To quote Anchorman: Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast!
I was really nervous in the run up to VideoBrains. All of the tickets had been sold out, I had a long list of emails from people that wanted to get in, and did I mention it was the first time I’d ever organised an event?
An Idea I decided to start working on after NineWorlds ended up being around 50 hours of work for me and it all hinged on the event not being rubbish.
It went pretty good.
What Went Right
Must say I'm super impressed with the calibre of guests and talks @_JakeTucker has organised for VideoBrains.
— Laura Kate Dale (@LaurakBuzz) September 22, 2014
— Mike Jennings (@mikejjennings) September 22, 2014
Really enjoyed hearing everyone's talks at #VideoBrains and so glad people went with me on mine 😀
— Philippa Warr (@philippawarr) September 22, 2014
So, the speakers were good, basically. I won’t single any of them out but there was something for everyone and they definitely carried the first event.
There was a good crowd, and a lot of people came up to me and said that they appreciated the atmosphere, Meltdown has a unique layout that meant it was like something of a poetry reading, with energetic speakers talking about 2 feet from their audience.
The filmed talks means there is plenty of media still to come, which is fantastic. It’s nice to be able to share these talks around.
What Went Badly?
I think perhaps the idea of having a panel involved was a mistake and so I probably won’t be hosting any panels in the future. The layout doesn’t really suit and while the panel was great, I feel like it was a bit muddled in regards to audience and that’s my fault.
Scheduling was interesting. I actually built in buffers for technical errors and drink breaks but talks overrode and one of the biggest criticisms when I was courting feedback afterwards was that it was a little crowded with not enough time to chat. To get around this, in future I’m only going to schedule in 2 hours of talks, with plenty of breaks. It’ll still run 7-10, but there will be less of a panic and I won’t have to limit questions or look at my watch frantically and everyone will have more time to get beer.
There’s a weird layout quirk where to use the bathroom you have to get behind the speakers. This isn’t really changable without changing venue, but I’ll make sure the alternative routes are pointed out. With more breaks this should be less of a problem too.
There could do with being more of a stronger handle on things from the MC. This is entirely my fault because I was nervous and very bad at public speaking. I’ll get around this by not being completely rubbish next time and doing a little bit of prepwork.
Things to Consider
A big question for me has been how to monetise this. Running an event on a budget of 0 is quite the thing, and although it worked this time, the lost earnings for missing out on 50 hours of freelance has stung.
Admittedly I probably would have spent 25 of those hours playing videogames but as the event was popular and VideoBrains is a thing that I “do” now, I need to look at making it self sustaining. There are two factors for this: After a few missteps and investigations I’ve decided the best way to hand out the video and audio of the talks is entirely for free on youtube, although backers on Patreon will get the talks emailed to them as soon as they’re available. Similar with any photos from a stills camera.
Backers of my Patreon will get the occasional bit of behind the scenes news, in addition to a few days of “early-bird” access on tickets, but by and large my big thing has been to have no barrier of entry on the talks. If you want to listen to people being smart about games, you should be free to experience that. If you like what you see, you can make the choice to back on Patreon but it’s entirely up to you.
Secondly, I think I’ll also be looking to take someone else on in a purely administrative role. Just to help me respond to emails, contact speakers and manage things like the eventbrite page. I can probably run this as a one man show until Christmas but it is a gigantic timesink for one person. It’s absolutely key for me that anyone involved in VideoBrains shares me seem views on it, so it may take a little while to get that together. Something to consider for the future.
I took a couple of days off after Videobrains to clear my head and get things centred. In that time, Joe and Pip wrote up their notes on the talk, and they really got some traction. VideoBrains has now been mentioned in VG247, Rock Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer, Games Rant.. the list goes on, including reports in other languages.
As more speakers write up their notes and the videos are released I imagine more coverage will surface, but it’s exciting to see interest.
I want to round off this particular bout of word vomit with a series of enthusiastic thanks:
Joe Martin for putting me in touch with a ton of other speakers with recommendations.
Alan Williamson for… well, just about everything. He spoke at the event, made the excellent logo and has just been pretty invaluable for bouncing ideas off throughout.
Jenni Goodchild and Tim Skew for putting me in touch with a bunch of speakers and also offering tons of help throughout the process.
Meltdown London and particularly Duncan Morrison for working the event and giving VideoBrains a home.
My Housemates for putting up with me rattling on about this for the better part of a month, and also coming along to help with the running of the event.