Final Boss: Ali Fearnley, Conference Director at Tandem Events

Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV/DEVELOP with their unique insight. This month, we speak to Ali Fearnley, conference director at Tandem Events.

Many will be reading this at Develop. What will you be doing?

Being onsite at Develop:Brighton is all about executing the hard work the team has done in the months leading up to the show. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate across the three days, from ensuring a smooth registration process and that each conference room is prepped, to liaising with the hotel and our excellent volunteers, so I have no issues hitting my step count! The most important part, however, is meeting and spending time with our delegates, getting feedback and making sure their experience is the best it can be. It is super busy, but the best part of the job is being onsite, meeting people and seeing the event come to life.

When all the delegates and attendees have left and everything has been packed away, what will be on your mind?

The end of the conference is always a bittersweet moment. There is a buzz of energy that you are proud to be part of, but there is a bit of a comedown when it is gone. The mind naturally wanders towards next year, how we can innovate and improve, but before I go too deep into that, it’s a G&T and a well-earned holiday.

You’ve been involved in gaming events since the days of ECTS. In terms of what you do, how much has changed?

Some things have changed significantly. Unfortunately, I’ve been around long enough to remember how shows operated before smartphones, social media, or the internet. Technology has drastically changed the way we connect and communicate with our delegates – especially when you run a conference for such talented people at the cutting-edge of tech. Long gone are the days of flatplanning an event guide, now my focus is on our social media strategy and our streamed content.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of live events. Connecting people in person is invaluable. While technology helps us be more efficient and reach more people, it can never replace that career changing moment of meeting someone in a conference room you didn’t plan to meet or reigniting that friendship that had dwindled. While the pandemic highlighted some changes for the better, it also reminded me of my passion for live, in-person events and why conferences like Develop:Brighton resonate with so many people.

What is the “essence” of Develop that keeps people coming back year after year?

The conference has the ability to bring together every corner of the game dev industry, with something to offer from micro indies to global studios, yet still retains its friendly and inviting aura that means you’ll see a small indie developer talking to an industry giant, sharing knowledge, ideas and war stories as if they had known each other all their lives.

Lots of people have told me what they love about Develop:Brighton is, that it’s that date in the diary to get away from the studio, mix with peers, focus on team and individual development in a relaxed environment and have some fun. I guess being by the beach in July helps as well.

When does work begin on Develop Brighton 2024?

It already has! Our post-event survey is prepped, and we’ll be taking soundings from exhibitors and attendees throughout the week. While it is important to be prepared as possible, it is equally important to stay relevant to the needs of game developers, so research on trends goes on throughout the year, so we offer an event that resonates with every aspect of development.

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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