Convention Coach

Simple Thoughts on Signs

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The first board game convention I attended, I did not even think about bringing a sign. After all, the convention had a schedule and numbered tables to indicate where games were being played; why did I need to provide a sign? Admittedly, I was naive thinking that the convention organizers should hold any responsibility in getting my game played. After all, as a game creator you are your game’s salesman and it is up to you to hook people on your game.

From the experience I learned 2 important lessons:

  1. Not all gamers read the schedule
  2. An appealing sign pushes browsing gamers into playing your game

Since that lackluster day of sitting alone at my gaming table, I have learned a few important points that are shared below.

Banners and Free-standing Signs

My local university print shop.
My local university print shop.

The type of sign you use will depend on the convention you are attending. For conventions where a full-size table is given, a large banner to hang off the edge is an effective option, though they can be expensive. If you choose to go with a banner, shop around at local stores and you may find a better deal than online printer. I found competitive pricing at a local university print-shop and saved even more on not having to pay shipping.

If floor space is in plentiful supply, you may also consider a free-standing sign, though again you will want to shop around for a cost effective solution. Building your own stand to hang the sign on is also a viable strategy. A guide to building a free-standing sign post out of PVC can be found here.

Table Signs

A simple table sign on 8.5 x 11
A simple table sign on 8.5 x 11″ card stock.

Regardless of the convention specifics, I always bring along small table signs printed on Letter paper. When folded lengthwise, they should have your game on one side and your company (if applicable) on the other. They stand on their own, are portable, and are handy regardless of the table size. I get mine printed on cardstock so they don’t get crushed when I put them in my bag (a crinkled sign does not exude professionalism).

Whether to get them printed on Matte or Glossy card stock is a personal preference. I prefer Matte because it generates less glare from room lights that can obscure the sign

Another lesson I learned the hard way is to always bring more copies of signs than you need.

You can and will lose signs at conventions.

Consider the following scenarios when deciding how many copies of your sign to print:

  1. You have poor memory and misplace the sign
  2. Another attendee misplaces the sign for you (i.e. steals it)
  3. An attendee handles your sign while in the process of consuming Cheetos
  4. The sign gets soaked by a Blade-runner level downpour on your way to the convention
  5. A teething toddler gnaws on your tasty (and somewhat toxic) sign
  6. An ill child decided to reproduce the sum total of the day’s caloric intake on your sign

Any and all of the above can happen so print more signs than you need. That way, when you spot a child happily consuming your sign while the absent-minded parent looks on with pride, you can simply smile and nod, producing a new sign from your bag.

The “Back in 15” Sign

The reverse of my Table Sign.
The reverse of my Table Sign.

I am bad for having to make last-minute dashes to the bathroom after consuming coffee at regular intervals. During one such experience, I returned to a small note small note stating “WHERE WERE YOU? Creator was not here so we went to another game”. Do yourself a favor and have small sign to throw down when you have to dart away for food, the bathroom, or to argue with your phone provider about last month’s bill. I write mine on the inside of my table signs and then just turn them inside out when I have to leave.

To recap:

  • Signs attract people to your game, even in schedule-heavy conventions
  • Banners and free-standing signs are great, but check if your convention will allow them
  • Use small table-sized signs at all conventions
  • Bring back-up signs in case the first ones become unusable
  • Create a “Back in 15 minutes sign” for those moments of inconvenience

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Validating Players and Accepting Feedback

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boardtopoI always bring a notepad to conventions. Nothing fancy; purely the Dollar Store variety. This notepad is to record feedback from gamers who stop at my booth (perhaps attracted by a candy dish or hook line).

As a rule, I write down all feedback players provide when playing my game. It doesn’t matter if I agree with it at the time, I write it down.

The reason for meticulous record keeping is two-fold:

  1. Feedback allows for a broader perspective on the game than my own limited perspective as the game’s designer affords
  2. Recording feedback is a sign of respect to my players. It validates their opinions, demonstrating that I value the time and energy they dedicate to improving my game.

The first point goes without saying. As a game designer, I tend to be protective of the game designs I have poured so many hours into and am oblivious to obvious flaws. The selective blindness starts when the game is printed on index cards and only gets worse as I invest more and more time into the game’s development.

That is not to say that all feedback is good. Suggestions that I turn my farming game Crop Cycle into a Mad Max or zombie-themed card games (a la plants v.s zombies) were invariably scrapped, but whenever I notice a recurring suggestion, I take notice. Recurring feedback can be an indicator of deeper problems with the game or a mismatched target market.

Equally if not more important than the feedback itself is that the act of recording the opinions empowers players. They are no longer passive gamers, but co-creators, helping to shape and mould the game into the final product they want to play.

That does not mean that on reflection, all of their suggestions will be incorporated (design by committee rarely yields stellar results), but it helps convention attendees kind enough to stop off at your booth feel they are part of a game’s creation and not just another face in a crowded exhibition hall.

Ultimately, we design games to create a positive experience for players. The act of accepting and reflecting on feedback not only validates and empowers the players providing it, but improves the quality of the game for everyone to enjoy!

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6 Reasons You Need to Share a Table

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A Table!


Tables are a scarce and valuable resource at conventions.

As the platform for budding game designers an promoters to showcase their games, convention managers know the value of these tables and charge accordingly.

Larger conventions can charge hundreds of dollars for you to set up a table, knowing that used correctly, you can get a lot of attention for your game.

This high cost conflicts with the budgets of many game designers…budgets that are somewhere in the $0 ballpark range.

One solution to the cost is table-sharing. The concept is exactly what it sounds like. You pay for half the table and another game designer/promoter pays for the other half. The benefits of having half a table include:

  1. Reduced Cost. Half a table costs less than a full table (theoretically half the cost, but some conventions use different math)
  2. If a number of people are at your table (even if it is for another game), this will help you through the Law of Gameplay Attraction.
  3. Networking: Unless other designer you are sharing a table with has the personality of a paper bag, they are going to take an interest in your game.
  4. Anyone who comes to the table will be exposed to your game. That is not to say you should be trying to pester players to try your game while they are in the middle of the another designer’s game, but the moment they are done, they are open for hook lines.
  5. The Security of having another designer/promoter to watch your stuff when you make a sprint to the bathroom.
  6. An opportunity for Cross-Promotion. For example, if I am sharing a table and my farming game (Crop Cycle) with a game promoter showcasing Street Fighter, I might come up with a phrase like:

“You have proven your might in the fields, now take it to the streets!”

Does the phrase make any sense?
No.
Does it promise the two games offer a similar experience?
No.
Does it get players finished with my game to look across the table to Street Fighter?
Yes!

The benefits of table-sharing are numerous and the costs few. Though you have less space to work with, unless you are promoting Twilight Imperium or looking to use the table as a bed (in which case why are you at a convention?) you can make do with less.

But what about you? Have you tried out Table-sharing? Share your Success and/or Horror stories in the Comments below.

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