Your Complete Guide to Working the Conference Scene



I have been going to conferences for startups, technology, and video games for the past 10 years. There are some subtle and massive differences between them that can give an edge depending on your situation and personality.

incontent3People attend conferences for three reasons:

  • Learn
  • Network/Meetings
  • Show off their company/product

Knowing why you are going is key. This will help shape your “presence” at the conference. In this case lets define presence as: The way you act, look, dress, and when you take your meetings. Next week I am attending GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco. It is the most important video game development conference and I have a certain presence for the show.

­How to Dress

Video game conferences are not much different from tech & startup conferences. There is plenty of time and room for the top three reasons I listed above but the video game conference trumps all conferences in ability to look dress and act like a rock star.

Next week for GDC I will wear interesting dresses and clothing that I would wear on stage while playing with a band, I used to play keyboard in a couple of bands. I am a big fan of My husband, Jared, will also wear clothes that make him stand out. The ability to make an impression is important. With a whole week of drinking, meetings, networking, and learning it is very important to be remembered at the end of the conference. Looking and acting like everyone else may help you in a corporation, but in the startup world I feel you need to have a different presence.

I believe this also works for tech and startup conferences but with a more subtle approach. Tone down on the bright colors and look a bit more professionally dressed. Potential investors and partners want you to be interesting, but they also want to make sure you can fit in at a corporate meeting to close deals.

Perfect Your “Meeting Attitude”

Do your homework before you get there. Find out who is going by searching Twitter and LinkedIn updates. People love to schedule meetings before a conference because it provides a schedule to plan their life arround. Before and after meetings prepare for the possibility of serendipitous meetings. These are meetings that could happen through the introduction to a new person from the meeting you have scheduled or through watching twitter while at the conference. It can easily get overwhelming but just keep a cool composure and take a couple of deep breaths. You can do it!

The attitude I try to take to meetings is the same I try to have throughout the entire conference. Be positive, polite, and open. Act like you own the place and care about everything. These actions and feelings help people open up and you can get your agenda accomplished easier while meeting new people. Most of the true deals will wrap up after the conference, allowing you to be more aggressive with terms. I find this is true for both video game and startup conferences.

Manage Your Meetings

The main difference between a videogame conference and a startup conference is when you schedule your meetings. Rule of thumb is at a videogame conference like GDC you never schedule a meeting before 11:30 AM. Video game development is a long hours profession with most workers getting up later in the day and working long into the night. The conference is a place for people to escape the grind by going to parties, concerts, and sometimes doing a lot of drinking. It is important to be courteous to this rule and it also allows you to send out emails in the morning to your team.

A startup conference is all about hustle. Packing in as many important things at one time has its benefits. Most meetings kick off at breakfast and continue through lunch. Making sure you get a good night sleep is important for all conferences, but you really need to be sharp and well rested for startup conferences. If you have any tips regarding other types of conferences please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Shannon Steffes is the Founder and Art Director for Furywing. She has been involved in tech and video game startups since 2005. Follow her at @shayozzy


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