Now that the decision is made to attend and the throat choking payment is make for the registration, lodging and plane, what next?
The first order of business is to research, prepare, plan and pitch for an appointment. One doesn’t go to these markets without preparation and appointments. When I was first exposed to the markets, I had no clue why the appointment was so important. But, it quickly became apparent after I attended my first NATPE in 1993. I was thrown in to the Moscone Center in SanFrancisco with no preparation. I was there to learn, to observe and to promote my studio Calico Entertainment. My whole team had appointments, but me. I walked the floor going from booth to booth and asking to meet with selected people that I had researched. “Sorry, that person is all booked for this show,” was the line I got from every receptionist at every booth. I spent the entire day wasting time, with the exception a couple of meetings I had scheduled with the media before going. Of course, my mission at the time was to promote the company to the press and get articles written which I was successful, so it was not a total bust.
From that experience, I learned that you go to any market prepared with appointments. The rule at these events is appointments are scheduled every half hour. It is rare to get an appointment that is more then a half hour long, unless it is over drinks or food. It is a numbers game. Thirty, forty and even fifty meetings in four days is nothing. But the question is the quantity yielding the quality? The more people you meet with the more information gathered, but if your purpose is to sell a show to a distribution company, then targeting distributors early in the appointment making is critical.
The distributor is not really there to buy new content or even look at pitches for co-production. They are there to sell. So buyers get top priorities for appointments. I have had my perfectly planned schedule go up in smoke because a distributor needs to change a time and they give you a couple of options and those are already taken on your calendar and then you have to change appointments, etc. Now that beautiful appointment list is all messed up.
But all is not lost. These big markets create lot so opportunities to meet, greet and network. I have stood at cocktail parties, juggling my appointment book, drink and bag because someone that I had tried getting an appointment stops and says “let’s meet.” Since I attend the same conferences from year to year, I have been fortunate to meet and befriend many, so a quick email usually gets noticed and an appointment is made soon after. This is why my clients like for me attend. They know they will get some good introduction, along with an education.