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GDC board members share advice for pitching a GDC 2015 talk

GDC board members share advice for pitching a GDC 2015 talk

August 21, 2014 | By GDC Staff

The video game industry is a remarkably diverse community, and the organizers and advisory board of the Game Developers Conference are striving to ensure that the 28th annual GDC is a forum which reflects that diversity.

As part of that ongoing effort, GDC organizers are pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging a broader variety of game industry professionals to attend and speak at the conference, which will be held from March 2nd through March 6th next year in San Francisco.

Doing so is critically important to the organizers of the conference; GDC is intended to be a safe, respectful place where developers can feel comfortable sharing knowledge with their peers across the industry. GDC GM Meggan Scavio reiterated this long-running mission in her recent call for speaker diversity at GDC 2015, and to further that mission we've put together a brief list of tips for people looking to propose a GDC talk.

These suggestions are written with guidance from a few members of the GDC Main Advisory Board, who -- together with GDC organizers -- evaluate the many GDC talk proposals that come in every year. They also mentor approved GDC speakers, and we hope their excerpted advice will better prepare industry professionals of all backgrounds and experience levels to successfully pitch their next GDC talk.

As a reminder, the GDC 2015 Main Board call for submissions closes next Thursday, August 28th - with the GDC Summit submissions opening in September for additional opportunities to get your more niche talk accepted at the show. Check out the GDC 2015 Submissions page for submission guidelines, the selection criteria and the full list of GDC advisory board members.

Be clear about what you plan to cover and provide specific examples

One of the most important parts of putting together a compelling GDC talk proposal is clearly stating what you plan to speak about and what your fellow developers can learn from your presentation. Be specific, and include examples to help board members better evaluate your pitch.

"Be very clear about what you want to cover, and give good examples of how you will illustrate your points," says GDC advisory board member and former Gears Of War exec producer Laura Fryer. "For example, I mentored a talk last year where an indie believed that their marketing was critical to their success. In the first draft of the talk though, they didn't give or show any examples of what they actually did. Once that was added, it really helped drive the points home."

Fellow board member Adam Saltsman (Canabalt) concurs. "For example, if you're submitting a design postmortem, it is not usually adequate to say 'attendees will be entertained and impressed by our clever design solutions and witticisms' - give us a short example or two, so that we can judge the thing for ourselves!"

Explain why your talk is important

The folks who evaluate GDC talks are committed to supporting speakers from all corners of the industry, and so they end up sorting through a broad variety of proposals. You need to make it clear to them why what you have to say is important and relevant to your fellow developers.

"It's not about size, or scope, or budget, or code, or fame, or brand, or publisher - it's about cultural relevance," says board member Clint Hocking (Far Cry 2). "If a game you have worked on is making people feel things they haven't felt in a game before -- or even better; things they haven't felt before at all -- and you are able to talk intelligently about how and why, and specifically about what you did to achieve that, we want the world to hear about it."

Show that you can do the work

Board members have an easier time greenlighting a GDC submission if it includes evidence that the speaker knows what they're talking about and has concrete examples or relevant experience.

"Show us a presentation. Give us your specific examples and learnings," says board member Chelsea Howe (TinyCo, Zynga, EA Mobile). "You want to talk about a framework for considering co-op game variables? You bet we'll want to see that framework before accepting. Have a brief clip of your public speaking? That absolutely makes us more confident."

"The board is here to put together the most interesting conference we can, but we need your help to do that," adds Saltsman. "Use your proposal to give us the resources we need to defend your topic and your ideas, and that will increase the chances that we can make that happen."

Be concise, and make it easy for organizers to advocate for you

"Know what you want to talk about in detail and explain it thoroughly and concisely," says Hocking.

"Members of the GDC advisory board have to review hundreds of submissions, and you might have 10-15 minutes of the time of each of the dozen or so board members who read your submission. Be considerate of that time, and use it efficiently and wisely. If you can't do that well, it undermines our confidence that you could use a full hour of the time of a couple hundred people wisely."

Don't be afraid -- all are welcome

The GDC advisory board is committed to improving the diversity of speakers at the conference, and they encourage everyone with a great idea for a GDC talk to put in the work preparing and pitching it -- regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or experience level.

"I would encourage people to submit talks even if they're just starting out," says Fryer. "Not only is it very good for the industry to learn from you, it's also great for your own development as a creator."

It's great for GDC as well, since board members recognize that the conference must always be striving to best reflect the diversity of the industry it represents.

"Lack of diversity has long been a criticism of the GDC lineup, and deservedly so," says Howe. "In recent years it's improved tremendously - with the addition of the Advocacy Track, for example - but we have a long ways to go; for instance, in making sure the Advocacy Track isn't a scapegoat or excuse to not strive for diversity everywhere else."

Hocking concurs. "We believe that in order to best foster the discussion of games as culture it is extremely important that the voices in that discussion represent the breadth and diversity of culture as a whole. In the last few years we have tried hard to improve the diversity of not only the speakers, but also of the Advisory Board itself."

[For more details on the submission process and to view the complete list of GDC 2015 Main Conference advisory board members, please visit the GDC website C4P area.]

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