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The IAAPA Attractions Expo Experience

As I was looking at some of the park fan message boards online, a common theme emerged recently: people wanting to go to the IAAPA convention in Orlando, “because it looked like fun.” Another posted that, “It looks like Disney’s D23, only for the whole industry,” and another said, “…the website is written in business-speak…”

Well, of course it is, because IAAPA isn’t held for park fans. Don’t be confused by some of the coverage you see on park blogs, IAAPA is all about three things: buying goods, selling goods and networking for jobs. Orange County Convention Center IAAPA

Millions of dollars of purchases are done in just the four days the event is held. There’s a ton of business being done on the floor and if you decide to attend as a park fan, you have to know when to respect that boundary.

Barreling up to the B&M or RMC booth to swoon over Walter, Fred or Alan – while they’re trying to talk to park owners – is not going to go over very well. In some cases, a company’s livelihood can depend on the meetings they have at this show.

Also, snapping photos without permission is a BIG no-no here. ALWAYS ask vendors if it’s okay to take a photo or record part of the booth for a video.

If you’ve got actual business to discuss then go ahead and speak to them when they’re free. If you’re a fan and just taking in the convention for fun, grab some literature and just move on. Speaking of discussing business…

Standing next to one of my photos in the Great Coasters booth.

Standing next to one of my photos in the Great Coasters booth.

The amusement industry – despite being worldwide – is a very tight knit group of individuals. Everyone knows everyone and word gets around fast. That’s why IAAPA is the perfect event to go to if you’re looking to get a job in the industry. The show gives you the opportunity to meet with prospective employers face to face – as well as give them a copy of your resume.

Despite what you might think from some of the other bloggers out there – the dress code says a LOT about your purpose. Shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with your blog’s logo are not commonplace nor looked upon well by attendees. If you want to make a good impression, stand out from the other “schlubs” and come in a suit and tie.

One of the least talked about parts of the Attractions Expo is the seminars they hold. As members of IAAPA, they’re free with an expo badge. From learning about the business from Disney legends, to how to properly curate social media for your brand, to symposiums on laser tag – these edu-sessions give attendees quite a bit of insight, but tend to not get the fanfare that the show floor does.

Speaking of the show floor – yes, it’s true – there are a few rides and attractions you can go on at the show. It’s just like purchasing a new car. Just remember that those vendors are there to sell that ride – not entertain you with an ERT session.

GCI Booth IAAPA

If you truly love this industry and want to make it part of your career, I would make it a point, nee a pilgrimage to visit the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo. However, if you’re going to the convention because you think it’ll be a giant version of D23 and you’ll get to play all day – save your money and don’t bother going.

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Why do we reward people for behaving badly?

Why I keep hearing stories like these is beyond me. But we do – and it’s important to know that they DO happen – but also that they are entirely preventable.

Earlier this month, a self-described “industry-leading enthusiast and blogger” live-tweeted horrible, insulting comments about guests at a park-sponsored event. Those posts have since gone viral in amusement and theme park circles, with all the comments criticizing the posts. The author has since claimed, “…they were a joke.”

People online didn’t buy it.

What’s truly scary – is that this is not the first time an incident like this has happened this year. During the spring, another “industry fan group” posted harassing comments towards a theme park’s public relations rep, after they refused to extend additional, special perks to them.

Why do we (as an industry) accept this is as “the new normal?” How does anyone or any organization like this continue to be rewarded for such egregious behavior?

Easy – because we allow them to.

We do it by clicking on their videos, their updates or subscribing to their social feeds. We invite them to media events, despite our misgivings. And we always seem to cave to their requests, even though we know better.

At what point are we – as an amusement and theme park community, both fan and employee – going to step up and say, “No more?”

No more body shaming of our fellow community members.

No more bad mouthing a park just because they didn’t extend perks to you.

No more clandestine filming or photography on rides, only to take said photos and videos and commercialize them without the park knowing.

And no more stealing of each other’s work.

It’s just a shame that those who are the problem in our community will never recognize it. Let’s help them see the light.

If members of our community (both groups and individuals) can’t handle the responsibility of being decent human beings, then it’s time for us as a community to rise up and deny them the privilege of being a part of our group. Stop clicking on their links, unsubscribe from their content.

Simply put, let’s stop supporting and rewarding poor behavior in our community, period. The general public might not affect change – but we can.

Who’s with me?