Identifying Ideal Events (for Your Startup)

Or Why the National Forum on Dropout Prevention for Native and Tribal Communities Was Awesome.

Event TableWe go to A LOT of events. Between AnnMaria and myself, we try to make it to 1-3 events in-person per month each. It’s a combination of meetups, tweetups, mixers, conventions, conferences, coffees, panels, demos, pretty much any kind of event that involves networking. (We really prefer events that have actual networking and not so much schmoozing.)

We set our benchmark for success at many of these events somewhat low: Meet one person. Make one connection. You figure if between the two of us if we go to 100 of these events a year that’s 100 solid connections, which is pretty good.

Some events yield nothing more than some nice people. And as a general rule, even if there are a bunch of pompously annoying people also at the event, there is generally at least one nice person – or better yet a snarky new friend who we can sit in the back row with and roll our eyes together at all the pomposity.

Afterwards, we assess if wherever we went was worth it. There’s a lot that goes into that formula as well: How many people did we meet that are relevant contacts to what we do? How much did it help us raise awareness of our work/7 Generation Games? How specific was the audience to the market we’re trying to reach? How much did it cost just to attend the event (not counting other expenses)? How much did it cost factoring in expenses like travel? How much effort did it take to get there? How much time did it take to get there? How much time did preparing for the event/getting there/being there take? More specifically, how much time did it take away from game development/production work?

If the pros out weigh the cons, we’ll likely go again. If it was so-so, but took minimal effort (i.e. I could walk there from my house and it was free), we’ll possibly go again. If it was OK, but took a lot of time/money/involved flying, we won’t go again. And then there are events that we’ll definitely go to again.

The National Forum on Dropout Prevention for Native and Tribal Communities, which I attended earlier this week, falls in the last category. It was actually an event we just heard of by chance when they sent us an inquiry to see if we might be interested in being an exhibitor. I’m not sure how they came across our company, but the exhibitor fees were reasonable. It was in the Twin Cities, where I have immediate family so there’d be no need for a hotel. It seemed like the event would be bringing together the exact market we’re trying to reach. We tossed the idea around and decided to give it a try.

It was an excellent decision.

With hundreds of attendees, we made literally dozens of solid connections. (If you meet me there, expect to hear from me soon!)

We got fliers about our games in the hands of dozens more that passed by our booth. (If you grabbed a flier or my card, but we didn’t really chat, it’s not too late – please shoot me an email!)

We got to show our game and raise “brand awareness” (yes, it’s a buzzword, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important) of 7 Generation Games.

In participating as an exhibitor at the forum, we were able to connect with dozens of people who are directly in our initial target market at a single site – and that’s not that easy given the geographic diversity of our target market. Our initial goal has really been to reach a very specific market – and then expand from there. We have goals of being a major player in the market, but we are taking a very specific approach to get there. Our games are – without question – for any one that wants to play them, any school that wants to use them. We believe that our games are beneficial to any kid who is learning math at the grade levels our games focus on, and we want to be in every classroom in the country. (Well, more realistically, we want our games to reach the same market reach of a successful textbook – and a really successful textbook is used in about a third of classes nationwide.)

And – as we’ve talked about previously in this blog – we’re starting first in both predominantly Native American and rural markets. As anyone who knows anything about history or geography knows tribal and rural communities are very spread out – and we have put a lot of miles on our own cars and rental cars going to these schools.

It’s also a matter of connecting with the right people in the system. Teachers. Parents. After-school program staff. Administrators. And when we do connect with them, they’re interested.

It’s a matter of getting people to actually check out our game – and when they see it, they like it.

It’s a matter of telling people what we do and what’s unique about our game – and when we do it they get it.

Selling the game is a matter of getting all of the above to come together. And it’s not so easy as shouting “Hey, we’re awesome.” (Although, we are.)

Not all that often do we get to attend events that enable us to do all of the above and bring together people from our initial target market from across the country in one place. The National Forum on Dropout Prevention in Native and Tribal Communities did.

When you find events like that, you make sure you attend.

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