The Convention Follow-Up
So, the Big Con (whichever that is for you) is over for you. You’ve made it home, avoided or gotten over any infection going around (an even bigger concern that it used to be), put away your purchases, posted any pictures you’re going to on social media, and have a little pile of business cards you picked up from people at the convention. You wanted to network, and passed out a lot of your own contact info (you did, right?), and you think you made a good first impression on a lot of people who could hire you (or work for you, or mentor you, or leave public reviews of your work online, or whatever else you are hoping will happen).
Before we answer that, let me clarify that you may not have even been at a convention in person. Maybe you watched someone’s game-industry-related livestream, Twitch, or podcast. Heck, maybe you took part in one. More and more events are online, and even things like an AMA or blog post can become a point of contact for people looking to network in the industry. If you happened to drop in and say hi during my and Stan!’s Gen Con-timed Convo on the Couch stream, and you want to reach out to either of us (especially if it’s to build on something we discussed on the stream), treated it the same way as a convention contact is a good call.
Okay, back to the advice.
First, keep in mind that a of of industry professionals won’t get home the Monday after an event. They may want to stay in the event city to see the sites, or may have made this the first leg of a vacation plan, or might be tearing down and packing up larger booths, taking meetings with local companies, or just stuck because flights got cancelled or they got sick and have to quarantine. Even if they head home directly and everything goes smoothly for them, they likely have a lot of catching up to do on things that got delayed as they prepared for Gen Con.
And, of course, everyone else who wants to network with them may be sending messages in the first few days.
The trick to reaching out by email (or messaging system you know for a fact the professional you want to connect with uses for business) is, in my experience, to do it soon enough for them to connect you to the event you want to follow-up on, but not so soon it gets buried in a flood of other tasks and messages. My personal preference is to wait one week, then send a short note. The note will remind them of who I am, when or how we met at the convention, and then if I have a specific ask (such as getting freelance work, or having them on a show), I mention it briefly.
If you got a business card from your potential contact, use the contact info on it in preference to anything else. Email is commonly used for business messages, and if someone has an email tied to a job, that’s normally a fine and professional way to get hold of them. (Phones, too, if listed on a business card or business online “contact us” section, but be aware there are individuals who dislike using phones even if they have a business line.) If their company has a forum or messaging system they use for official communication, that’s also likely a good choice. The further you get from those, the more likely it is you’re venturing into areas a professional may consider off-limits for business contacts.
Personally, I am happy to have professional conversations via Facebook, Discord, and Twitter, but that is NOT a universal attitude. Erring on the side of professional venues is your best bet unless you have good reason to believe someone uses other forms of contact for business. Also keep in mind that a company’s resources should be used for that company only. I have a Green Ronin-based email as the Fantasy AGE developer, but it would be bad form to use it to ask about freelancing possibilities in my role as Editor-in-Chief of Evil Genius Productions.
The sad truth is, there’s a good chance your initial contact of someone won’t get a reply. Yes, it’d be better for the whole industry if professionals at least responded to professional inquiries, even if to say they aren’t in the market for whatever you are pitching, but that’s just not always standard. If you get no reply at all, I am personally fine with you reaching back out to me in a month. However, recent conversations I have had with other industry pros suggests a follow-up once every 3 months is considered more reasonable my a lot of my colleagues. Of course, if the person you want to connect with is active on social media, following them and reading their posts may give you insight on what each of them as individuals think is acceptable.
And, to reveal a bit of pragmatism that is not discussed as much as I’d expect, positively engaging with someone you want to network with in online spaces is a great way to bump yourself up a few spot in their to-reply list. If someone is regularly liking, sharing, and positively commenting on my Facebook, Twitter, and Blog posts (or Patreon posts, if they are a member), or even my YouTube videos, I’m much more likely to remember their name, and prioritize getting back to them quickly.
And if none of that works? Well, you may just need to move on. But you can also look out for other places you can say hi, and try again after making another in-person or online contact.