I was privileged enough in terms of money and time to be able to attend the digital GamesBeat summit last week. Mainly because I was curious. But also because I’ve been trapped at home for over a month and while my husband is my favorite person (and Leo is more coherent these days), talking to new people was crazy neat.
GamesBeat utilized two existing pieces of SaaS – Zoom (for video conferencing) and Slack (for messaging) to make it work. They pulled it off brilliantly. There were a few hiccups. But overall, what a huge win for a conference that had to pivot to online-only in a very, very, very short period of time.
I made some new friends on the Internet this week and going forward, you can too! It’s like, going to be our only options, guys! 😀
The good stuff:
- It’s a biz dev dream. You have unfettered access to people with no gatekeepers with this sort of setup. There were hundreds of people on the Slack channel and anyone could direct message anyone.
- Over a hundred women attended the women-in-games breakfast. It was really exciting to see. Unfortunately, the room was capped but apparently over 200 women registered. I left this industry for a while because I was fed up of being treated differently due to the fact that I was born with a vagina. It feels like things are finally changing.
- Using existing tools rather than testing a brand new one was a huge win. A lot of people (not everyone) already knew how to use the tools. The GamesBeat team also thought ahead and had most videos pre-recorded and a separate channel as a live help desk.
- The timezone kind of worked in my favor. Being on the East Coast/living in the future meant I was able to attend things in the evening after Leo went to sleep around 7 pm ET and when he napped during the afternoon, even though he doesn’t always nap these days. I lucked out on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The bad stuff:
- It’s a biz dev dream – but also kind of a nightmare. Discoverability issues are a real problem with this approach to an online conference. I don’t know how anyone’s going to fix it in the future. I can see it happening with scheduled one-on-one meetings, the way XSOLLA is trying to do with their Game Dev Carnival in May. We’ll see.
- Being named Megan/Meghan/Meggan was a disadvantage. One of the main GamesBeat coordinators was named Megan and I had three different people DM me to congratulate me on a job well done. Uhhh.
- Gross people. There were some really gross marketing/salespeople making the environment a bit slimy rather than collaborative and interactive. Some conversations were pretty forced.
- People were abusing some of the tools. See the point above. It was only a matter of time before some people realized they could type @here and ping everyone in a channel – fortunately, the mods turned that off quickly. What an ass move. There were also some people pinning conversations to threads but I don’t think they realized that their bizdev efforts of mining the conversations were visible to everyone….
- Ethics. GamesBeat could, in theory, go and read all of the private messages. It’s their Slack channel. Will they? Probably not. Could they? Yeah. Privacy is going to be tricky with these online conferences.
- Timezones mean limited live conversations with people around the globe. There’s going to be fewer international deals and more timezone challenges with conferences going online this year and probably next year, too. This is a problem because we need empathy and face-to-face interactions between cultures now more than ever and we can’t do it.
The best stuff (to complete my assessment sandwich):
- Introducing a games industry person to my mom. I connected with someone randomly in the women-in-games roundtable and she was telling me about how she wants to start selling needlework online. My mom used to run a needlework store. Weirdest intro to write up ever. But really neat and fulfilling.
- Connecting with someone cool because I bitched about having a toddler during the informal reception Wednesday night. Like, seriously – he’s super cool.
- Having a great conversation with another person who does M&A but not about M&A – we talked about Utada Hikaru and Kingdom Hearts.
- Connecting with people, in general, who are far cooler than myself.
- Reconnecting with people in this industry after not talking with them for years – and yeah, they are far cooler than myself, too.
- Seriously, the level of cool people at this event was astounding.
It was wonderful. I was so hyped up. I still feel hyped up typing this. Got to meet so many really, really cool people. Keeping up with them is going to be challenging, though.
And I had FOMO (fear of missing out) for the first time in a long while – it was Leo’s birthday on Wednesday and I was very torn about being a good Mom and getting to interact with games industry people who were all online and chatty. Alex and I made it worked. But man, it was tiring.
Going forward, my advice to people testing the waters with digital conferences: 1. Know what you want to get out of it. It’s a lot harder to achieve a lot of different things or wing it with these digital formats so make sure you define this in advance for yourself.
I wanted to connect with neat people and I succeeded by messaging people who asked interesting questions and had private DM conversations with them on Slack, then connected on other channels (either LinkedIn or email). But it was challenging.
And 2. make sure you dedicate time. I completely underestimated that this would be as fast-paced and time-consuming as a real, normal conference. Budget your time accordingly.