1. If you are driving to the conference center, remember to allow time for parking.
Remember my earlier post in which I mentioned that parking downtown was a lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be? You would think that would have been enough to remind me to leave room in my timeline to allow for such snafus. Yeah. . .not so much.
In all fairness, it was my GPS (I call her Bridgit) that caused the bulk of the problem. You see, Bridgit is not a high-end device that gets constant updates on traffic problems and construction zones. She's just a regular, old-fashioned direction-giver. So, when she instructed me to turn right in front of the Marriot City Center and I nearly drove head-long into a chain-link fence, I really shouldn't have been shocked. Thank goodness for good brakes. Apparently, there's construction going on in the area in front of and beside the City Center, requiring that a huge chunk of the street be blocked off. No direct route to get where I needed to be was clearly visible. (And no, ramming through everything to get to my goal a la' Nico Bellick wasn't an option.)
Not being familiar with the location, I had no idea I could drive up two blocks and double back to reach the parking garage directly connected to the City Center. As such, I wound up parking 2-3 blocks away and having to hoof it to the conference in the 80-degree wheather. Between finding another parking garage, searching for a space, making my way to the street below, asking for directions to get past all the construction, and finally getting to the City Center, I was 40 minutes behind schedule and missed my first lecture. I rolled with it, of course, and it turned out to be beneficial to me in the long run, but given that I'm supposed to be one of the people that plans for such problems, it was more than a little embarrassing.
So: If you're not staying at the conference site, pad your timeline for arrival by a minimum of 30 minutes to allow for minor catatrophies like limited parking when planning your daily schedule.
2. If possible, take advantage of pre-registration and early check-in.
I don't have the final numbers yet, but this first year of the Triangle Game Conference was much larger than anyone anticipated. If I remember correctly from listening to Board members, they were hoping to reach 400 attendees on the outside. In reality, more than 600 people pre-registered, and many more registered on-site when they arrived on Wednesday.
This is HUGE for a first-year conference of any kind. Seriously.
As I said earlier, I took advantage of early check-in while at the TGC Kickoff Party. You see, while this was my first game-industry conference, it isn't my first convention in general. The lines at the registration table at any multi-day meeting are almost always horrendous, and while I do know how to queue up properly I avoid it when I can. Better to just get all of it over with. As it turns out, I was right. Even though I was almost 45 minutes "late," the lines at registration when I walked in were at least 25 people deep at each station, three lines in all.
This may not seem like a big deal, since most people just give their name, grab their gear, and leave, but a goodly number of folks use their face-time at the reg table to ask questions, and even if only half of them do it, that's still roughly 38 people taking more than 5 minutes to get out of the way, and before you know it you've been standing in line for 3 extra hours that you didn't have to. And that's only for the people who pre-registered. It takes even more time to register on-site, so best to avoid all that if you can and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
To review: Get your registration stuff done before opening day and pick up your packet and badge early if at all possible.
3. Bring pens. LOTS of them.
This isn't something I learned from TGC, but something I tend to do in general. Naturally, having at least one pen in your bag or briefcase is a good idea so that you can write things down in a timely manner, like corrections to the brochure or lecture room changes. This isn't the only reason I'm telling you to bring writing implements, though.
It goes back toward what Darius Kazemi said about making yourself memorable.
I've lost count of how many times I have endeared myself to someone for being Jenny-on-the-spot and having exactly what they needed at exactly the right time. Most everyone loses track of their pens, so even if they had one at the beginning of the day they'll mostly have misplaced it at one point or another. Having extra pens in your arsenal means that when someone needs a pen, you can offer one up and let them keep it. When they ask, "Are you sure I can keep it?" you can say with certainty, "Sure, I've got a spare." They'll remember you as their savior AND as prepared for anything.
If you want to take it even further, have pens made with a condensed version of your business card printed on them. That way, people will REALLY remember you when they
Reader's Digest version: The pen can be just as mighty as the business card. Speaking of which. . .
4: Have some sort of business card organizer handy.
There's nothing worse than losing the business card of someone you had a great conversation with. Rolodex, Buxton, and many other companies make handy little wallets of different sizes, colors and capacities to help you with this issue. You may think you will never have this problem, but how many times have you lost track of a phone number scribbled on a piece of paper or a spare $5 bill because you pulled something out of your pocket and that crucial item fell on the floor, unbeknownst to you? For me, that has happened more times than I'd like to remember.
The other advantage of a business card wallet is making the giver feel like you take their "gift" seriously. You're not just idly shoving it in your back pocket or in your purse or bag, which can give off the perception that you really don't care about the card or who it represents. By sliding their card into it's own slot in your organizer, you are saying to them, "Look, I'm giving you the same level of consideration I give other people I take seriously."
To recap: Card wallets are a good idea. (Coincidentally, as of 4/27/09, Office Max has several different of Rolodex business card wallets on clearance. You should go see what they have.)
There are many other tips I have bouncing around in my head, but I feel this is enough for now. A lot too much information to process from the last few days, so I need a rest. (I'm sure you folks do, too.)