Mazze Whiteley from the mudstack team shared an extended to-do list with the best practices on how to present your projects, network effectively, and establish thriving business connections at large conferences.
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For those who are not familiar yet with this team, mudstack is the only asset management and collaboration platform custom-built for game studios and digital artists. Today, Mazze Whiteley, a digital artist, game enthusiast, and content writer at mudstack shared advice on how to do your business effectively and present your projects at large conferences.
The Game Developer’s Conference returns to the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco to bring together a global community of game devs, artists, and industry leaders for a unique opportunity to connect with others in the industry, showcase their work, and explore this year’s theme of “The Future of the Industry.”
We’re all excited to experience amazing content and celebrate the remarkable talent in the game industry that is gathering for GDC 2023. For many of us, this might be the first large, in-person event we’ve attended in years or this might even be our first conference ever or our first GDC!
Networking can be intimidating and stressful. The game industry is full of brilliant, passionate, and creative people, and for many artists, game devs, and even industry leaders, attending a large networking event like GDC can be intimidating and a source of tremendous anxiety. As a writer and an artist who is introverted, nothing makes me more nervous than the prospect of sharing my creative work with a room full of strangers, especially in an effort to get work or join a studio that I admire. I know that I’m not alone.
Networking at GDC 2023 can also be a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow both professionally and creatively, to push your boundaries and expectations of what the game industry has to offer, to meet like-minded, remarkable people from all over the world, and celebrate this crazy, beautiful, and joyous community.
In this article, we will provide practical tips and strategies for introverted artists and game developers to network confidently and effectively at GDC 2023.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Your feelings are valid. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious or nervous when attending a large conference like GDC. The first step towards effective networking is to acknowledge and accept your own feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, doubt, anxiety, or whatever might be percolating in your mind. Remember that many other attendees may be feeling the same way.
Sharing your creative work is remarkably brave because it is an inherently vulnerable experience. Reminding yourself that practically everyone around you is in a similarly vulnerable position can help to validate your own feelings (this is why you hear the advice to picture the audience in their underwear when you are giving a speech), and accept that whatever happens, happens.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Networking can be overwhelming, and quickly deplete the social battery even for the most extroverted people. Setting realistic goals can help you feel more in control and focused.
Determine the number of sessions or networking events you want to attend each day and plan accordingly, but leave room in your schedule to breathe. It might be tempting to try and maximize your opportunities by packing every minute of your schedule, but effective planning should prioritize quality over quantity.
Being mindful of your own time and social limits, especially if you are more introverted, will allow you to have a more natural, relaxed experience and engage in more authentic networking.
Before the conference, take some time to research the companies and individuals who will be attending. Identify people you want to meet and companies you want to network with. Knowing who you want to connect with can make it easier to start conversations and feel more confident.
Try to bake in some flexibility to your plan and allow yourself time to just walk around and check out some of the exhibits, explore the expo floor to experience what the industry has to offer, and pick up some swag. Be sure to check out our booth (P1821) and say hello to the mudstack crew!
Attend relevant sessions
The sessions and talks at GDC are an excellent opportunity to learn about new developments in the industry and meet other professionals. Attend sessions that interest you and make a note of the speakers or attendees you want to connect with afterward.
The great thing about attending sessions is that when it comes time for networking, you already have a legitimately interesting topic of discussion to talk about when you are meeting someone for the first time. Challenge yourself to think deeply about the topics that are discussed, ask questions, and be willing to share your own thoughts and opinions, especially on your topic of expertise.
Here’s a collection of GDC 2023 session guides for every topic.
Use Social Media
Social media can be an excellent tool for networking, especially if you are more comfortable communicating online. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms to connect with other attendees, share your work, and engage with the event itself by using #GDC2023. It might sound obvious or redundant but social media can be a powerful networking opportunity and reinforce the connections you make in person.
Attend Networking Events
GDC hosts various networking events throughout the conference, such as receptions, mixers, and parties. In other words, an introvert's worst nightmare. It might seem daunting to attend, but the truth is that GDC Events are a unique opportunity to meet other talented artists and developers from around the world who you are unlikely to ever have the chance to meet. Every year lifelong friendships, personal relationships, and business partnerships emerge from these events and it would be a shame to pass up on this opportunity.
Check out this party guide for GDC 2023!
If you do plan on attending any of the events at GDC, please be safe, bring a friend with you if you can, and avoid situations that are potentially unsafe. Use your best judgment when interacting with other attendees and trust your gut.
Take breaks and practice self-care
Networking can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, and large conference events can be overwhelming. Take breaks in between sessions and events to recharge your batteries. Find a quiet spot to relax, have a cup of coffee or snack, and reflect on your experiences so far.
Self-care is crucial for maintaining good mental health and well-being. Remember to celebrate your successes and be proud of your work. Remember that if you got this far, you had to be doing something right.
Sharing your creative work
Remember that sharing your creative work is a vulnerable and brave act and that it takes courage to put your work out there. Whether you are a junior artist, a veteran game developer with 30 years of industry experience, or the Vice President of a software development company, you are not immune to being nervous when it comes time to share your creative work. Here are three tips that are useful to remember when you are putting your creative work out there.
Practice active listening
When someone is providing feedback, practice active listening. This means fully focusing on what the person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and not interrupting. By practicing active listening, you demonstrate that you respect the person who is speaking and value what they have to say. This also gives you a moment to collect yourself and allows you an opportunity to really think about their criticisms and articulate your response.
Celebrate your successes
Sharing your creative work can be challenging, so celebrate your successes along the way. Whether it's positive feedback from someone you admire or a new opportunity that arises, take time to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments. If you pay attention to the most elegant speakers, you’ll notice that they often take a moment to hype themselves up during their presentations. It’s not arrogant or boastful to celebrate that your game won an award, or to be excited about innovative strategies being pioneered by your studio.
Remember your audience
When sharing your creative work, remember your audience. Think about who you're presenting to and tailor your presentation or pitch accordingly. What might resonate with a potential investor might not be the same as what resonates with a fellow artist.
If you happen to be presenting a pitch to a publisher, we have you covered. Check out this webinar presented by mudstack on How to Pitch Your Game to a Publisher and Why You Should with Bobby Wertheim, VP of Partnerships at Curve Games, and Lauren Hunter, Producer at Square Enix Collective.
Networking is not a race, but if it was it would be a decathlon. Following up is just as important, if not more important, than making your initial connection. After the conference, reach out to the connections you’ve made and continue the conversation. Keep in touch with them, and you may be surprised at the opportunities that arise from these relationships.
Keep in mind that everyone you’ve connected with is likely to be just as exhausted as you are at the end of the week-long conference, so don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back from your new connections immediately. Be patiently persistent and circle back after about two weeks if you still haven’t heard anything. Sending a quick LI connect request or Twitter follow and an @ “Nice to meet you!” could help keep the relationship warm until you’ve got a real “ask” to make of them. Also, it’s just nice.
Networking can be a challenge for everyone but can be especially difficult for introverted artists and game developers. Your feelings are valid, and if you are feeling anxious or unsure of yourself, try to find reassurance in knowing that you are not alone. Remember that networking is not a one-time event, but a continuous process that will develop organically. Building relationships takes time and effort, so don't be discouraged if you don't see immediate results. Keep in touch with the connections you make and continue to engage with others in the industry. As Sid Meier, one of the most influential game developers, reminds us, “Whatever it is you want to be good at, you have to make sure you continue to read, and learn, and seek joy elsewhere because you never know where inspiration will strike.”
Mazze Whiteley, Digital Artist and Content Writer at mudstack
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