A worldwide celebration of board games called International Table Top day took place on April 11th, 2015. As part of the big event, a number of communities and stores within my hometown of Winnipeg put on events. As I was promoting my Kickstarter campaign for a card game in May, I was determined to attend as many events as possible on this day. What followed was a 15 hour odyssey that took me to five separate events.
One of these events was held at a bookstore called McNally Robinson. By this point in the day, it was 6:00 P.M. and I had been going hard for nine hours. After demonstrating the game at a table the store had graciously provided me, I got up and doggedly began to shuffle towards the exit.
As I walked, I pulled out my smart phone and observed my social media activity. I am still new to social media and have yet to fully appreciate the finer nuances of followers. General crowd funding theories state that engaged followers are fundamentally good and generally nobody argues that gaining followers is a bad thing as long as they are a human and not a software algorithm. The more people following you, the bigger the audience that will view your content.
When it comes to Twitter, follower numbers are the most straightforward (if somewhat crude) metric for monitoring your effectiveness. Looking at my phone I was disheartened that I lost several followers since earlier that day despite posting multiple times about audience-relevant board game materials.
Darn, losing followers sucks.
As I was dwelling in my little emotional pit of social media ineptitude, I was surprised when a woman that had played my game a few minutes ago approached me. She asked me where I was going to now. I replied that I was attending another gaming event to show off my game. Then she dropped a more unusual question on me.
“I know this is awkward, but do you mind if I come with you”, she asked?
“Sure”, I replied. “As long as you can help me find my car.”
It is worth noting that I have incredibly poor navigational skills and what she initially took as a joke led to a fifteen minute ordeal as I wandered around a large parking, searching for my generic silver Corolla.
We eventually found my car and were off to the next board game event. I had been to event earlier that day and one of the organizers raised an amused eyebrow when I returned with a follower in tow. When the question came up, I simply replied that while I struggled to gain and keep digital followers, I was much better at gaining physical ones.
On reflection, I realize that face-to-face conversation is my preferred means of communication. The immediate reasons are that I like to be outside, my day job looking at a monitor and my weak wrists don’t lend to extended typing sessions on a smart phone.
Beyond that, with social media I find it difficult to share in the same type of communication. The nuances of body language and vocal variety are obscured in the text. While readers can imagine the tone of the text, this can quickly lead to misunderstandings. With the internet being the internet, these misunderstandings quickly lead to thermonuclear emotional meltdowns and ensuing flame wars.
It is much rarer for such incidents to happen during conversation. Take the rest of Table Top Day for example. I ended the day playing board games with my new found friend and exposed her to a hobby that she was relatively new to.
We went for coffee after and discussed everything from Chinese-Canadian culture, pursuing a degree in the performing arts to communal living and the roles of our political parties. I learned that she lived in Ontario where she taught performing arts at a local university. To celebrate turning thirty, she was on a journey across Canada via railcar, stopping at the major cities (and yes, I will defend to the death that Winnipeg is a major city). Most of all though, we discussed the question that we all wonder about, what to do with the limited time we have on this Earth.
Each of the aforementioned topics was a conversational minefield that if posted online, would recreate Chernobyl within the residents of my little corner of cyberspace. In person and within a relaxed setting, I was much more comfortable to glide between these topics, knowing that a misstep will result in an immediate que (hopefully not a slap) as opposed to being vented as a vitriolic text wall.
With all that being said, I shouldn’t discount social media followers. After all, I owe very real connections with board game designers and publishers to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but to me social media has always been a jumping off points to more significant forms of communication. Twitter is great for Q&A, Facebook feed can provide helpful news and updates; but discussing the meaning of life is something I have always struggled to fit into 140 characters.
I have a terrible memory. I know it is chic to say so, but truly, I have a terrible memory. I fit the absent-minded professor stereotype to a tee (minus the educational achievement) and if I didn’t live in a city that was cold for so much of the year, I would forget to put on a shirt before going to work! Thankfully it is cold and thus, I consistently leave the house fully clothed.
With this kind of memory, the first few conventions I attended were a gong show organizationally. I consistently forgot games, signs, promotional materials and all the other minutia that needs to be brought along for a successful event. The result was multiple trips home and a great deal of time wasted that could have been spent playing and promoting games.
After the third event mishap, I admitted that I had a problem (acceptance is the first step) and began to explore ways to correct my perpetual forgetfulness.
The main problem is that for anyone who has tried to promote a game at a convention, there are a lot of things you need to remember. For a recent convention, my travel bag included:
- Crop Cycle (my game)
- Promotional materials and business cards
- The all-important Candy Dish
- Food and Water (recall the issues with the Convention Circuit Diet)
- Table Signs
- Wall signs
- Sheet to record emails
There is no way I would remember all of these things on memory alone, especially as I am often pressed for time, rushing out of my house (fully-clothed) while inhaling the healthiest thing between my travel bag and my car.
At times like these, a Checklist is essential. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but a physical sheet (I use a Dollar Store notebook) with your required items is absolutely essential to avoiding multiple trips to the convention. I included the checklist for a recent convention I attended at the top of this article.
As you can see, the items are clearly laid out in pink ink because pink is awesome…and that is what the dollar store had! A small box is beside each one and forces me to physically check off each item when I put it in my bag. Also, I wrote the checklist days before the event. Don’t write a checklist just before you leave or you will run into the same problem as when you are trying to recall everything from memory at the time of departure.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, a straightforward solution to your money woes. I know the concept of writing things down to remember them is nothing new (it’s about 5500 years old if I recall), but it is something easy to dismiss as “non-essential”. If your memory is anything like mine though, it will make conventions a heck of a lot easier!
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I work for a university and during my lunch breaks, I make a point of leaving the office and going for a stroll through the campus. My walks end at the University Centre, a central hub for campus activity. Amongst the crowds of staff and students are tables with promoters for every group, cause, and event you can imagine. Law enforcement recruiters brush up against credit card sellers and Amnesty International representatives. What do all these groups vying for my attention have in common?
All have tables have some form of candy on them.
You remember the old adage “don’t take candy from strangers”. Forget that adage, it’s a stupid.
If you want a quick and easy way to attract wandering eyes to your booth, candy is the way to do it. Of course, nice signs, a promotional contest and a stellar game are great too, but there are times where you will find yourself at a convention with limited resources.
For this reason, as part of my convention bag I always bring a bowl and a bag of colorful candies. For example, when promoting Crop Cycle I use Candy Corn. Candy Corn fits the farming theme of the game and is bright enough to be seen from space.
Make sure the bowl is placed near the table edge that convention attendees will be on and don’t be stingy with sharing. I have seen people try to conserve candy by only offering it to those willing to play their game. In those situations I have to wonder how much the designer spent on those candies that they are willing to pass up potential interest and conversation with a passerby for a few candies. If your budget is being broken by your candy dish, buy cheaper candies!
If you haven’t guessed, my preference is to leave the candy dish open for convention attendees to help themselves. Aside from the occasional young child (or adult with the mind of small child) that will take candy and run away, most people won’t destroy your food stuffs without at least making small-talk. If you are unsure of what to do when someone asks what your booth is showcasing, a good place to start is to read my article on conversational hooks.
A food theme seems to be developing based on the last few articles. Coming up next though, I will be writing an article on convention preparation and developing a pre-convention checklist!
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