evening was dictated by KFC (which was quite cool actually, from a non-financial point of view).
But as I am writing a financially focussed guide here I'd like to give you a tip:
If you have 4 people you should detach 2 of them to attend parties and give them the opportunity to start working a few hours later than the other 2 people.
Parties are a great opportunity to meet people and network.
I've heard that we've missed the famous German streamer Gronkh on a party where we actually had already bought 4 tickets for 40 euros each, just because we were completely exhausted and had to eat (another) menu from KFC instead of attending the party.
So, if you, Gronkh are reading this:
You can still have a free key from us! :)
7) Live Streaming via Facebook Live or Twitter Periscope
We have 6.5k Fb and 4.5k Twitter Followers.
Our live stream consumed a lot of battery energy and mobile internet traffic.
As I didn't want the stream to lose connection or/and switch to Edge during my live stream, I even had to google how to waste my download volume as quick as possible to be able to buy a fresh new data package from my provider, in order to ensure a trouble-free connection (great thanks to this flexible payment system here).
Long story short:
Live Streaming via Periscope or FB Live made no sense for us. Twitch does, but that's not possible via mobile (yet).
Let's generate at least some views on the video right now:
Don't stream via fb live or twitter persicope.
What went well:
I was absolutely astonished how people love merchandise. We have ordered Pixel Maniacs buttons from a therapeutic workshop which is a great thing (the people loved making them) and they were really cheap, too.
You can also use stuff like this for "making of / behind the scenes" postings, so your social media accounts benefit from this as well:
Here's the "making of" our branded shirts:
2) Givaways for people who support you
We have a lot of loyal fans (e.g. streamers) that have supported us in the past few months. Give them something back by making customized merchandise, they can use, e.g...buttons! :)
You'll get content for your page:
and mentions from them for this as well:
It's not expensive (100 euros for 500 buttons) and a gift of 500 buttons for 10 special friends (each one got 50 customized buttons) is a cool sign of appreciation and a good thing, especially if they are made by a therapeutic workshop.
3) Make people tweet about you
Ask people to tweet about you with a specific hashtag and offer them something for the tweet.
We tried this and got some cool posts: https://twitter.com/search?q=#IWantChromaGun&src=tyah
4) Always use the hashtag of the exhibition in your tweets
If one of your tweets has a good visibility, it will be listed as one of the top tweets for the hashtag of that exhibition. Not exactly awesome insider-knowledge, but a lot of devs still don't do it.
5) Create Showcase Modes of your game
Yes, we want everybody to play our game as much as possible. But as a matter of fact we only had 1 pc, limited time and a lot of people that wanted to play the game.
So, if somebody likes the game and sits at the booth for 30 minutes or so playing it, that's an awesome feeling, but from an economic perspective it would make more sense to let 6 people play it for 5 minutes each.
You don't want to tell a potential fan "stop playing now", so create a showcase version of the game with limited depth and playtime.
6) Don't be shy
Some gamers as well as some gamedevs tend to be shy, which is a bad combination. You're the guy that wants to sell something, so you have to be active.
If somebody watches your game from distance for some time, walk to them and ask them something and try to break the ice, because pretty much every spectator also wants to try the game. Don't check your mobile, watch the people that are walking around and talk to them. Tell them that you are presenting the game and that you are the dev (or one of the devs) of the game, as it isn't obvious in a crowded hall who is responsible for which booth.
7) Contact sponsors for booth-givaways
Visitors love free stuff! And many companies, like energy drink companies, radio stations, gaming magazines, gadget stores etc. like the opportunity to give you some freebies, you can give away at your booth. Most of them are happy if they get a tweet or a facebook posting in exchange. Your fanbase won't see that as evil advertising, as you are giving back the profit of those ads right back to the fans at your booth. We even got music CDs from a radio station, which wanted to stream live-phone-interviews with information about the gamescom from us.
8) Free Keys on "key cards"
Giving away free keys to streamers and youtubers is an essential form of marketing. You can send excel lists of thousand keys to a local printing company and get business cards with a unique key printed on each of them.
9) Regular business cards
Your visitors don't want to write things down, so you should place tons of business cards or flyers of your game on your booth.
10) Enough branded shirts
You'll need at least one branded shirt a day. Ensure that every team member has the same type of clothing to easily show a visitor who belongs to your team.
11) Be creative!
As our game is often compared with portal (although our game has not a single portal), we've ordered a real portal cake and placed it at our booth.
We and more important the exhibition visitors found this very funny, the average reddit opinion was "haha, awesome, best joke I've ever heared! (9 years ago)".
Anyway, even walking through the hall transporting the cake to our booth brought us a lot of people talking to us about it and some cool contacts :)
12) 1 guy for misc, 1 guy for press
Reddit user u/SplatterPoop (what a fantastic name!) wrote that they made the experience that you need to have 1 dedicated person for making business contacts (@gamescom has a business area) and 1 person for doing social media things (like me writing this reddit posting).
13) Player queues
Well, this is a luxury problem, I guess. If you have too many people standing in front of your booth, you need to think about a possibility to stop a game round without being impolite to the player. One way to do so is integrating a showcase mode into your game which ends after a reasonable time frame. I already mentioned this but I can't stress it enough, as it is really important for you as a .developer to manage that.
I haven't had this experience myself, but u/SplatterPoop had:
Some exhibitions don't seem to care much about their temperature system. So be prepared for really warm or very cold hours at your booth :)
15) Tech and Furniture way in Advance
Renting your tech and furniture way in advance reduces the cost.
Another special tip I learned from another dev (this one is awesome): Buy all you need via internet, make sure it stays in perfect condition and give it back right after the exhibition. At least in Germany this is possible up to 14 days after buying it, if you ordered it (not if you bought it at a retail store!).
This should be considered as a last option. But good to know anyway :)
16) Connect With Other Booths
Connecting with other booths avoids the problem that you influence their business in a negative way (e.g. standing in front of their booth) but also can create some cool promotion campaigns.
At the @IndieArenaBooth on the #gamescom we initiated "a thing" we called "#IndieBoothNeighbour" where we tweeted a pic or a vid of our neighbour's booth and got retweeted. This pushed our hashtag in the trending section (although we didn't make it to overall trending) and connected the indiedevs at our booths.
17) Add #GamesCom #PaxSouth, whatever event you're visiting to your tweets
You'll get some nice traffic from twitter with those hashtags.
18) Add @GamesCom @PaxSouth etc. to your Twitter Handle Label (similar to #17)
My Twitter Handle is @BLochmann.
The label refering to it displayed as BLochmann@GamesCom during gamescom.
Your handle remains the same, you still can be found as @BLochmann. The main goal of this is to show the contacts I already have, that they can meet me somewhere at gamescom :)
Don't forget to add the location where your booth is located. Some people might want to meet you, but do not want to ask you where you're located.
(German Streamer https://twitter.com/lara_loft next to the teamspeak stage)
As mentioned above, I'd love to hear other tips from you guys!
Ben from @pixel_maniacs
PS: Nice, it's 4:00 in the morning now, I'm going to be very tired tomorrow at our booth ^^