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Indies: Top tips for when you meet publishers

Road to Rezzed: Jon Torrens discusses the best way to make an impression with future investors

This is the first in a series of features to support the Games Industry ahead of EGX Rezzed on March 30th. This piece is specifically for those attending the Meet The Indies zone at the show - where publishers and investors can meet with creators.

The key to gaining potential investors' trust is by making a great impression.

In order to do that you need to answer these crucial questions:

Research: Who, When, Where?

The first objective is to find out who you'll be pitching to. You'll want to know what experience they have, whether they are familiar with your game's genre or, indeed, games at all. Look them up on LinkedIn and see where they've worked and on what projects - perhaps they created or worked on a title that you enjoyed. Another thing to do is to check their social media and see what pushes their buttons - or more importantly, what doesn't. For instance: are they loving VR, or not so interested in the technology?

Once you've arranged the meetings organise your time properly and make things easy for yourself. You'll need to decide whether you can just take the code you have already, or if you'll need to create new materials. Make sure you find out how long your allocated slot is and whether you have the time to show everything you want. Then do your research on the venue, too. Not just in terms of how easy it is to get to, but also whether it has the right technology available - or even plug sockets.

Have a 5 Second Pitch

Try to sum up your game in a few seconds. This may seem counter-intuitive or even a bit silly, but it's essential as the starting point. For instance: 'It's a fruit-based first person shooter with RPG elements' may be incomplete, but it sets out your stall immediately without stumbling over the finer details that you may be obsessing over on a day-to-day basis. An opening statement like that invites a ton of questions, but that's a good thing - you want a conversation with your publishers or investors.

Daniel Priestley's book 'Key Person of Influence' has 5 steps and the first is to have a good pitch ('If you have something of great value to offer, but no-one can understand it, you're not going any further').

This exercise gets you to think in terms of your potential audience - a bit of empathy goes a long way when pitching. Are they all about making money? Probably.

Keep It Simple

The 5 second pitch also gets you to simplify your concept when speaking to someone that's perhaps not a specialist in what you're doing. Boil it down to its essentials. You're not dumbing down, but getting to the core of what it's about. Don't try to impress with eloquence; keep it natural and conversational, then you'll be easier to understand (plus it's easier for you to remember).

Tell Your Story

Make sure to describe your team in your meeting. Think of them like character classes - they have strengths and weaknesses, but they fit together perfectly to create an unstoppable army of problem-solving geniuses.

The best stories have peril and risk. So talk about the journey you've been on and the obstacles that you have had to overcome.

People are the most interesting thing in the world. Even if you don't feel very interesting, the investor wants to know what makes you tick and what you're about. This is because they want to know:

...if they'll enjoy working with you. You may have an IQ of 139, but if you're a pain in the behind to work with, they won't bother.

...your motivation. They want to know that you love your project and how you'll react when things get tough.

Just like you, they want to minimise wherever possible.

Describe Your Plan and Process

How will your team execute this grand plan, then? What contingencies do you have in place? The investor wants to see if you're realistic about completing the project, and how you will deal with the unexpected - because there's always something unexpected*.

You might not need exact dates, but make sure to show that you have plans around when you will alpha and beta, and what your testing process is. And, of course, when you think you'll complete.

Show Passion

If you don't show a love for the project and the medium then you may not convince them that this is something they want to invest in. If you can appeal to people's emotion then you can sell the 'what' and the 'how' much more easily (watch Simon Sinek's TED talk 'How great leaders inspire action').

Talk about the big picture and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Do you want to change the world or just make lots of money? Do you love the process or the end product? Or both? If your goal resonates with the investors you may have great success.


Few people bother rehearsing, so it's an easy way to look professional and reduce your nerves. Get someone you know and trust to pretend to be an investor. Run through the whole thing at full pace and full volume without stopping for mistakes and see what they say. Get them to be brutally honest - you can be sure that the investor(s) will be.

If you're presenting as a team, get used to transitioning between each other.

Use Your Spider-Sense

During the pitch, try to be aware of how the whole thing's going. If they don't appear entirely happy then just ask them straight out "Is this OK?" or "Is this what you're after?". They may want to hear more about a particular aspect but don't want to interrupt. Let them, it could save the pitch.

Ask questions. Listen.

Finally. Don't take any of it personally.

If they're not keen to invest then that's fine - it's business. The way you react to any negative feedback is very important - it shows how you deal with unexpected** and they may even be testing you to see what you do. Keep your cool and you'll show you have faith in your idea and your ability to deliver.

* Always.

** Told you.

On March 30th, is running an event called Meet The Indies @ EGX Rezzed. The event will see independent creators matched up with leading publishers - and it's free for indies that are already exhibiting at Rezzed. For more information and details, contact Charlotte Nangle right here.

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