Note: This is part of a series of articles called Effective Networking in the Games Industry. I’m writing these articles in no particular order, so I’m sorry if this seems scattered. I promise I will collect it all and put it on my permanent webspace for future reference.
Make Yourself Memorable
Networking is a pretty useless activity if the people you meet don’t remember you. Thus one of the major projects you should undertake is the creation of a persona. You need to be remembered for one thing in particular–actually, you’ll ideally be remembered for many things. I take a two-pronged approach to this, both in the business cards I hand out and in the physical impression I make.
Your Business Card
The business card is the personal currency of any industry. If you show up to an industry event and you don’t have a business card, you might as well be playing football without your helmet. Preparing food without your knife. Metaphor making without your imagination. Erm. You get the idea.
In my opinion, your business card needs to convey only a very small amount of information about you. All you need is:
- Title (if you don’t have one, be funny: “starving student” works pretty well)
- Company (if any)
- Contact (email, phone if applicable)
- Physical Location (I usually put City, State)
- URL (you do have a website, right?)
That’s really a pretty tiny amount of information to fit on a single business card, which in America is 2″ high by 3.5″ wide. This means that you have a lot of room to fit extra material on your card. You may be tempted to fill it with information. In 2004, I decided to make my card extremely information dense, resulting in this little guy:
A business card with the rules of a game that can be played entirely with business cards. Certainly memorable, although not as many people as you’d think actually remembered me for it. What really worked was my card from the next year, which I debuted at GDC2005.
The minimalist look of the card is striking relative to most of the business cards you see at GDC, which have gloss and tints that change with the light and embossing and all these other tricks. Although my approach is practically cluttered compared to the web-enabled business card.
For example, I gave my card to one XBox developer that I met on the first day of the conference. The next day, he came up to me and said, “Darius, thanks to your business card, I’m never going to forget you, ever.” I was flattered. But then two days later, I handed my card to a student from Carnegie Mellon who told me, “Hey, I’ve seen this card. I was talking to a guy from XBox and he showed it to me as an example of what my card should look like.” I’m pretty sure my card was a success.
It’s got three major things going for it.
- The tagline “Producer, Designer, Gadfly”. People remember gadfly, especially the ones who get the reference.
- The quote “A generally useful guy to know.” By the end of the conference, people I had just met were introducing me to their friends as “a generally useful guy to know.”
- The iconographic portrait. This is something I subconsciously stole from the guys at Harmonix. The portrait (made by artist Doug Chapel) sports my most memorable traits: glasses, beard, and an orange shirt.
Oh, I suppose I should explain the orange shirt, huh?
The Physical Impression
If you’re handing someone a business card, that means you’re meeting them in person. And you want them to be able to recognize you no matter where they might meet you in the future. I have my own take on this: I always, always, always wear an orange top. Be it a shirt, sweater, or jacket, it’s orange. Especially at an industry function. Every conference or IGDA meeting or interview, I’m wearing orange. It’s what I’m known for. As a bonus, I can put myself in an orange shirt on my business card and it will be accurate!
I’m not alone in this sort of tactic. Ernest Adams is rather famous for sporting a top hat at GDC. If you want to find him, people will tell you to look for the guy in the top hat.
Tricks like this get you known, especially if you’re consistent about them over a long period of time.