The DAM Game Developers Conference Survival Guide

By Courtney Carlson | February 23, 2017


The game industry conference season is ready to kick off next week with GDC! Check out our last-minute checklist and take advantage of the calm before the storm to set yourself up for a productive (and fun) Game Developers Conference!


1. Packing – What to Bring

Traveling? Try to cover all bases without bringing too much. You probably won’t be wearing half of the clothes you bring, and traveling light is the key to organization (and sanity.) Bring a comfortable outfit for sessions (you might be spending a good amount of time on your feet), but don’t let your guard down. The games community is famously casual, however this isn’t a customer-facing convention, and you want to signal that you’re there for business and professional growth. Go business casual and ditch the shorts/flip flops. Bring one outfit for after hours partying (you never know when you’ll wind up at a nice dinner venue) and a light jacket (the Bay Area is still cold and breezy this time of year.)

Don’t forget your most important electronic devices, charging cords, and if you are demoing (private or publicly) bring back up batteries for hardware. Keep decks, marketing materials, and any important files backed up on a cloud-accessible server so you can have access, even if your hardware goes down. Keep extra business cards in your wallet, bag, and tucked in your badge holder! Bring a backpack or satchel with you so you don’t leave anything behind. Last but not least, remember to charge your phone often and overnight (especially for late night party-goers!)


The absolute most important thing you can do to ensure you make the most out of your time at GDC is to take the time and plan out your day. Download the GDC Mobile App for a convenient way to look at talk descriptions, add them to your calendar, and use the convention floor map to navigate around the Moscone. Make sure you give yourself adequate time to make it to your venue and hold a spot for yourself so you aren’t waiting outside during popular panels. Not sure if your highlighted tracks are going to be popular? Ask around your network (Facebook and Twitter are great tools here) in advance.

3. Re-Confirm Appointments a Day or Two Prior

Will you be meeting with business or employer prospects and friends? Conferences can be hectic, and early morning appointments can fall victim to late-night sidequests. Beat the standup rap by touching base with your contacts and confirming your appointment time and location. Make sure you have exchanged cellphone numbers as a text/phone call may be easier to pull off than digging through an inbox for a meeting email thread.

4. Have a Go-To Spot for Impromptu Meetings

Meeting space during GDC comes at a premium, and after travel and hotel expenses, reserving a room specifically for a handful of appointments may not be at the top of your priority list. But don’t worry- the many hotels, restaurants and cafes surrounding the Moscone Convention Center know the deal, and they are just as eager to fill their tables and chairs with customers and chatter as you are to take a load off of your feet. Consider taking your meetings at a nearby hotel lobby, bar, or eatery. Avoid anything a walking distance beyond one third of a mile (and forget anything more than a mile out.) Need a little help visualizing? Check out our map including the Moscone Center, St. Regis, Park Central, Marriott Marquis, Hotel Zelos, and The Mosser:

5. Personal Promotion

Business cards are still the primary vehicle for sharing personal contact information. Keep extras in your wallet, bag, and any carrying cases. Many conference-goers will use their badge holder to store business cards for handing out and receiving.

If you regularly use Twitter, we recommend including your Twitter handle on your business card or asking your new contact if they are interested in a follow-back, but with caution. If your personal Twitter account contains inflammatory content, considering keeping it private.

If you are at GDC looking for work or to share your resume, have links to your LinkedIn, GitHub, StackOverflow, portfolio, or website handy. Have a personal elevator speech thought out- you’ll be asked who you are and what you do, so be prepared to articulate this in a concise and interesting way.

Most importantly, when you get a name or make a contact, write them down promptly and make any pertinent notes for follow up. If business cards aren’t handy, you don’t want to miss out on a potential opportunity (or risk an awkward reunion in the future.)

6. Don’t Over Do It

Remember to sleep and eat. Common sense, right? Not often enough. After a few late nights, travel, and sub-par conference vendor food, you may find yourself in recovery mode before the conference has wrapped. Don’t run out of fuel too fast, because the event is over at the end of the last day (you still need to load out, make it home, and complete your follow ups quickly.) Survive by getting a solid breakfast in early. Bring a snack, and don’t go overboard at after parties. That being said, some of your best networking will happen in the evening, and nobody wants to partner or work with a stiff (so get in there, tiger!) Looking for the best things to do late night? Check out Pocket Gamer’s Ultimate GDC 2017 Party list here!

7. The Follow-Up

Once you make it home, you’ll find there is more work to be done (and it is highly time-sensitive work.) Making it a point to follow-up with your new contacts and opportunities is critical in sealing the deal. Consider the fact that your prospect has met several other people within the last week, and perhaps a few of them are just as talented, qualified, and charming as you. Make a great second impression with an email or phone follow up within two business days of the end of the conference. Note when and where you met, the circumstances of your conversation, and any pending action items to move forward with business (or friendship.) This is an important time to also send out connection requests via LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks. Be friendly, record their contact information, and sit back while the deals roll in!

Need a fast, effective way to record all those business cards? We recommend ScanBizCards! All you need to do is take a photo of your card, and ScanBiz’ amazing OCR technology will add those directly to your contacts list.

8. Travel

Are you new to San Francisco? You’ll be happy to know a direct ride from the San Francisco Airport to the Moscone Convention Center is only about 15 minutes! That’s a $22-35 Uber or Lyft ride and $15-75 for a shuttle for your entire crew. The BART’s (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Millbrae Station is located right next to the airport, and the Caltrain line can get you to the Moscone in about 35 minutes for $3-5.

Taxi options will set you back roughly $40-55. We recommend DeSoto Cab Co. [415-970-1300], Green Driver [415-857-2952] and City Wide Taxi Dispatch [415-920-0700].

The BART is a great, affordable option for getting around on the cheap and for avoiding parking. Download the Bay Area Rapid Transit app on your phone to map your trips!


What is your go-to spot to meet and eat in downtown San Francisco? Let us know at social(at)! We hope you enjoy your time at GDC!