Soon we're going to showcase the first playable demo of Don't make love. During the current year we already showcased some of our smaller projects in different kinds of events (from the Gamescom Congress to the Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, passing by the awesome Game Happens). We learned things along the way and we want to share them with the community.
The list of tips below is by no mean complete, and it's mainly aimed at first timers.
1. Bring your business cards and marketing stuff/merchandise
This is pretty straightforward, and remember that also printing some screenshots of the game could be useful to attract attention.
2. Prepare your computer
If you're gonna showcase the game on your personal laptop or desktop pc check that everything works fine and try to update everything before the actual showcase. You don't want to have Windows updates during the exhibition.
If you showcase more than one game on a single machine (it occurred to us) consider also to remove any icon from your desktop and leave only the ones of your games. Consider also to use screenshots of your games as desktop background and as screensaver.
Come early so you can set everything properly and in time, bring with you some spare cables (hdmi, usb or whatever you need for you game), headphones (sound is important to provide a complete experience) and remember to clean your laptop!
3. Prepare your game
Usually you want to attract people into playing your game. If they see just the idle animation of your character or just a session without anyone actually playing that could be not much attractive.
While it's true that you should be there to reset the game every time someone has finished with it, it can happen that you're not around (maybe you left your booth to attend some conference). That's why we suggest to have a "showcase mode" in your game. In other words if for some minutes no one is playing your game it will start to show the trailer or a gallery of screenshots. In this way the game will attract people even if you're not around.
4. Ask always in advance if there will be a stable wifi connection.
If your game has online functionalities you probably want to have also a version that works locally.
5. Come with the right mood
This is one of the most important things. Showcasing is about interacting with people: you should be in the mood for talking with strangers, and be prepared for repeating over and over the same things. If you see people that look at your booth without getting closer invite them. Explain to the visitors interested what your game is about and try to involve them. Remember to always be polite, patient and helpful.
6. Deal with all the visitors
Not all the visitors are the same, some of them will go away without finishing your demo or game (if you're showcasing a short one), some will go away without saying you nothing, others will not understand your game, etc... In any case don't let you down by this things.
Some visitors may not be hardcore gamers, or gamers at all, be more gentle with them and explain even the things that you give for granted: you will be surprised by how many people are not used to WASD + mouse, even in the industry.
Among the visitors there could be also developers (even famous ones sometimes), don't be too invasive and wait for their opinion without asking. If they want to tell you what they think, they'll certainly tell you. And be open to criticism!
Journalists will come as well, not all of them will try your game, but don't be upset, maybe they just don't have time, give them your card and ask if you can add them to your mailing list.
7. Learn from your players
Showcasing is a gold opportunity to improve your game. You actually have a crowd of potential testers at hand and you can watch them playing. This is incredibly valuable because you can watch live how people interact with your game, make treasure of what you see and eventually don't be afraid to ask questions.