At this year’s UK Games Expo (UKGE) I, for the first time, booked a stand in the trade hall to demo my board game prototype. I had a great time and would like to share the things I learnt in this article. The advice is aimed at indie game designers like myself who are thinking about having a stand at UKGE 2019.
1) Bring a friend
There’s nothing more depressing than sitting alone at your little-visited stand, unable to go to the toilet because you can’t leave it unattended. You’ll have several exhibitor passes which give access to the trade hall from Thursday to Sunday – surely someone will help you out in return for one of those?
2) Look after yourself
You need to enjoy the event, so pace yourself – this article contains loads of tips on how to do that. I was drinking about two litres of water a day (visitors to my stand were also thirsty) and my spontaneous evenings of gaming led to my plans for regular meals going haywire.
3) Have an existing community
My most rewarding conversations were with people I’d already met at games events across the West Midlands – people who’d heard my pitch before and were interested in the game’s progress. The networking opportunities at UKGE are unrivaled, but you must do the ground work beforehand.
4) Bag the children
(Strictly in the metaphorical sense). If a family approaches and you get the children interested, the parents have no choice but to follow suit. Even though my game is totally inappropriate for under-12s, I had a treasure hunt on my stand and they could win a prize for taking part (chocolate – check with the parents first). This gives you ample time to talk to the family: asking them if they’re enjoying UKGE is more likely to keep them interested than just blurting out your pitch.
5) Be visible
Get up from your chair and greet the passers by! Even the most artistic stand cannot compete with the buzz and colour of UKGE; a smile and fancy dress costume are much cheaper and more effective.
6) Be flexible
My big learning point was that, at 90 minutes, my game was almost impossible to demo effectively. I’m adapting it to make a shorter version, and working on a pre-set scenario which will allow future visitors to play a mid-game turn, rather than get a hit over the head with the rules. Even so, visitors to the trade hall want to be wowed by cool miniatures and artwork, which I’m not able to provide. Visitors to the Playtest UK zone, however, are much more likely to be interested in game prototypes. As a new game designer, it was my first port of call, but I felt I should leave it for others now that I had “progressed” to my own stand. I regret that now: my demo’s were still technically playtests, my questions were just about components and Kickstarters instead of mechanics. This brings me to my most important point:
7) Do you need a stand?
In terms of mailing list sign-ups, my three days at UKGE were less successful than my two days at the Bristol Anime and Gaming con. At that event, I got a lot of “So you’re a board game designer? That’s cool!” (for some reason, no one said this to me at UKGE). With no competition, mine was the best board game stand at that event. UKGE has loads of committed hobbyists looking to buy stuff – if you have nothing to sell, is a stand worth it? If you’re there for the networking, why tie yourself to a 2m x 3m patch of floor?
I hope you found this quick guide useful: feel free to ask any questions or share tips of your own! There’s more about my stand in the diary entries on my website. Thanks for reading, and good luck if you decide to exhibit at UKGE 2019!