A few days ago I listed the events, designated and not, that you can use to make connections at Comic-Con. The first email I got asked the obvious; who can market themselves at San Diego Comic-Con? Right. I should have mentioned that.
There really isn't a concrete answer here. While an aspiring comic book writer or game designer is obviously likely to find some valuable contacts afoot, even those in the fine arts or in occupations adjacent to creative fields could ferret out some good opportunities. But again, be realistic; Comic-Con is not a romcom where you 'll run into a kind-hearted legend who spots your potential and launches your career. Most of the contacts you'll make will be of the less dramatic variety. That doesn't mean they won't have value, though.
Also please note this isn't to suck the fun out of Comic-Con and turn it into another grim work responsibility. But if you do decide to actively market yourself or simply want to be ready if the right moment presents itself, remember that fortune favors the prepared. Consider the below.
No, they're not dead yet. If you're still using those free Vistaprint ones that say Vistaprint on the back, get some real cards made. Include links to your social accounts and online portfolio. Don't do that weird salesperson trick of not printing your cell number on the card, then writing it down by hand to make your contact feel special. Just include it. I'd say make sure your phone is set up to bump or scan other people's cards except that I never meet people whose phones are actually set up to do this.
If you want to bring any other promotional materials - postcards, swag - or intend to market digital assets like a new site, video or social platform, start getting all of that ready now. We're only 92 days from Comic-Con. That's a tight timeframe if you still need to develop, print or produce content.
Bring the ones relevant to whoever you're trying to impress, not necessarily your favorites. Don't include rough or unfinished work. Some companies don't want to see adult content, some don't mind, but make sure it's not the bulk of your work in any case. In general it's good to demonstrate the ability to go beyond just one theme or subject.
Bring clean copies on high-grade materials. Don’t lug in some massive leatherbound portfolio with every project you've ever done – use those smaller portfolios good for leaving with prospective clients. (But ask if they want it before you actually leave it with them.) Make sure your business card is in the portfolio and include a sheet of reviews or testimonials if they're prestigious - i.e., not Amazon reader reviews. Don't include a standard resume; do a professional profile if you absolutely must list your credentials and clients.
You might think that you're too small time for all this. Look, I don't care if you're in high school - you should always put some effort into your work's presentation. I've seen multiple people pull a folded up sketch or handwritten story out of their pocket and hand it to a famous artist for consideration. I can guarantee you that at the end of the Con when people are packing up their hotel rooms, they will save what looks worth saving and toss what looks like trash. At least protect your work in a folder.
As for how many to bring - that depends on your plans. For the Comic Creator Connection, you need business cards and at least 20 copies of a one-page sample with your contact info on it. Again, be sure your portfolio URL and LinkedIn are included. For Portfolio Review, it depends on your field, but display everything on high-grade materials. Remember to select a few strong pieces, not thirty samples, and to display your work in its most flattering scale.
Even people who are normally articulate and smooth when selling themselves can choke when pitching an influencer. Practice a 30-second pitch that sells your product in a compelling way without making wild claims. That's always more important than talking about yourself - but you should be prepared to discuss your background, goals and influences if someone asks.
If by some wild chance you get a green light from someone and they want to seriously discuss your product, be prepared with a modicum of business strategy. You don't have to roll out a thoroughly mapped marketing plan, but you should show that you've thought about who your game or book would appeal to, and the financial benefits someone would get from bankrolling it.
I'll reiterate this when I talk about soft skills - but don't exaggerate your achievements, don't try to make every conversation about your work, and don't grovel. All of that is obvious, and all of it is a turn off.
99% of your success at all of this depends on the groundwork you lay in advance. If you just show up and expect to randomly run into someone helpful, nothing will happen. But if you're clever and diligent and do some research, you can create your own luck. If you're targeting a specific publisher, research them. Find out what they need, what they like and where they'll be. I know it seems fake to look up someone's recent releases or a company's latest developments and then talk about them, but it does show interest and effort. At least be able to converse intelligently on your industry of choice.
If you have your eye on a specific personage, try to find out who you know in common. But look beyond them too and cast a wide net. Reach out to people in your online communities. Focus on developing a bigger network in general, rather than just one specific company or editor. The biggest breaks come from surprising places. I know Comic-Con is a magnet for shy introverts, but this is a time to squash your wallflower tendencies and take the initiative. Remember that networking takes on a life of its own after a while - if you can just get the ball rolling by making a few new contacts, often you can tag along with them and extend your network that way.
Check back in a few days for Part III - my thoughts on soft skills and networking at the Con.