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Posts tagged “IAAPA

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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Amusement parks are not trying to purposely hurt or kill you

It seems like every week this summer, the news has stories of horrific injuries or deaths at an amusement park. With that, comes the predictable “I knew that ride wasn’t safe. They should have never opened it,” chatter online.

But, as hard to believe as it is: Amusement parks are not trying to hurt or kill you.

Around the turn of the century, things were different. Rides were a new concept and safety systems were, well – non-existent. In fact, a ride with a “killer” reputation was actually MORE popular, as people were willing to test their mettle against the machine.

The Revere Beach Lightning was one of Harry Traver's "Terrifying Triplets" and it earned that moniker by killing a rider on the first day of operation. Today a ride like this would never make it past the drawing board.

The Revere Beach Lightning was one of Harry Traver’s “Terrifying Triplets” and it earned that moniker by killing a rider on the first day of operation.

But as the industry matured, so also did it’s guests – and the demand went from a killer coaster to a safer one. Manufacturers responded with the lap bar, seat belt and over the shoulder restraint.

It’s no longer in the best interest of a park to have a ride that’s not safe – and that’s been the case since the 1920’s. Coasters and flat rides can be millions of dollars of investment – and one accident could turn that investment into a fancy lawn ornament. 

Yeah, there’s always the exceptions to the rule, but thankfully in this industry – they tend to be easy to spot. If a ride doesn’t “look” right – it probably isn’t. And if you don’t like the way it looks, you don’t have to ride.

So, with this rash of incidents across the country – could better oversight lead to safer rides? I’m not sure. Currently, the states regulate amusement rides, to varying degrees depending on location. Could a uniform standard be better? Maybe. But uniform rules have their drawbacks, too.

It’s hard to create a “one size fits all” methodology for the entire United States. If we can’t agree on anything in Washington, it would be tough to push through legislation that would work fairly for everyone.

I repeat this stat often, because it’s worth repeating: You have better odds of being injured driving to an amusement park than you do while inside. You may hear about a deadly crash on the freeway, only mentioned as a “Sig Alert” in a traffic update. A death on a coaster, however will cause the news choppers to be summoned to the scene.

So go to your local amusement or theme park with confidence – just follow the safety rules. A park doesn’t want to hurt or kill you, despite what the internet says. Because if they did – you wouldn’t be able to go back and spend more money there…


Social Media Strategies and Best Practices for Amusement Parks

Social media use has exploded over the past decade. Its presence is so big, many companies are hiring people solely based on their experience with these new, direct marketing channels.

But while a “like” can be earned quickly, those bonds can also be lost just as fast if the user has a poor experience with it.

So, if you follow these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a superior social media experience for your guests, which will lead to more of those turnstiles rotating:

STEP ONE: KEEP IT UPDATED!

I can’t tell you the number of parks that leave their social media without updated content for weeks, even months on end. Common errors here can include outdated cover photos, profile photos and information. While one of the easiest to fix, this is also one of the most common mistakes many parks and FEC’s make on social media.

RMC Before and After Comparison

Keeping your content fresh on the landing page will encourage visitors to return to see what’s new and stay engaged with your company or property.

 

STEP TWO: STOP POSTING CRAP UPDATES!

Treating social media like a direct billboard or commercial to the fans of your park is instant poison for your social media. Consider a park with 400,000 fans, yet only receives 100 likes on average on their posts. Something’s wrong there – and it’s the content.

Mask the ad for your park or event in great content – make a cool video or post a beautiful photo that’s sure to be shared. Direct calls to action will turn off park visitors faster than an hour long wait in an un-shaded queue.

And don’t forget about video – it’s the best way to tell a story – and one of the most underutilized mediums on social media.

CGA Capture

Video is good – but when you can see the cell phone being used to capture said video in a reflection – that’s not good enough anymore for social audiences.

STEP THREE: INTERACT WITH YOUR FANS!

It should go without saying, but many parks neglect the “social” part of social media – that is, they post something to their account – and simply leave it there. That’s akin in the digital age of throwing crap on a wall and seeing if it sticks.

Social media allows guests to experience things they may have missed on their last trip, post about how much fun they had – or in some cases – complain about a negative experience they had while at your facility.

Not responding or interacting with guests on social media is no longer an acceptable practice. It never was acceptable, period. One can easily gain back a potential repeat customer simply by interacting with them, acknowledging their concerns or eventually resolving them.

Dollywood No Show

Dollywood was notably absent from social media; not answering questions of people who were led to believe their latest ride was going to open on time. It was not well received.

Yes, it IS a lot of work and yes, it CAN be frustrating at times with a never-ending deluge of comments – but that’s the world we live in. Consider it “job security.”

Plus, when a park or facility responds to a guest, they guest feels important – because they ARE! Remember who pays for the bills, folks…

By answering questions on social media, you’re also contributing to a higher engagement rating on many of the mathematical algorithms which dictate who sees what. Translation: responding on social media means more people see your post FOR FREE.

So, if you follow these simple steps, your amusement park or family entertainment center should see a nice bump in social media metrics – which should lead to more butts through those gates.

Got any other good suggestions? Leave a comment below or post on our social media channels. Don’t worry, we’ll actually interact with you!


Happy Thanksgiving from Great American Thrills!

While you gobble up all the delicious food today – enjoy some short, time lapse photography I was able to capture on my recent trip to the Orlando Eye!

For the POV time-lapse – you’ll notice a short stop – something we didn’t even feel on the ride itself (it’s just so smooth in it’s movements).

 

 


IAAPA Trip Report, Day One

After flying in yesterday and adjusting to the time change (best as you can) I’m ready to start writing down my thoughts – with some leftover pizza and a Blue Moon at my side.

Today, I was able to visit the Orange County Convention Center for the first time, to help set up the ACE booth as well as pick up my badge for the big IAAPA exhibition. For the first time, was able to see incredible scope of the event. As big as you might think it is – think BIGGER. Of course, the floor isn’t even finished as I type – so it’ll only feel larger by this time tomorrow.

Afterwards, I had lunch with American Coaster Enthusiasts President (and roommate for the week) Jerry Willard – that’s when he brought up his afternoon / evening plans…a trip to the Magic Kingdom.

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I bit. It’s been 20 years since I last visited Florida (for Disney World with my family). And boy, was the trip out there today worth it.

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Turns out, not only was the “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” significantly less crowded than it was during the day (the park closed at 7 to the general public), they gave you all the cookies and hot cocoa you could down AND it was CHEAPER to get in, too. Every ride was either a walk on or well under 30 minutes.

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If you don’t mind Christmas being jammed down your throat a little too early, this is a great way to experience the Magic Kingdom at breakneck pace, yet still get everything in, too.

Oh, and the fireworks were incredible as well 🙂

Day Two has technically already arrived, so expect a blog post late Monday night. Until next time, everyone!


#Hashtag Etiquette – Social Media and Your Amusement Park

#Hashtags – arguably one of the more confusing elements of social media.

For many, they’re seen as useless – for others, they’re invaluable tools for social media. So which one are they for social media and the amusement industry?

They’re actually both.

In laments terms – a hashtag is like a folder on your computer – it’s a depository for anything that uses that phrase of tag. So, if you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler for example, the logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event.

The whole idea behind hashtags is to get people’s attention, quickly – as well as help people discover content they’re interested in.  That’s what keeps the user engaged and ultimately through your turnstiles. Because so many social networks are adopting this #hashtag feature, it behooves you to understand what they are and how to use them properly for you amusement park:

1.) Keep it simple!

The longer a hashtag, the more often it will be misspelled. In addition, the harder it will be for people to remember. Say you want to promote a specific ride one day. Your park can post “Have you ridden #theplunge today? One lucky rider will receive a backdoor pass after their ride! #YOURPARKNAMEHERE

Then, you can watch the #theplunge tags, even if you don’t have social media management software (which you SHOULD be using, if you’ve read my previous posts HERE).

2.) Make it unique, but relevant!

Say you’ve just opened up a new coaster called, let’s say Iron Rattler. The logical hashtag you’d want to promote is: #ironrattler. Got a halloween event coming up? Why not use #HauntCGA (If it’s Great America for instance) or #KnottsHaunt for the Knott’s Berry Farm’s event. You wouldn’t want someone else to be getting web traffic because of your event / advertising campaign, would you?

Not to be a shameless plug here, but whenever we shoot our “Lost Parks of Northern California” series – we always send out social media updates using the hashtag: #lostparks. Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s also unique in that it wasn’t being used before – therefore all the content using that hashtag is ours.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

A logical, simple and relevant hashtag makes search engines (and users) easier to capture.

3.) Do NOT make it long!

Remember that some social networks, such as Twitter – give the user only 140 characters to get your message out. A hashtag like #welcomebackspaceexplorers probably isn’t the best bet. But, breaking them up into two smaller hashtags is a better alternative, say #spacemountain #disneyland for instance.

Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll find your SEO increase as well as your interaction via your social media pages. Just be prepared to actually interact with your users – it is SOCIAL media, after all!

In my next post, I’ll discuss the top ten post ideas you SHOULD be doing at your amusement park, regardless of size.

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Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He has curated social media accounts for several companies, totaling over 450,000 followers across multiple social channels. In addition, he is working on his latest video project: “The Lost Parks of Northern California”

Check out my other postings about Social Media and the Amusement Park HERE.


Gold Striker Re-Opens!

After a slight delay to install an additional 70 foot long tunnel, Gold Striker is back up and running (and presumably under the decibel limit agreed to by both Prudential Real Estate Investors and Cedar Fair (owners of the park).

The park sent out this message on Facebook today:

“Great news regarding Gold Striker. An additional 70 ft. tunnel, similar to the initial descent tunnel, has been added and the ride is better than ever. Feel the rush today.”

So – no long closure (as was initially implied and worried about on some websites – this one included) and a second massive headchopper sure to add to the thrills of the ride – what’s not to love?

It’s been a long road to get here, but all fans of the park and ride can breathe a sign of relief – after seven long years – Gold Striker is finally here to stay and now open PERMANENTLY!

If you haven’t already, get yourself out to California’s Great America and ride the Best Wooden Coaster on the West Coast, GOLD STRIKER!

KMR_1315

After a brief hiatus, Gold Striker is back up and thrilling guests after an additional tunnel was added to mitigate sounds coming from the coaster.