The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

How to win over publishers at a speed dating event

Quite often at larger Cons there will be an event dedicated to designers pitching their games to publishers, known as a publisher speed dating event (or speed pitching event). When you hear about these events or are planning on attending one of these conventions, sign up early, because spots are extremely limited, and the tickets sell out very quickly.

Depending on the event, you may just need to sign up, or you may be required to submit a sell sheet and/or other info on your game. In the latter case, there may be a judging competition to select games that will be considered for the event.

If you get a seat at the event, you’ll be given space to set up your game, display your sell sheet, and set out your business cards if you have any (and it’s always a good idea to have some). You will have a short amount of time, typically around five minutes, to pitch your game and answer any questions.

Unless your game is really simple to teach and get into, in which case you might be able to demo a sample round of the game, focus on what players do in your game, the experience they will have, and what is unique about your game. Publishers will dive deeper with questions if they are interested. Make sure to thank them for their time and exchange business cards if you’re able to.

If the publisher likes what they see, they will likely take a sell sheet, which may or may not indicate strong interest in your game. If they want to play your game or find out more information, they will reach out to you (possibly while you’re still at the convention or event) with the contact information you’ve provided.

These speed dating events can be hit or miss. If they are not well-attended by reputable publishers, the odds of getting interest or even getting your game signed as a result of attending one of these events, can diminish.

On the other hand, all it takes is one interested publisher to get a game signed. The big benefit of these events is they allow you to show your game to multiple publishers in a very short amount of time.

Pitching your game over and over can be a bit stressful if you’re not used to this. However, you will definitely get better at pitching your game the more you do it, so this is great practice.

Here are some tips to improve your odds at speed dating events:

  • Sign up as soon as you can, as there are always a limited number of spots and way more demand than supply
  • This may go without saying but have a great looking and great playing game to pitch. Quite often, many of the games presented at these events are not top-notch (at least not yet), so having a really good-looking prototype that also plays well can help a lot
  • Get there early and have everything set up well before the publishers arrive
  • Practice your pitch ahead of time and have it down cold (a 30-second elevator pitch outlining the game and what players do is a great starting point – see my previous post about this HERE).
  • Have plenty of copies of your sell sheet (and business cards if you have these) and make sure to display your sell sheet on a standee to stand out
  • Make sure to get the names of the representatives you talk to and ask for a business card from each of publishers you meet
  • Be polite, professional, and show the publishers that you are somebody they would want to work with

Remember, just because a publisher is interested, doesn’t mean you need to sign with them, or even hand over your prototype (they will not hand you a contract right then and there anyhow). Make sure you get to know the publisher. It’s similar to a job interview. You both have to feel this is a good fit. It’s ok to say no or ask for some time to think it over.

What have your experiences been with attending publisher speeding dating events? Do you have any tips to improve the odds?

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