Finding game developers is very easy. As soon as you are at the conference or one of its evening events, you will literally be surrounded by hundreds of them.
Your next step is to talk to people. It can be scary to "network" if you are not used to doing it, so we recommend that you Google some networking tips online. If you are an introverted person, it is a good idea to add that to your search query as well.
- Networking is very much a numbers game. You want to start conversations with as many people as you can. Some conversations will be awkward, some will be great. You have nothing to lose when you approach someone. Most people are at the GDC to network and are open to talking to strangers.
- Your goal for networking is to build professional relationships, and this is easier with some people than with others. If you happen to meet someone who is unfriendly to you, then just go talk to someone else and do not take it personally. It happens to everyone, and it is certainly not the end of the world. Do not let it get to you. Simply move on.
Don't overthink your opening. There are hundreds of ways to start a conversation with someone. Introducing yourself is an easy way to do it. Asking someone to play a game you made is another one. Commenting on their shirt, the event, a speaker, the weather, etc. are all good ways. It honestly does not matter much what you say or how you say it. Just pretend that you have known the person that you just met for years, and start with a little bit of small talk.
As soon as you have made the introduction, ask them open questions (i.e., questions that start with 'why', 'how', 'what', 'describe', 'tell me about', or 'what do you think about' and that require people to share an opinion or a meaningful story.) For example:
- What project are you working on right now?
- How would you describe the atmosphere in the company you are working for?
If the person seems to be unwilling to talk with you, you can always try to follow up with a closed question before trying with an open question again. For example:
- Q: How are you liking the conference? (Open question)
- A: It's all right.
- Q: Ok, well then... what was the best talk you saw so far? (Closed)
- A: Ken Levine's talk was pretty cool.
- Q: Oh, I loved Bioshock! What did you like about his talk? (Open)
Remember that your goal is to build up a professional relationship. You are looking to establish a sense of camaraderie, communality or kinship between you and your conversation partner. From there, you can work towards building trust and collaborations.
Once you feel that the conversation is over, exchange some form of contact information, whether it is a business card, Twitter handle, or an email address. There is no point in playing the networking game if you are not going to stay in touch.
After the conference, go through all the business cards you accumulated and send a nice, short email to the people you would like to know better. Some lines you could put in there are:
- I had fun talking to you.
- Let me know if I can help with X or Y.
- I'd love to learn more about your work.