Just as every game developer’s toolbox includes a set of different programs and hardware that provide a framework behind their game developer, so too does a networker’s arsenal provide a basis for their socializing.
In the last part of the Networking for Game Developers series, we talked about the importance of embracing networking. If you don’t choose to network, all the tools in the world can’t help you. But, once you’ve made that decision, you need to start preparing yourself for the great networking adventure that lies ahead of you.
Here are some tools of the trade used by expert networkers, broken down by category.
Sometimes email and phone calls don’t cut it. You need to get out there and actually meet people in the flesh and blood. For those occasions, here are the tools you’ll need.
When I think of in-person networking, business cards are the first thing that pops into my mind. Business cards allow contact information to be exchanged between people quickly and easily. There’s no awkward fumbling with phones trying to figure out how to enter you number into the other person’s phone. You simply exchange business cards and presto, you are now the proud owner of their contact details.
Not only do business cards give you a simpler way to exchange contact info; they also give you the chance to convey your brand and stand out.
Wondering what to put on your business card? Here are some possibilities:
- Job Title
- Company Name
- Phone Numbers
- Email Address
- Physical Address
- Website Address
Networking is no good if you can’t even remember which business card went with which conversation.
I like to use a small, pocket notebook to supplement my memory.
After I meet someone new, I’ll pull out my notebook and jot down some quick notes about the person and the conversation we’ve had. It’s extremely useful for when you’ve been networking all day and all the faces start to jumble together, or if you’re forgetful like me. By jotting down notes, you’ll have some context through which to contact the person when you go to call or email them.
Like it or not, many people will judge you before you even open your mouth. With one look, they’ll form judgments based on your clothing, your hairstyle and even your physique.
Let’s focus on the aspect that’s easy to change: your clothing. Think of your clothing like game graphics. The graphics (your look) are great for drawing players (contacts) in, but it’s the mechanics (your personality) that will cement the relationship.
Your clothes should reflect the type of person you are to your fellow game developers and clients. If you’re looking to project a classy, professional image, then perhaps a dress shirt, blazer and khakis are the way to go. Throw on a bowtie for an even classier look. But, maybe you want to project a more casual, approachable look. In that case, perhaps a pair of jeans and a collared shirt would work.
Besides helping you look awesome, clothing can help you feel more at ease when networking. When you choose clothes you feel good about, you’ll feel more confident and ready to network.
If you’re looking for an easy and convenient way to start networking, the best place to start is online. With online networking, you can filter your web personas or responses to convey yourself in the best light possible. Here are some tools that will come in handy:
One of the tried and true forms of networking, email holds a number of advantages for budding networkers:
- You can network when it’s convenient. Unlike networking in person, emails take up very little time. Send off an email in the morning, spend a couple hours coding or designing your game, and answer the response later. Just don’t take too long to answer, that can be seen as rude.
- You can structure your responses. Emails aren’t done in real time. This means that you have time to think about and edit your response into one that will interest your potential client or peer.
- Emails are a good starting point. You don’t have to know someone well to email them; actually, you don’t even have to know them at all! I’ve sent off emails to mentors before ever talking to them and still got responses. From those responses you can build up a relationship, which could eventually turn into an in-person meeting.
- Emails are easy to find. Although emails are less personal than phone conversations or in-person meetings, this also means that people will be much more willing to give them out. You can often find a game developer’s or client’s email on their website or with a little digging.
Short on time, but still want to read and share details about what’s going on in the gaming industry?
Twitter allows you to follow friends, clients, peers or anyone really, and stay up-to-date on their latest news. Whether they’re sharing links or just talking about their day, you’ll see it pop up in your feed. Likewise, you can build friendships and credibility with Twitter by sharing your favorite articles (like this one), talking about awesome news and events, asking questions, or even talking directly to others.
The nice thing about Twitter is that all the tweets (information updates) are 140 characters or less. This makes it easier to connect with the tens, or even hundreds, of contacts that you’re following.
Still confused about Twitter? Check out this nifty article that should hopefully explain everything.
Looking for a way to network on a deeper level? Facebook may be the tool for you.
Facebook is much more personal than other social networking sites, which makes Facebook a tricky tool to use. Most people separate their business lives from their social lives, which means you can’t just go around contacting random people on it like you can with email or Twitter. Instead, you’re going to want to utilize the Pages feature.
Pages will allow you to set up an identity on Facebook that is separate from your personal account. You can’t interact with people directly, such as by posting on their walls, but you can interact with them on your page by sharing information or responding to comments. When you share updates or information on your page, it will show up in the news feed of people who “like” your page. These people will be able to comment on your page’s updates and wall.
Pages tend to work best for companies and high profile individuals, who can use them to interact with their fan base. However, it can be hard for individuals to build up a sizable fan base, although it certainly is doable.
Focused on professionals, LinkedIn is a great option for networking online. Since it’s focused on business, you can network without mixing personal and professional life.
To get started, you set up a profile, detailing what your job and industry are. Then, you connect with other people who also use LinkedIn by sending them a request to connect. Once you’ve built up a network of connections, you can ask questions, introduce contacts (or be introduced) to other contacts and keep in touch.
Instead of relying solely on social networking profiles, why not create your own website to present yourself to the digital world?
Personal websites are great tools for networkers because they can be customized to convey the type of character, brand, or persona you want others to see. Not only will you have complete control over the type of content, pictures, and information that is displayed, but you will have control over the design aspects of your site as well. You can design your site in a unique way that makes you stand out to fellow game developers, sponsors, and clients.
Good examples of companies that use personal websites to increase their brand awareness and network with others include Untold Entertainment (who uses blogging to draw in potential clients and build relationships with developers) and Vortix Games (whose website displays their game portfolio as well as blog posts to help connect with peers and clients).
Personal websites are easy to make, however there are (minimal) costs to it. Domain names run about $10 per year, while cheap web hosting can be acquired for as little as $5 a month.
If you’re going to be meeting a lot of new people, you’ll want to stay organized. Whether it’s finding your way around town, or planning your next meet-up, these tools will come in handy.
As we already discussed, people’s impressions of you are important when it comes to networking. This means you have to be committed to your word. If you say you’re going to call a friend, meet-up with a client, or email potential contacts, then actually do it. I don’t care how important or forgetful you are, people don’t like to be stood up.
Luckily, keeping track of all your networking is easy when you start using a calendar. A productivity wonder, calendars are excellent at keeping you organized and on top of your commitments. I just started using one this year, and I’ve seen my organizational abilities sky rocket. Not only does it keep track of my week’s social events, but I can write in goals, tasks, and even upcoming project dates.
Smart phones have gotten pretty sophisticated in the past few years, which makes them a great gadget for networkers. Their ability to email helps you stay in touch with clients on the go, and the web surfing capabilities lets you check up on the schedule for that conference you’re attending or find a spot to grab coffee at with your new contacts. They even have GPS capabilities, a must for rental car users in an unfamiliar city.
Besides the stock apps, popular smart phones have thousands of apps available to help savvy developers keep track of their time, documents, invoices, reading, file management and more.
The Most Important Tool of All: The Right Mindset
These tools are great for improving your networking capabilities, but don’t let them be a substitute for good networking skills and a positive mindset.
Don’t have good networking skills yet?
Not to fear. In the next section of this series, I’m going to go over a quick guide to networking, some skills you might need, and how to acquire them.