1) While this is a formal event, it’s not a “speech”.
You should rehearse enough to have a sense of flow and know what everyone is going to say, but having a “canned speech” is not only unnecessary, it makes your presentation sound forced. Know your game and you should be fine! Don’t worry if you’re a little nervous – the panel isn’t going to knock you out for the occasional “um” – but if you look like you don’t have a clue up there that’s gonna count against you. Practice is good (and I highly recommend it) but don’t over-practice or you’ll start to fall into a rut and it’s more likely you’ll lose track of things on the day of. If you need notecards you may use them, but you should try not to. Talk loud and clear. Talk slower than you need to – when you’re nervous you’re in a “fast forward” because your internal clock is set to your pulse… and when your nervous your pulse is faster so your sense of time is sped up. Don’t be afraid of pauses.. they’re not NEARLY as long as you think they are. A one-second pause FEELS like an hour up there – but if you talk at what you THINK is the correct pace in your nervous state, you’re probably talking too fast.
2) Dress up.
It makes a difference. This is a formal occasion, do your best to look like it. Generally speaking, gentlemen should be wearing slacks or khakis and a nice shirt (bonus for tie and/or jacket), and ladies should be wearing a nice skirt/blouse or slacks/blouse type ensemble (bonus for jacket) or other business attire. Dress shoes are preferred for both. Alternatively, if you are wearing a *NICE* coordinated team outfit (such as printed team t-shirts), that is also acceptable. The key here is showing the panel that you understand that this is a formal occasion and you have put some thought into how you present yourself. Conversely, the panel DOES understand that some students cannot afford formals and this is not a hard *requirement* – do the best you can with the resources you have. Note that there is a huge difference between “business formal” and “prom formal” – please no prom dresses, tuxedos, etc.
3) Introduce your team and your team members’ roles briefly.
Sample script would be something like: “Hi, our team is Video Game Pros and our game is Super Awesome Demo Game. My name is Jim and I was the project producer, this is Scott our project ninja and Chris our project pirate”. Everything else should be focused on the game – give the BARE MINIMUM story necessary to understand what’s going on, point out how you addressed the prompt, then move on with gameplay. We’re here to see your game, make that the forefront.
3.b) You should aim for your presentation to take about 5 minutes. While we won’t hold you down to the second, at some point we will give you a “wrap it up” signal if you start to go long, and may cut you off if you go too far. Shorter presentations are better than longer ones.
4) Have a Driver.
Driver is the person who plays the game and usually doesn’t speak – if the driver is focused on the monitor playing the game, they’ll be talking at the monitor instead of the panel. Make sure whomever is talking is focusing on the panelists. Driver and speaker(s) should coordinate ahead of time what is going to be talked about and when, so they can be in the right place in the game to show that aspect of the game. Microphone will be provided, make sure someone PRACTICES using it during Tech Check time.
5) Have cheat codes.
Be able to “jump” to the area of the game you need to be in when you need to show it. We had a game lose out on some possible points because they had a really neat boss encounter but no one ever got to see it because the driver couldn’t get to it. Teleportation cheat codes make things awesome.
6) STAY POSITIVE.
Don’t talk about what didn’t work. If you don’t mention it, we don’t know you tried it and failed. Don’t apologize that “sorry, this part kinda sucks” – if you’re down on your game, the panel can’t help but to agree. If you’re positive about your game, it’s contagious.
7) Don’t throw people under the bus.
If you have a team member that didn’t contribute well, or their parts of the game don’t work right, the panel will figure this out. Trust me, we’ve all been there and we can spot the slackers without you telling us. Calling them out during the presentation says more about the presenter than it does about the slacker.
7.b) Don’t argue with your teammates on stage. If someone says something incorrectly, either let it go OR if you’re the one talking about that thing more in-depth later you can take the opportunity to correct it if necessary at that point (ie., if I say that dungeons are all static and later Chris is talking about how they’re using procedural dungeons, he could say “and we’re actually doing procedural dungeons here, that got updated since the last time Jim saw them” or something). If it doesn’t NEED to be corrected (we don’t NEED to know that the chest is an instantiated prefab and not a static object), don’t correct it. The panel won’t know the difference. General rule of thumb: If the correct fact makes the game BETTER and might score you more points, correct it at an opportune moment. If it doesn’t, let it go.
8) Conversely – share credit.
If someone did something cool, “call them out” on it. “Chris did a really awesome job of organizing X” or “we had a tough time with this thing but Scott worked it out”. The ability to do that also says a lot about you.
9) Show EVERYTHING you want the panel to see (but be brief and respect time).
If you don’t show it, it didn’t happen. Also, if it’s not IN the game, it doesn’t matter. “We wanted to…” is both irrelevant (since it didn’t make it in) and disappointing (because it just shows the panelists that your game could/should have been better) – so don’t put that in peoples’ heads.
10) Respect the panel.
Every year there’s some people who argue with the panel. Ever watch American Idol? How well does arguing with judges work out there? They may say something you disagree with, and they’ll probably point out some areas you could/should have improved. Take it like a grownup and say thank you after they’re done talking, even if they had negative comments. The panel is *NOT* here to make you feel bad – they’re trying to help you improve. Take their suggestions/comments as improvement opportunities. Related: After you’re done talking, you’re done. It’s their turn now. Let them speak and don’t interrupt unless directly asked a question. Before you decide to debate the nuances of your game in front of everyone, keep this in mind: They’re the ones scoring.
11) TECH CHECK.
Show up early and test your game. Make sure it projects correctly and the colors work on the screen. What shows up on the monitor is NOT what shows up on an AV projector – in general, your darks will be more dark and your contrast will be reduced. Its better to check the game and find out everything is good than not check it and find out it’s so dark that the panel is looking at a dark blur with slightly less dark blurs for the objects. If you don’t check, you deserve what you end up with!
12) Have a good time!
You worked hard on your game, this is a chance to get people to see what you made. Most students (including some of your classmates..) do a project in class and only their teacher ever gets to see it. This is an opportunity to have a much bigger audience to see what you’ve created!
– Advice from Jim Flatmo at Sno-Isle Skill Center