Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 12: IAAPA Begins!

Hey guys!

Today was my first day at the IAAPA Attractions Expo and let me just say, it was incredible! I have followed coverage of the annual convention & trade show for years, and to finally be here was like a dream come true. I had one class today, "Marketing Plans for Attractions: Beyond the Basics," but I'll get to that in a minute.

I arrived at the Orange County Convention Center shortly after the trade show floor opened at 10 a.m. and the parking lot was already completely full. Literally, hundreds of cars were already here and they were parking people on the grass. Once I found a spot, I just walked towards the inflatables; in addition to everything that goes on within the building, there is a large outdoor section of inflatables and ride prototypes. Fortunately the line for registration was short, so I put on my fancy IAAPA badge holder and went inside.

Sensory overload. Lights and noise as far as the eye can see in every direction. The IAAPA Attractions Expo takes over nearly all of this massive convention hall, spanning over 9 miles of aisles. I figured that the best thing to start would be to just walk around and try to take it all in. It's really easy to get lost in here, but I did my best to deal with it and see as much as possible. Lots of roller coaster cars, inflatables, plush toys, coin-operated games -- everything an amusement park could ever need, right in one place.

Of course, there were a few things I made sure not to miss on my first trip around. For one, I wanted to see the B&M booth; on display there was the GateKeeper car that I saw being worked on last week. I made sure to stop by the Dippin' Dots and Coca Cola booths for free samples. I found a great little booth offering massage chairs that felt really nice after my first lap around the massive trade show floor. Next, however, I had to try the massive ropes course that was set up. The great thing about IAAPA is that many booths will set up their products for attendees to try, at no cost and usually with no wait! I was harnessed up in a matter of minutes and soon I was high above the trade show floor. Not only was it fun, but it was a nice vantage point to view the rest of the convention from. I didn't last long though; despite loving roller coasters, I'm actually quite scared of heights (as in a seemingly less-secured scenario like this). I quickly tried the new feature on the course, a very easy-to-use zipline, and made my way back down.

By the time I finished with all this (and grabbed a brief lunch), it was nearly time for my class. I took the escalator from the trade show floor up to the south concourse, where a number of classes were being held in various conference rooms. My class was hosted by a panel of industry leaders who advised the packed room on how to build a winning marketing plan and stick to it, with emphasis on media, partnerships, and sales tactics. I was very excited for the class after having enjoyed my time with Cedar Point's marketing department, and I hurriedly scribbled notes throughout the session. It was very informative and offered countless tips for how to have a strong marketing strategy, offering perspectives I had never even considered.

At the end of the day, I was feeling pleased but exhausted. It was a long day, of course, but I really enjoyed my first education session and seeing the trade show floor, of course. I'm really looking forward to the rest of these classes and I can't wait to see more of the thousands of exhibitors here over the next couple of days. Stay tuned for more!



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