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Conventions 101: Setting Up a Board Game Dem

Conventions 101: Setting Up a Board Game Dem

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Aloha faithful Mayday readers, Bubba Washington here! We’re smack dab in the middle of convention season, and what a great time it is to be a gamer. I hope you have attended or made plans to attend a gaming convention near you this year. One of the great things about conventions are game demos. These are great opportunities to learn how to play the latest games. Board game publishers are happy to demo their products to potential customers. Game demos are often run by the designer of the game, employees or the publisher, or in most cases by volunteers. That’s right folks, you don’t need to be an industry insider to run a board game demo at a convention. If you’ve ever wanted to experience working in the board game industry, volunteer to help run game demos at a gaming convention. Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.

Becoming a Volunteer

  • Volunteer: Sometimes publishers will put out a call for volunteers and sometimes they won't. If you’re going to be at a board game convention it doesn’t hurt to contact the different board game publishers that will be in attendance to ask if they need any help demoing games. If you want to volunteer at a large convention then contact the publisher at least six months in advance if not in the beginning of the year. Most publishers plan out their convention schedule well in advance.
  • Don’t work for free: Most board game publishers understand that you’re giving up your convention time work for them, in return they’ll usually pay you with a free convention badge or a game or two. Don’t expect an all expenses paid trip out to GenCon just to demo a game.

Preparing for the Convention

  • Read the rules: Seems like a pretty straightforward thing to do, but you’ll be surprised how many people demoing board games don’t actually know all the rules to the game. Contact the publisher at least a week prior to the convention to get a copy of the rules for the game(s) you’ll be demoing.
  • Practice explaining the rules: It is not just important to know how to play the game, it’s important teach others how to play the game. You’ll be a lot better off if you’ve practiced explaining the rules, and the players will have a positive game experience as well.
  • Set expectations: Before the convention you’ll also want to find out what is expected of you. Do you have to dress a certain way? What time are you going to need to be at the booth? Will you be running the booth alone at times? All these things should be worked out in advance.

Working the Booth

  • Prepare yourself: Prior to demoing a game you’re going to want to prepare yourself. This should include grabbing a few snacks and water. Depending on how long you’re working and how busy the booth is you may only have a few minutes to eat a quick snack. After about two hours of talking, you’ll be glad you grabbed some water as well. One last thing, make sure you stop by the restroom too. It’s easy to forget this when you’re not thinking about it.
  • Arrive five to ten minutes early: This allows you to ask last minute rules questions, and get situated before the convention opens, or someone finishes their shift. Things will go a lot more smoothly for you and the publisher if you arrive early.
  • Act professional: I know you’re giving up some of your time to do a board game demo, but treat it like a job. During this time you are representing the publisher; most people don’t know if you work for the publisher or not. You can do a lot to damage the reputation of a publisher by acting like a jerk to potential customers.
  • Sell the game: You don’t need to act like a salesperson trying to get people to buy a timeshare, but if the game you’re demoing is for sale, or launching a Kickstarter soon, don’t forget to mention that during the game demo. Does the game have great components, or has an appeal to certain people, point it out during the demo. You don’t have to turn the game demo into a full on sales pitch, but at least let people know they can purchase the game at the convention if they enjoyed it.

After the Convention

  • Follow up with the publisher: After the convention is over send an email to the publisher thanking them for letting you demo a game. Also provide some feedback about your experience. What were the things you enjoyed, what are some things that could have been done to make the experience better?
  • Offer to volunteer again if you want to: If you had fun and enjoyed demoing again, offer to volunteer again the next time the publisher is at a convention you plan to attend. Publishers love having good volunteers they can count on when planning out their convention schedule for the next convention season. Who knows if you want to work in the board game industry your volunteer experience may lead to a job opportunity one day.

Well that’s if for now, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with a few different publishers, and I’ve enjoyed my experiences. It’s been a great way to meet new people, and to make friends within the board game industry. I encourage everyone to at least try it once. If anything it gives you a different perspective on the board game hobby. Take care everyone.

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