BlizzCon: Networking 101

BlizzCon: Networking 101

When the first set of alpha invites came out for Warlords of Draenor, I couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of disappointed people. Hey, completely understandable. Everyone wants to get in and take a sneak peek at the upcoming expansion even though it’s all partially developed and incomplete.

Here’s what bothers me though.

I observed on my Twitter stream (among others) that many people felt that they deserved to get a shot at it. They blog about the game. They create videos for it. They’re an influencer or someone who is up and coming in the community.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself “Who are these people?”. Yes, it’s one thing to produce quality work. Yes, your work should speak for itself. But no one’s going to know how awesome you are unless you network and promote yourself. I get that as gamers, many of us tend to be introverts. We shy away from large crowds. We don’t like doing the hand shaking or the high-fiving.

Actually, even if you’re not some content producer and you want to meet some terrific individuals, then this is a post for you.

If you really don’t give a fajita about meeting other people at all, then skip the post.

If you want to maximize your BlizzCon experience and build some terrific memories and relationships, for cryin’ out loud keep reading.

Really though, you can take these guidelines and apply it to meeting just about anyone. It could be a Blizzard employee, a cosplayer, shoutcaster, a blogger, YouTube personality, or what have you.

The preparation

Shower. It’s a wonder I even have to mention this. But please shower and apply some deodorant. For the men, I recommend Old Spice (but not Fiji because that one’s mine). Go easy on the deoderant spray. Holy hell, let’s not turn BlizzCon into the boys locker room where people were spraying Axe willy nilly. It should go without saying but, brush your teeth too. Actually, just practice good hygiene in general.

Know who to engage. This is a bit of a no-brainer. I’m assuming you have an idea of who you want to go up to and say hi.

Dress to impress. Don’t dress up like a slob. Luckily, you’re at BlizzCon so the dress code isn’t too formal or strict. Literally anything that’s a t-shirt or better will do. For the men, if you want to go one-up, shoot for polos or a dress shirt. Shorts, jeans, or slacks will suffice for the bottom. If you’re Canadian like me, then you’re limited to shorts because damn it’s hot. You’ll be doing a ton of walking and standing around, so pick shoes that will help you feel at ease.

For the women, I asked BlizzCon veteran Elke (@plumwd) for her thoughts. First thing she said to me was to think comfort during the day! Wear comfortable shoes, because walking on the concrete inside the convention center will quickly kill your feet after a few short hours. Save the heels for hanging out afterwards.  If you’re frequently cold, be sure to bring a light jacket or sweater to wear inside the con. Despite the masses it can get chilly (at least, for her it does). Ultimately, you’re going to want to be comfortable because you’re going to be standing in many lines or sitting for a long time waiting for your favorite panel. If you wear makeup, be sure to bring what you need for touch ups with you such as oil blotting tissue, lipstick, powder, etc. You’ll be happy to have it handy.  Plan outfits for both day and night. Think more causal and comfort for while you’re inside the con, and then maybe something dressier for the evening. You never know who you’re going to meet or the opportunities that may present themselves for adventures in the evening. I always bring at least one business casual outfit just in case.

Best practices

Approach from the front, not the sides or rear. Chances are, the person you want to speak with is already in a conversation. Wait for a gap in the conversation. Make eye contact or even do a little wave. It usually catches their attention.

Have a conversation starter in mind. It’d be a little embarrassing to go up to someone, introduce yourself, and then have nothing to say. Have a conversation topic or two in mind. Remember, that you’re at BlizzCon and you’re there largely because you’re passionate about Blizzard’s universes.

For example, if I were to meet my buddy @Elvinelol for the first time I’d say something like “Hi Elvine! I’m Matt! I wanted to thank you for establishing the LF BlizzCon site. It really bailed out some of my guildmates who almost couldn’t make it”. If you’re really not sure what to talk about, just remember you’re both at the same convention.

Potential icebreakers include:

  • What did you think of that panel on [game/feature]…?
  • What are your thoughts on [feature/hero/gameplay aspect/character]…?
  • What inspired you to start getting involved with [project/video/blog/game]…?

A firm hand shake. Don’t be limp. Don’t lock them into a vice grip either. Since you may be drinking, ensure your beverage is in your left hand. You don’t want your first handshake to be super cold to the other person. If your hands are clammy or super sweaty, wipe them on your pants first.

Know when to disengage. Have you ever had a friend overstay their welcome when you invited them over? You’re all relaxing and having a good time watching Game of Thrones and sharing stories about your recent escapades. The next thing you know, it’s 2:30 AM and they’re on your couch completely oblivious to the time still expecting you to entertain them. Look, you’re not going to be the only one going up to and saying hi to your favourite personalities. Give them a bit of space. Keep the time of day in mind. It’s one thing to approach a person you admire during the day. It’s another when it’s late in the evening. Ask them for a card or their email if you wish to continue to stay in touch. If not, close off with a "It’s great to meet you!" and meander away. 

I would not end a conversation with a hug unless the other person initiates and if you’re comfortable with it. I’ve witnessed many “oh god, oh god, oh god, why am I being hugged” faces and it did not look fun. Hand shakes, fist bumps, or waves are acceptable.

(Seriously, personal space).

Body language matters. Chest out. Shoulders wide. Smile. Doesn’t have to be a cheesy or fake grin. But a half smile or a slight smirk will make you look more approachable. No one’s going to want to talk to someone who has their arms crossed and shoulders hunched over with a frown on their face. You’re oozing signs of “I don’t want to talk to anyone, leave me alone”. Look approachable! Your mental state has a subconscious effect on your body. When you’re down, you tend to look a little more dejected. You might have a slight frown. But little known tip, it works both ways. Faking it till you make it can trick your mind. Adopting a more confident and cheerful stance seems to have an impact on mood. Works for me, it might for you! If you’re apprehensive out there, stand up straight, force a smile, and throw out your chest. You might feel like an idiot but it’s a good thing people won’t be able to tell what you feel by looking at you. They’ll see a confident and inviting person who just might be cool to get to know.

george-clooney Seth Rogen michael-cera

mila-kunis zoe-saldana

There’s a slight progression from George to Michael. But it’s all natural. No grins or anything but a slight smile is all that’s really needed to feel at ease. No one’s really showing any teeth here, except for Mila. Even then, it’s just barely noticeable. God, I love her.

Stupid Ashton.

Have a business card. If you think people are going to be able to recall your email or Twitter handle after a few days of partying and drinking, you’re sadly mistaken. Get a few business cards printed out. I suggest Moo Cards. Have your name, your website, and email or Twitter handle. I try to make an effort to email and message the individuals I’ve met up with as a follow up and to acknowledge their contributions to the WoW community.

How to make an introduction. I actually did a whole lot of this in previous years (@Itsxia and @Kristin can attest to this). I had friends and guildies who wanted to meet certain Blizzard staff or podcasters who I already had met before. Not only do you look like a hero, but you’ll help break the ice. “Hi AWESOME PERSON, I’d like to introduce you to my friend. She’s a big fan of your YouTube channel and plays a Priest. If you have a moment, she has a quick question about being a PvP player.” Then politely and quietly disengage out (and hit the bar).

Assume good intentions. This is a big one. Most of your interactions tend to be in the evening. Some people will be tired after walking around all day at the convention and might not be in the mood to talk right now. Maybe they’re giving you the cold shoulder. Try not to take it personally. Try to catch them later.

Accept defeat. Sometimes, you’ll run into someone who just isn’t interested in getting to know you. No matter how hard you try, they’re sending out all the wrong signals and just want nothing to do with you. It’s not your fault. It takes two to tango, remember? If you can’t dance with this partner, go find another one. Again, it isn’t your fault. This isn’t a game. You can’t simply just level up your social skills by annoying people. Going up to someone repeatedly when they turn you down isn’t going to make them want to open up to you after try number 30. These kinds of individuals are rare. For the most part, everyone I’ve spoken to has been polite and cordial at minimum.

Follow up. This is a big one. Once you’ve arrived at home, follow up with the people you met! Follow them on Twitter if you haven’t. Drop them an email. Send a message saying that you were delighted to meet them in person and mention your own blog or project for them to check out.

Nerves getting to you? Take a drink. Loosen up a bit. Remember that everyone is there to have a good time. The ones that don’t want to meet people usually bolt to their rooms or are off to the side somewhere within their own fortress of friends. No big deal.

At the end of the day, the BlizzCon experience is entirely what you make of it. No matter what happens, have some fun! Don’t be discouraged.

Of course, you’re free to say hi to me at any time. I promise, I won’t bite.

To the veteran con go-ers, what other pointers would you offer to the wid-eyed, bushy-tailed first time BlizzCon attendees when it comes to meeting new people?

Eventbrite? Or Eventbust? Thoughts on BlizzCon 2014 Tickets

Eventbrite? Or Eventbust? Thoughts on BlizzCon 2014 Tickets

Bullsh*t.

Horrible.

Complete clusterf*ck.

Those are some of the words on Twitter used to describe the ticket purchasing process this year for BlizzCon 2014.

First of all, congratulations to everyone that managed to secure and score tickets for this year’s BlizzCon! I managed to get some for myself and Conquest will be returning in full force again with some new faces (and old).

What exactly was different about this year versus previous years?

The Old System

Historically, Blizzard has done a fairly good job managing ticket purchases. You had to keep refreshing the page, select your order, and you’d get thrown into a queue. There would be an indicator that showed you what place in line you were. If you were 1356th in line and there were 10000 tickets available, you knew you were locked in for a ticket. Once the indicator reached zero, that meant all the tickets were spoken for and had been sold. There were no more left in the system.

The New System

This year, Blizzard opted for something different. They decided to use Eventbrite instead. A few of my guildies had used Eventbrite before and mentioned that the system itself had crashed during smaller events and concerts (with a capacity of 2000 seats). BlizzCon hitting the 20000 ticket mark made me wonder if Eventbrite could even handle the expected load.

My guild has done this annually now. We had a thread set up to coordinate who was able to buy tickets, what their maximum purchasing capability was, and who needed tickets. We were all on Mumble when the tickets went live and I hit refresh, selected four, and was thrown into their waiting room. Some of my guildies were faster on the draw than I was and managed to proceed right to the checkout page. I had given up hope. I figured if I was in the waiting room, there was no way I’d be able to get tickets. But I had no visual indicator as to how many tickets were remaining so I stayed on there.

Minutes later, I was thrown out of the queue and informed that the event had sold out and that there were no more tickets available.

Ugh.

My first year of not getting my own BlizzCon ticket. There goes my streak.

Or so I thought.

Resigned and frustrated, I kept slamming my F5 key just because. Then I noticed my page had changed. The sold out notice was gone. Tickets were available again. Perplexed, I decided to go for it. Changed my ticket quantity to 3. Was told that it wasn’t available, but I could buy them in singles. Said screw it, selected 1 ticket and was thrown into the checkout page again. By this point, all but 4 people in guild had tickets that were spoken for. 3 of us managed to check out in time and get order confirmations on our tickets.

The last guy was still stuck and wasn’t able to get his either as it had thrown him another sold out error.

On a hunch, he was smart enough and decided to wait a few more minutes before trying again. Sure enough, 24 minutes after the first wave of tickets had been released, he managed to purchase a single ticket for himself. Everyone who had signed on and committed to a ticket managed to get one.

Weird right? What the heck happened?

Based on what I saw and my conversations with others, tickets were held on the checkout page by people purchasing them. If people did not finalize their purchase or if their check out process timed out after 8 minutes, those tickets would then be released back available for purchase.

However, the rest of us in line had been thrown out and we would not have known about it. Why would it tell us that tickets are sold out if they weren’t actually sold out?

I felt that was absolute ludicrosity. Way preferred the old system. At least I knew for sure that I had a chance. And at least I knew that once the supply bar was empty, it was literally empty. I understand that the system this year had the unintentional side effect where people could show up late and purchase a ticket 20 minutes later. Neat in a way, but not exactly fair for the people who started the F5 refresh spam on the dot.

How can this be solved?

Easy. Put in something that the previous BlizzCon pages had: A bar that shows how many tickets are remaining. Calculate it based on actual tickets confirmed and sold. I think that’d go a long way towards placating many interested players.

Oh and don’t actually throw people out of the queue.

Why They Switched

Good question. Why did Blizzard switch?

One reason why we’re using Eventbrite is because there is a quick and easy system to help us monitor purchases and be able to take tickets back from scalpers/bots.

Source

BlizzCon is notorious for having a huge number of people trying to sell and scalp tickets. Listings appeared on Ebay weeks before the actual BlizzCon ticket sale. I’m not sure about the countermeasures or the success rate of trying to stop and minimize the effect of scalpers, but I loaded up Ebay and decided to search it up:

blizzcon-ebay-2014

Maybe it’ll get shut down? Who knows?