Trade shows are an integral part of marketing, positioning and business development in our industry, so please allow me to share just a few tips that can help each of you be more effective and potentially increase the ROI on your travel and trade show budgets.

Far too many people, developers in particular, attempt to wing trade shows on the fly, with little to no advance planning other than some harried phone calls a couple of weeks prior to the show attempting to set appointments. To do a trade show correctly, you must think in terms of a six month window, three months on either side of the actual show dates, and if you will be exhibiting at the show instead of just attending, your planning can begin as early as immediately after the conclusion of this year’s show, when the dates for the following year are announced. Positioning your company for success includes competing for choice meeting room locations, being in the right hotels where a lot of business goes down in the bar after hours, and so forth. The early bird, as they say…

Ninety days prior, it is time to make sure the rest of your logistics are sound. Does everyone who needs business cards have them? What about brochures, media kits, demo CD’s? Now is the time to make out your target list of who you want to get meetings with, and what the agenda for each would be. At the sixty day mark, every one of your targets should get their preview package of what you want to meet with them about. Wait a minute you say, won’t that cause some of them to drop out and pass on your project before you even get to sit down with them in person? Yes, but is that really a bad thing. Let’s say you preview your game demo 60 days prior to the show to 20 potential publishers and lets further say 10 of them pass immediately, 3 of them are very interested and 7 want to see more before they can say one way or the other. I would rather spend as much time as it takes with my 3 hot interests in person, and an hour a piece with the 7 undecided potential publishers, rather than giving the original 20 people a half hour each to find out where they stand. The more you can do to convert your in person meeting time to substantive discussions instead of cold pitches, the more effective you will be overall.

Finally, there is the issue of follow ups. The most common mistakes made by developers are a) not having anything to follow up with when someone is genuinely interested, so they move on to other things while you struggle to create pieces you should have had ready before pitching, b) acting as if yours is the only project the potential publisher or partner has to be concerned about, c) not respecting the time or boundaries of your contacts, d) being unable to differentiate politeness from real interest or e) just dropping the ball, losing the thread, killing momentum, however you want to characterize it. Professional follow ups begin with good note taking in the meetings themselves. If you have a thought leader who does most of the talking, bring someone else along to take the notes. Coming out of the show, everyone gets a thank you for taking the time to meet with you, even if there is no business there. Everyone who wants to see more gets the more they want within one week of the end of the show, so don’t commit to providing things you can’t do in that timeframe. The one week window is right because publishers come back and debrief their entire show in mini-greenlight meetings. These determine in a preliminary way what is worth seeing more of so, it is better to have everything a pub would need to make an informed decision once you are in that review, and you should actively avoid having your project formally reviewed until it is ready for primetime. Going early will get you a pass the vase majority of the time with little hope of being re-evaluated in the future. Another cliché that will help you remember this is to never send a boy to do a man’s job or, for the gender conscious crowd, don’t take a knife to a gunfight or you will come up short-handed. OK, there is lots more in this topic naturally, but that’s all the room for now. Hope everyone has a good round of shows coming up and please drop us a line if you would like to set an appointment.

Good hunting!