This post is part 1 of 3, it’s about what we thought attending ALA12 would do,
and what we did in the lead-up to going to it.
Travelling on a hunch!
Declaring that we love libraries and librarians is an absolute given at Librarygame @ RITH HQ, we’re working directly with people we really enjoy hanging out with and not much needs to be said about that, we definitely like their company and we hope the feeling is mutual. So when you get an opportunity to hang out where 25,000 of them congregate, you’ve really got to make the most of it—as it won’t come by for another year!
As a firm believer in fortuitous encounters, this was the one place we thought we were most likely able to meet a diverse number of people who could point us towards learning something new and share insights that would serve us well, as well as us getting a chance to tell them a little bit more about us, without seeming like a hard-sell, quite frankly we’re inundated enough as it is.
So this year, after some deliberation and planning and following the recommendation of Dave, we decided to invest in one of us (myself) going to the American Library Association Annual conference which was to be held in Anaheim, using RITH profits.
You probably already know what we do by now, we make Librarygame, currently we have 1 x customer (the University of Huddersfield) with several more (well over 19) in the negotiation stage / discovery phase and very much eager to make it an integral part of what RITH does.
Let me just indicate here, that to a small business like us, going to America, represents a non trivial amount of money being spent, unless you really believe you’re going to get something out of it.. it’s a bit of a cost that you could actually invest in refining your product. It’s good to note with very little marketing, we’ve already managed to get ahead in promoting Librarygame with a fairly simple site launched a few months ago.. and an event we sponsored and featured on here. So in our diligent way, and we looked high and low to find super cheap tickets and set a modest budget of £1,500 / $2,330 for the whole thing including accommodation, this was decided on jointly by myself and Sam, while we discussed a whole range of other more pressing issues.
As a side note, in the interests of full detail disclosure! The conference itself was a couple of hundred dollars to attend, that’s with the ALA International Membership, and we found a nice hotel that had pretty okay reviews. The Comfort Inn (Maingate) on the flights from UK side, these guys seemed to have the best deal around for flights. admittedly, I had to catch three (not so fun).
Refining our pitch
One of the things that really focussed myself and Sam in the lead-up to the trip, was the basic process of refining our pitch and documenting things that needed to be documented clearly. All too often in larger companies, a product is tied into one team, department or product manager’s vision of what it has to be, and no one who’s involved in making it, gets a full chance to examine the possibilities from a variety of competing or shared perspectives. Personally I’ve always valued ideas being challenged, I figure if we felt comfortable enough to refine our own ideas in this way, not be afraid of voicing concerns or sometimes confronting our own assumptions, we’d be far more prepared and comfortable listening to customers and being adaptive to contextual requirements.
To most people who know how we operate and work, this is common knowledge but me and Sam have never been overly precious or protective about the origin or execution of ideas either, most things can change, everything gets a chance to be discussed to bring it in line with project aims. Time and budget permitting, every nuance of a project is allowed breathing room and gets optimised. We’ve never had Diva like attitudes about this or that. We really do take our time, and make time to try and figure out what’s best for the product and the customer, so this was no exception. By refining our pitch and polishing our documentation, We wanted to establish what the potential customers See, Hear and Experience first when they’re introduced to Librarygame.
Do our information dense elevator pitches get the point across for everyone?
“We make a gamification platform for public and academic libraries”
“We inject fun and playfulness into the experience of patrons”
“We make a game that’s played in libraries, it helps engage people”
“We make a bit of software that interfaces with your existing LMS, and adds a social discovery and gaming layer to the library interface”
Also important to note and slightly out of our immediate control was that Librarygame was being presented by the University of Huddersfield’s very own Andrew Walsh. So it was an opportunity to see how Andrew presents it from a librarian’s angle and get to hear the kind of questions that he had to field.
Actual Handshakes and plenty of opportunity for quick meetings.
First up, as we don’t live in the states and don’t have the luxury of hopping on a train or plane every other day, this trip represented the perfect chance to meet people face to face. One of the things we did was get in touch with the libraries and consortia who had already contacted us to see who is going and wants to meet up. Out of those, quite a few who have been pursuing getting a flavour of Librarygame customised for their libraries contacted us, and I was still arranging some calls and meetings while I was there, in a sense, in theory we would be all set before we even arrived.
Even if we had two meetings that led to work directly or indirectly, it would have been worth it! In reality we had many more meetings! *
Despite having sometimes worked with clients we’ve never actually met face to face at RITH, i.e. Christie’s, we’re a firm believer in the power of meeting people face to face, it makes you seem very much real, and you can develop a better understanding of their needs, operational hierarchies. Sometimes that conversation over some drinks about something completely unrelated to business, can lead to far better rapport and plenty of opportunity to learn the nuances of how to engage with an organisation as smoothly as possible.
* Due to commercial sensitivity and to honour the NDAs we have in place, we might have to completely anonymise their mention in later posts, or refer to the general gist of the meetings, as opposed to specifics.