Networking At Conventions

by Dan Gheesling

pax-east-2014This past weekend I had the chance to go my second gaming convention (in June 2013 was E3) ever. Unless you count me going to the Nintendo World Championships in 1990 in Detroit, then this technically was my third gaming convention.

Among all of the PAX (short for Penny Arcade Expo) gaming hysteria, hype, and big budget booths remained a crowd of people who were all constantly connecting.

No matter what “crowd” you were with, everyone was connecting on some level. Fans, critics, vendors, content creators, and even cos-players were connecting on the convention floor, meeting rooms, and nearby restaurants.

A lot of people at the convention were connecting over a shared interest, most often something they both liked.

Others connected naturally and not in a creepy way. The best way to describe this type of connecting is like when two people get along very well, in a short amount of time. Sometimes you just meet people that you can instantly get along with. This was the type of connecting that was going on at this convention.

Networking Or Connecting?

Some people refer to connecting as networking, whatever works term works better for you, go ahead and run with it, but there is a difference between connecting and networking in my opinion.

At a convention you can network with everyone.

At a convention you cannot connect with everyone.

The difference between connecting and networking all comes down to being authentic. There is no physical way you could possibly connect with every single person you meet.

You could easily network with every person you met, exchanging business cards and pleasantries, but that does not necessarily mean you are connected with them.

There were people at the convention that I was genuinely excited to meet. Either I was a fan of their work, had talked with them multiple times before and never had a chance to meet in person, or just connected with them on the spot.

It is better to connect with one person than network with 100.

Not Against Networking

I am not against networking at all, but often times it can be very transparent.

On the flip side of things there were people at the convention who wanted to connect with me that I could tell were genuinely excited. I’m not writing this to humblebrag about anything (nothing to brag about) but because it is fairly easy to see through who was connecting and who was networking.

It was easy to tell because once they found out who I “was” all of a sudden they showed a renewed interest in whatever we were previously talking about. Like I said, I am not writing this for self-aggrandizing purposes, moreso to help you the next time you go to a convention.

You can tell fairly easily if someone has an agenda, or something they want from you, even if they don’t say it. So don’t be like this!

How To Connect

If you are looking to connect with someone, the best thing to do is show a genuine interest in their work, not just what they can do for you. If there is anything you can do to help them, do it, without expecting anything in return.

Not many people give first, so if you really want to connect with someone, help them first because it is extremely rare for anyone to do!

If you want to network with someone, throw them your business card and be like everyone else.

If you want to connect with someone give first and be patient.


  • Colleen Kelly

    Hey Dan,

    OMGosh, I’m so happy to see you post a blog! I missed them!. :)

    I’m glad you had such a great time at PAX .

    It can be easy at times, to tell those who truly want to help you, from then those who just…. “Want”.

    I’m glad you got to connect with people and I bet you’ve got some new ideas for the stream, from your PAX trip too!.

    It was so good to “hear” your voice in a blog post again!. :)

    Thanks for taking the time to write it!.

    I know you’re very busy. :)

  • Tim Cort

    Hey Dan,

    Even though I’ve never been to a PAX, I feel like understand what happens at a convention thanks to your blog. Connecting with people must be extremely hard since there is thousands of people jammed into a concentrated space all with different agendas. The fact that you have been able to connect with complete strangers is no small accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself. It is great to see you acting the say way you talk — as in your book — most individuals talk big game but don’t back it up. As always your blogs are interesting and are always on task; it helps the reader understand what goes on in your head. Anyways, I just want to say thanks for taking the time to share this and for connecting with us.

    Take care,

    Tim :)

  • Trevor (Badgi) Jones

    This is what I love about conventions, the chance to connect with people, as you say, it’s impossible to connect with everyone, but when you do find someone that you connect with it really makes a difference and makes going to conventions very worthwhile, especially when you connect with someone who, in normal everyday circumstances, you’d never get the chance to connect with.

    • Dan Gheesling

      Good point Trevor, chances of randomly meeting someone with the same interests/goals as you in everyday life is slim!

  • Bob Flynne

    I second Colleen Kelly’s post – it’s such a great feeling to wake up to a blog post by one of my greatest heroes of all time – Dan the man :) I really began to miss hearing from you personally through your blogs Dan. Hope you’re doing well.


  • Jeff Beesler

    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog, Dan! And even longer since I’ve been to any writer’s conferences/conventions. My last one was in 2010. I’m hoping to go to one next month in Portland for the World Horror Convention. I really enjoy the energy that can be found in such events. Gathering amongst a bunch of people who share similar interests or passions can really light the fire in one’s own work, especially when one works in such an “isolated” field like novelist.

  • Ashley H.

    Hey Dan –

    Great post! I miss working at tradeshows for this exact reason, the connections. From a professional standpoint it’s easy to see who is “working a booth” and who genuinely finds their industry interesting and is excited to share it with others – THOSE are the people/organizations that have the most success at conventions. If you’re passionate about what you do, it will resonate.

    It applies in everyday life too – trying too hard to force a connection is almost always a turn off.

    Sometimes, it’s good to just nerd out in an elevator in Las Vegas and ask for a picture :)

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