I’m no stranger to industry events – exhibiting often forms part of a marketing communications programme for clients and I’ve been involved in a fair few in my time. But last weekend, I attended Interactive Futures in parent mode, and witnessed first class engagement with an audience that’s not always easy to reach – young people.
For those that don’t know, Interactive Futures was a three day event, bringing together different organisations from the gaming industry based in and around Leamington Spa – or #SiliconSpa as it’s becoming known. The first two days were industry-focused, but Saturday was all about inspiring the next generation of potential employees, innovators and entrepreneurs.
Granted, the exhibitors had a head start. Gaming is cool, and it’s what a lot of teenagers spend their time doing. Engaging with youngsters at this event was always going to be easier than your standard careers fair. But it wasn’t an event where kids spent all their time trying out the latest tech. While there were some games to play, the majority of interaction was conversation about skills and careers, and the talks were generally standing room only. There was a real buzz throughout the event.
So what was it they got so right?
- Audience: This event knew its audience – predominantly those looking for a career in gaming, plus anxious parents worrying that an obsession with games would get in the way of a good career. The talks were well structured to reach both groups with practical advice and positive messages. I’m no gamer, but I left the event excited by the breadth of opportunities the industry presents and encouraged by the prospect my son may find a career combining both his passion and his skills.
- Pace: The talks were punchy and well structured. Panel discussions included a good mix of experts who had entered the market in different ways, providing useful advice across a range of roles.
- Generosity: No, not with giveaways – there were refreshingly few freebies, save for the odd pen or badge. The generosity came in how the stands were staffed. Despite being relatively small spaces, most exhibitors brought several members of their team from different roles. All were on their feet, actively seeking out teenagers to talk to. Rather than selling products, they were offering pearls of wisdom and inspiring our kids. We left with contacts to follow up, recommendations of courses and universities and a clear message that maths is important if you want to be a programmer. My son did some extra revision for today’s maths exam as a result :-)
This experience was a far cry from some of the drier careers events I’ve attended, where exhibitors have tended to target the parents rather than the young people they’re seeking to inspire. But it also challenged my own perceptions about careers in gaming. It’s now clear to me that:
- Gaming is big business and the opportunities are vast, ranging from development and design to HR, finance, marketing and more
- A good knowledge of maths and excel is important, but…
- “I love playing games” is also a good thing to put on your CV!
This was the first year Interactive Futures took place, but won't be the last - dates for 2020 have already been announced. It was great to see Leamington’s considerable game development community come together to promote the industry and engage with its future workforce. Congratulations to all those involved and roll on next year.
For more information about the event, visit www.interactive-futures.com