Selling Yourself: Con Presence

Booth

The inaugural Twitch Con occurred this past weekend (September 25 and 26) in San Francisco. Quite appropriately, this was the first convention I attended with a Hyperbole Games booth. In the past, I've merely attended conventions, but here, I was manning my booth and demoing games for two straight days.

Conventions are incredibly important to your success as a publisher. Today, I wanted to share my thoughts on why, as well as discuss some of the future plans for Hyperbole Games at conventions.

Conventions are the single best way to build rapport with your audience and convert people who are merely interested in your game to people who are loyal fans of your company. There are ways to do this outside of a convention, naturally.

  • Being friendly via social networks and conversational, not just promotional, goes a long way.
  • Managing a successful and ethical Kickstarter campaign also goes a long way. In general, being ethical, fair, and kind helps regardless of your sales method.
  • Having consistent, timely, and high quality customer service will also pay dividends long term.*

*A frustrated customer can be a gift if you do the right thing. It's an opportunity for you to set things right and completely flip their perspective. At Electronic Arts we've done research and found that customers who have a positive experience with customer service are significantly more likely to not only return as customers, but as more passionate and avid customers. 

Conventions present a few unique opportunities that cannot quite be grasped via the phone, email, or an online social platform. For one, there's human touch. That sounds odd out of context, but saying "Hi, what's your name?" and extending a hand is powerful.

Furthermore, you can teach your game online via a video, but at a convention, you can teach it and foster the ideal environment in which to experience the game. What do I mean by this?

Me

When I play my games with people at a convention, I do my best to break down walls as quickly as possible. I immediately start playfully talking shit (pardon my crudeness), I poke fun at people, I crack jokes, and I highlight the cool things happening in the game.

Many publishers say you should let the demoers win, and there's value to this. But, I've often found value in executing high level strategies or subtle combos, then explaining it so that people could see how cool the game CAN be beyond that learner's game.

For example, when demoing Farmageddon, I often like to use Crop Insurance on lousy crops, then whack them with a Thresher to show that I can earn extra money through "insurance fraud." This gets a laugh and demonstrates a clever aspect of the game. In Hocus, where possible, I love to setup a community to mislead people, then trump them with a superior hand. This weekend I setup an obvious Straight -- everyone took the bait. I then flipped over my cards to reveal a Flush. They all laughed and went "Oh!" It was an eye opening moment for them as they all began thinking about future sneaky possibilities for themselves.

DemoGame

Obviously being able to do this takes practice, enthusiasm, and passion. You need to be able to read your audience and decipher whether they'll be comfortable with you poking fun, or more comfortable with a more flat, even demonstration of the game. Both options are fine! Read the room. Then, create the best possible experience.

Conventions also give you an opportunity to demonstrate that you're a person, not a company. Prove you're flesh and bones, not a legal construct. The goal is that when people pick a Hyperbole Game off the shelf, or click "order" via Amazon, they do so thinking "I liked that guy. He was nice." You can enthusiastically show your proof that you just received from China and create a moment and story out of your product. You can talk about the effort that went into the game and detail stories about the wrong turns taken. Copy used on websites is often impersonal, salesy, and to the point. It's really about saying what the game is and why it's the best use of a customer's money. At a convention, around your booth, you can open the doorway to reveal some of the more amusing cruft that's often edited out of the web copy.

Pack

Use the opportunity of a convention to sell yourself. Turn your personality and enthusiasm for your products and craft into a competitive advantage. Anyone can make a game, fill it with high quality components, and set a fair price. But, nobody can be you! That's corny as all get out, but never undervalue who you are and what you can bring to the table. Charm the pants off your customers and they'll give you an edge when it comes to spending money with you versus a similar product for which they don't know the creator.

Convention Essentials for Publishers

If you're a new publisher, you might be wondering what exactly you need for a convention. Good question! For Hyperbole, I invested in the following items.

  • Vertical vinyl sign for Hocus. This is our own game at the moment and it has gorgeous artwork. This is what will draw eyes to our booth.
  • Horizontal vinyl sign for Hyperbole. This is our back of booth/in front of table namesake. If you're going to buy one sign, buy this one.
  • Hyperbole t-shirts. These give us an air of professionalism and associate us with the company.
  • Business cards. I made fun small cards that share my name and email. People all said "ooo neat cards!"
  • Stickers. This was a little bit of an unnecessary reach, but they didn't cost too much and they're really fun. I have a great logo -- I love it. Many people responded to it. Giving people something tangible to take away, especially when you don't have a game for sale just yet, is crucial.

Cards

Some mixture of the above will give you a professional booth that will keep you from looking like a handful of hacks. But wait, there's more!

  • Create a newsletter sign up sheet. Simply go into excel, write "Join our Newsletter" at the top, and have a Name and Email address column. Done.
  • Bring a table cloth. Were you raised in a barn?
  • Have a method to collect payment! Paypal, Square, and more. They all have simple apps and will send you a card reader.
  • Tape, scissors, and rope. You never know what you'll need to McGuyver to hang up. Bring some tools.
  • A Buddy. You will need to pee. Have someone on standby to let you sprint to the bathroom.

Hyperbole Conventions for 2016

Our convention presence for 2016 is really about  managing our budget and time effectively. Hocus will be the only game for sale in 2016, barring anything unexpected, which means our potential revenue at conventions is limited. I feel it's a mistake to attend Gen Con with fewer than 3 games, unless Hocus REALLY takes off in the mean time. It's just such an expensive convention to attend. I can put those resources to better use I feel. Your mileage may vary!

Currently, I'm hoping to attend Kubla Con here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Strategicon in the Los Angeles area, Geekway to the West in St. Louis, and depending on pricing and availability, BGG Con in Dallas. Josh may be able to attend some in the Seattle area, though that's still somewhat up in the air.

If you know of a great convention we should be attending, send it to us in comments.

Thanks for reading! Have a good week!