The prospect of attending TwitchCon can be daunting for many. But don't fret! We've been there and we made it back. And so did about 39,999 other people. We asked a few to share their expert insight to help you prep for the most ass-kicking TwitchCon of your life...even if it's your first.
At the most recent Twitch Orlando meet-up (great event btw), I came across some folks still on the fence about attending TwitchCon this year. The reasons ran from being too small to feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of spending the money to attend and getting little value in return.
While I can’t speak for anyone’s personal situation, I can confidently say that size is irrelevant (for a number of reasons), and value is directly correlated to effort, not expense.
So if you’re unsure about making the trek to Long Beach this October, we’ve got some advice and a few tips to ensure you get the most out of TwitchCon (TC).
Twitch has done a great job keeping TC affordable for most. Compared to other conventions, TC provides massive value relative to the price of admission.
Tickets currently sell for $179 for the 3-day badge, which includes admission to the party aboard the Queen Mary. Compare to the individual passes for each day and you’d be out $287. Last year the party was about $75 extra unless you had an industry badge.
Airfare is airfare but there are options when it comes to accommodations. The hotels around the convention center aren’t cheap if you’re planning to stay for two or more nights. Instead, I’d recommend checking Airbnb. You’ll find more variety, a better range of prices, and you can pair up with friends and save a pile of money.
Aside from this, you’re the master of your own destiny. Allocate what you think you’ll need for food and drink. You can be as frugal or as fancy as you like. So that’s on you, friend.
Camper - The Creative Corner was packed with talent last year, and that was the Creative community’s first TC appearance. Despite the stands being inexpensive, the artists there do amazing work. Most, if not all of them will have their work for sale so if that’s your thing, plan to drop some coin and bring home some pretty.
Lantheos - I found that packing snacks was really helpful to get through the day, or sneaking away to find a cheap bite and saving the majority of your cash for those “group social dinners and drinks” were the way to go. If you venture just a few blocks farther from the convention center you can find really well priced food.
Ashnichrist - Staying with friends makes events way more fun too! If you are going alone staying in a hostel can work, and some companies will provide you with lodging if you work for them during the event. You want to make these plans as far out as you can to leave yourself time to resolve any changes. Also, don't eat at the venue. Not only is the food expensive, it’s terribly unhealthy and low-quality.
TheGameCase - Definitely travel away from the con for meals. Convention food can be spendy. If you have special dietary requirements do some research ahead of time or pack your own food.
SPEAKER / EDUCATIONAL PANELS
The panels at TwitchCon are numerous and highly informative. So the issue isn’t so much quality as it is prioritizing. Depending on the role you play in this community, have a gameplan for what you hope to get from the panels and educational sessions. You cannot do them all, nor will you want to. If there’s anything to take away from this article it should be that there’s no shortage of value to be had from TC. That means being efficient and allocating your time carefully will ensure you take that value home with you.
Leading up the event, the main TC website should start updating the panels and sessions to help you plan your time. You may choose a session based on the subject or the speaker(s). Just like on Twitch, strong and entertaining personalities can turn no-so-entertaining subject matter into something engaging.
There is a LOT to do at TC. Don’t plan to spend all day in the breakout sessions. You’ll be missing out on too much. Instead, find a good balance. Pick a few each day you’d like, and order them based on importance to why you’re there. And if a session isn’t doing it for you, leave. Time is too valuable.
TheGameCase - Unless you want to specifically ask a question or meet a member of a panel, skip them. Most cons record / stream and make panels available later. If you're not seeking to interact use the time on the con floor and watch the panels when you get home.
Ashnichrist - Don't be afraid to ask questions or prepare them beforehand. Introduce yourself to the speakers afterwards. More than likely they were a little nervous, so thanking them and saying hi helps a lot. It also helps you connect - to succeed in this industry you need to connect. Make hundreds of friends. Hundreds.
Lantheos - As the con progressed I found myself involved in a really good networking opportunity and getting to know some amazing people. I was about to run off to a panel when a caster said to me, “Unless you have a question, why don’t you catch the VoD when you get home?” It dawned on me that I could still get the information I wanted by watching the VoDs, but I was living the event and meeting all kinds of amazing people and making memories that couldn’t be caught on the VoD.
Camper - The more popular streamers will often be speaking at one or more of the panels and on different days. Since lots of people will be taking my advice from above, attending these panels can be a great way to get some face time with people that could be insanely busy otherwise.
NETWORKING (AKA - THE REAL REASON TO ATTEND)
At last year’s event there were about 41,000 people in attendance. Attendees included streamers, Twitch staff (a lot of them), dev studios, industry folks, media, and those just looking to have some fun and meet similarly minded people. In other words, it’s very diverse.
As with the panels and sessions it’s generally a good idea to have a plan for who you’d like to meet. Getting specific is good, but be open to talking to just about anyone because you truly never know what sorts of connections you can make.
Pick up a guide for the event or download the event app and get a feel for the layout of the exhibit space. This will help you get a grasp on where the groups you’re looking for can be found. However, just like you, people will be moving around and you can’t solely rely on the floor plan.
Many of the developer stands will have streaming set-ups so that streamers can play and stream from the exhibit floor. I met several people just from gaming with them at the stands and learning the game alongside them. Afterwards we chatted and all of them were super friendly and excited to talk. Gaming together is a great icebreaker!
Pre-event networking can pay massive dividends. Sort out who’s going to be there and reach out to those people in advance. Once things get underway, it can be challenging to get in front of people or even get a share of their attention. There’s nothing wrong with emailing a company to set up a meeting leading up to TC. However, a big no-no is trying to leverage people for freebies. Treat everyone you meet as though you’re making a new friend and see where it leads.
And finally, if there’s nothing else you take away from this, no matter what it takes bring business cards with you. There is absolutely no excuse for not having business cards at an event like this. Bring them, USE them, and don’t be stingy. You never know where a relationship may take you but it won’t go anywhere if you don’t make the connection.
Camper - The people manning the game developer stands are often very eager to meet people and talk about their game. Game design is a labor of love after all. Hit them up, learn about the game, and start building a relationship. You might pick up some pro strats, or get interesting insight into different elements of the game.
Ashnichrist - The absolute best way to network at events is to work a booth. Even if you are doing it for free it is completely worth it if you have no connections yet. People also know where to find you, so you can talk about where you are on social media and people always know where to go for a conversation. Also, don't underestimate the power of hanging out with industry people in a casual setting.
TheGameCase - Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”! Make a list of people you want to meet and put yourself in a position to have a conversation with them. Network before the con and most importantly don't let contacts or business cards you collect be for fun. The fortune is in the follow-up.
Lantheos - Get to know people and be relational. You will be asked over and over, “What do you play?” and we all blank. Have your list of games you enjoy to stream and things you’re working on rehearsed in your head so when you’re asked you don’t look like a deer in headlights.
KEEPING UP WITH THE META (OF TWITCHCON)
There will be so much happening at TC and that’s both good and bad. Good in all sorts of obvious ways, but bad because it can be massively distracting and cause you to miss out on higher value opportunities. I’m not implying you should be anxiously questioning every decision you make, but hey, it pays to be aware.
Last year I lived by the TwitchCon app (yes, really) and by Twitter. Twitter is the watercooler of streaming and esports, hands down. The same is true at TC. For me it started when I left my house and was on the way to the airport. People were prepping, hyping, you name it. If you’re familiar with using Twitter and are comfortable navigating the app then you’re in good shape. If not, pay attention to hashtags and follow anyone you’re remotely interested in to stay on top of what they’re up to. Plenty of streamers will be openly sharing where they’re meeting up with fans, having drinks, whatever.
However - and this is a big however, be respectful. Personally, if someone is talking about dinner and I wasn’t invited, I’m not crashing. Drinks can be more casual but practice restraint anyway. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before heading over. If it’s a open invite to a meet-up then lace up your Keds and get over there. Those opportunities don’t come every day.
Technology aside, the oldschool way is still hugely effective. Throughout your day you’ll pick up a lot about the goings-on just from casual conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask people. This is a convention and a networking event and you’ll find most people are happy to share.
Ashnichrist - Since I work booths I stay updated by talking to the people who come by, but Twitter is an amazing place to go for info on your favorite personalities, companies, or organizations. When people go to events, they spam Twitter a ton. You are messing up if you don't have a presence in that space.
Lantheos - Using the technology we already use; Twitter, Twitch DM’s, and Discord are more than adequate to make arrangements to meet up with people or see what’s going on. At the end of the day or when you have slow times make sure you’re tweeting to your community and sharing stories, pictures and tagging those you’ve interacted with to keep yourself fresh in their minds.
TheGameCase - Watch all the things. Plug into the app, watch Twitter and follow the people that you care about. Consider making a list of these people in TweetDeck or a similar app to be able to focus on specific TwitchCon things. Don't be scared to ask what's going on. Find out about the parties and attend anything you can get into. Conversations on the floor are great but many a lifelong friendship has been made over a drink after the con.
Camper - See above. Really, all of these folks nailed it.
AND THEN WHAT?
One article isn’t sufficient for capturing and preparing you for all of the complexities of TwitchCon. But our contributors couldn’t be daunted. They had a lot to share and I wanted to pass along their expertise (along with some of my own). So in wrapping up, here are a few more nuggets of wisdom from our esteemed panel.
Lantheos - Keep two charged battery packs in your bag every day. Also it never hurts to have a spare cable. You never know what an act of kindness can lead to, even if it’s just a conversation. You’re on an adventure! Don’t say you’re tired and want to go to sleep. Some of my most cherished moments from last year’s TC happened long after the floor closed for the day. It was the drinks shared, hands shook, stories told and friends made.
TheGameCase - While I wouldn't recommend taking up smoking, I smoke at events. If you're a smoker don't underestimate the power of a tactical cigarette or any other way (barring following someone into the bathroom - don't do this it's a bad look!) that you can have a short private conversation with someone. Standing outside TwitchCon 2016 I happened to bump into Rampage Jackson (UFC fighter) and got my charity (stackUp) involved in an event with him that evening.
Camper - Last year was my first TC and I didn’t quite grasp the scope of what I was getting into. A few weeks prior I hit up YouTube looking for videos from the year prior. It took just a bit of digging to get to the quality stuff, but it was there. Specifically I was looking to see how people were interacting, what sorts of events were happening and what sorts of people were attending them, etc. We’re fortunate that TONS of people will be recording and live streaming from the event so there’s no shortage of content out there. It was super helpful to frame things up before I got there.
Ashnichrist - Be prepared to be freakin’ exhausted and drink a lot of coffee, even if you don't drink it normally. A normal working day for me is around 12 hours, and then going out at night with friends that I never get to see. 4 hours of sleep per night is common for many people, so it's imperative that you know when you need to take care of your body and take it easy. I got really sick at PAX South from lack of sleep, social exhaustion, and not drinking enough water, so now I make sure to sleep more and take care of my body in a way that helps to sustain myself during the entire event. Then I go home, play games, and don't talk to anyone for a week.
In short, TwitchCon will be what you make of it. And that’s a big part of the appeal. Looking to meet your favorite content creators and personalities - check. Aiming to see games / products are on the horizon? You’re good there too. Want to meet people and make new friends? It’s all there. Figure out a gameplan but don’t forget to keep an open mind. Hope to see you there!
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
Ashni is a creative and variety game caster who dedicates a huge chunk of her time to assisting streamers perfect their craft with her project StreamCoach TV. She’s also the founder of the Desoladies DotA 2 community. In short, she works hard. Here’s where you can find her, followed by one of my favorite recent episodes of SCTV:
A long time gamer with a big heart, TheGameCase is known for his space and sci-fi game streams. He doubles as a podcaster and talk show host on Twitch and, as if that wasn’t enough, he’s one hell of a charitable fellow. He dedicates much of his time driving donations to Stack-Up.org, bringing gaming joy to veterans around the world. Check him out:
A variety streamer with a diverse catalog of games, Lantheos gives on and off stream. When he’s not live he’s helping organize and sustain the local Twitch community in Central Florida. Definitely worth a look:
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