How to attend game / tech conferences for FREE? (UK Edition)

A reblog of my post on Medium:

A continuation of my blog post almost a year ago, about attending Casual Connect Asia in Singapore and Rise Conference in Hong Kong.

Well, it’s been almost a year, and I moved to the UK. I switched from being an indie game developer with a day job to plain old poor student, who still can’t afford to attend conferences, especially when they are that pricey.

So what do I do instead? I volunteer. Volunteers get to attend the event for free in exchange for a few hours or days of work. Work varies, anything from what we fondly called lanyarding (it’s a made up word, it basically means we attach lanyards on name badges for all the attendees… thousands of them), ushering or roving mic during talks, or assisting with registration, or just being happy smiling people welcoming attendees.

After your shift, you change out of your crew t-shirt and you get to enjoy the rest of the event as a normal attendee, sometimes with some extra privileges.

Every organizer is kind of different, some would reimburse travel, accommodation and food expenses, while actually most don’t. But, but, when you think about it, it’s still kind of worth it, because if you were a normal attendee you’d have to pay for those stuff too, on top of your ticket.

I haven’t been flying around Asia like before, instead I’ve been taking trains to different places in the UK.

So far, I’ve been to PocketGamer Connects in London (which is where I got to do a whole lot of lanyarding, including putting a lanyard on my VIP one). I didn’t actually get to attend the event because it conflicted with my classes, and I am a stupid nerd that picked school over it.

Then I spent the first 2 weeks of my Easter break at London Games Festival and VR World Congress in Bristol.

London Games Festival is great because it is a week of quite diverse game events, including EGX Rezzed, a Dear Esther concert, a variety of summits, exhibits and ending with a Cosplay parade.

I volunteered at the Dear Esther concert selling vinyls, CDs and t-shirts. I also got to sit down an enjoy the concert, and I also bought a CD and had it signed by Jessica Curry and Dan Pinchbeck.

I also volunteered at Mixed Reality Summit, wherein they invited a whole load of interesting and insightful speakers, including John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic Labs (aka the company that made Pokemon Go).

As a cosplayer, I was actually kind of sad that I had to miss the Cosplay Parade, because I had a volunteer briefing for VR World Congress in Bristol.

And thus, I have successfully segued this post to talk about VR World Congress.

It is in Bristol, and even though it’s not far distance wise from where I live in Birmingham, the train tickets are however quite pricey. So I stayed at a hostel for a week, which is all part of the volunteer experience if you ask me. Luckily, hostels are significantly cheaper than train tickets, and I don’t need to wake up that early for my early morning shifts.

VR World Congress is composed of talks, B2B meetings and an expo. So it’s a lot that’s going on at the same time, and it’s scattered across multiple venues in the harbor area.

My task for the first day was as an Event Guide and showing attendees to the venues, which makes for good exercise, especially for such a nice and rare sunny day.

After my shift, I got a chance to attend the talks, and also go to the preview of the Expo and try some shiny new toys. I finally got to try Hololens, and it makes me so happy.

For the next 2 days, my shifts were as Roving Mic, which means that I go around during the Q&A section of the talks and hand the mic to people asking questions. And I also get to listen to the talks.

I know I should’ve socialized more and talked to more people, while subtly asking for a job. But I didn’t.

Instead, I just listened and tried to take everything in, and it could just be me being gooey, but I think they did inspire and encourage me to make some cool projects of my own.

So there you go, that’s how you attend game / tech conferences for FREE, and the organizers are always super sweet and appreciative for it.

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