Hampton Updates on Upcoming Gala, Location Trade Show program, FEC Outreach & More
Q: How are plans going for AAMA’s Annual Meeting and Gala on October 1-5?
A: We’re really excited about how it’s coming together. First, we’ve continued to grow our membership, especially within the FEC sector. Secondly, the event will be a little different this year. We wanted to see more representation of voices from all over the industry, as well as develop a new feel for the social events. You’ll have a fun time for sure! We’re even trying to convince some of our AAMA staff and members to provide some entertainment. We have some talent here!
The week kicks off with some internal meetings, then on Wednesday, attendees can start learning at the sponsor presentations. The one thing we did differently this year –– taking a page out of a familiar book –– is to put out a call for speakers. We see a number of benefits in having an outside perspective come in, expecting that it could be very interesting to the audience and also introduces new ideas into the industry.
Thursday night is the Gala and it really will be a great time for the manufacturers to start their marketing push with new products. The event is unique because it offers a sneak peek of what’s to come to the wider IAAPA audience the following month. At Bay Tek, since we sell most of our product through distributors, if we can get them comfortable with our new games, it makes IAAPA better for us. The Gala is the place to do that. We can expedite the learning process for a lot of the industry through the distributors. After all, they’re the word on the street and the more they talk, the more people will show up at our IAAPA booth.
On Friday, as has become tradition, the Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) program will bring in some local children to enjoy a day with the games. I love this event because it allows so much direct interaction with people we can really help by giving them a fun day. We’re trying to do the same for our charitable arm, too, feeling that direct exposure will create inspiration. One of the main reasons I ran for this position as
AAMA president is that I’m a firm believer that humans are meant to give back, however you choose to do that.
We are just wrapping up the Lifetime Achievement journal drive and have raised $125,000 so far. The journal benefits our association’s charitable organziation, the AAMCF, and we also allow the award winner to donate 20 percent to a charity of his choice. Bay Tek’s Larry Treankler is being honored this year and I’ve been really motivated to work on this project, wanting to help create an awesome book he’ll have his whole life. He’s such a behind-the-scenes person, but deserves the recognition. I think the staff did an amazing job on this year’s journal.
AAMA’s focus on FECs has grown alongside that sector of the industry. Has outreach to FEC owners and operators been successful?
Definitely! We’re blessed to have a handful of really great FEC owner/ operators on the board: George Smith, Kevin Jordan and Joe Camarota, people who are really invested in the industry and AAMA. It makes so much sense to me to reach out to FECs since we want a voice from everyone involved in the industry. I think this makes us better able to provide member benefits, education and support. Those guys are well connected, and they continue to grow FEC representation in AAMA. It’s not a huge growth segment, but it’s still important.
Speaking of market segments, AAMA’s Location Trade Show (LTS) program puts coin-op front and center at all sorts of allied industry tradeshows. Is the program continuing to grow?
First and foremost, we want to continue to be a friendly, adjacent association to some of these other groups, for example, roller skating and laser tag. We want to make sure we are providing a great show for our members when they join with us at one of these events, so maintaining healthy relationships and ensuring there will be a payoff if we attend is a must.
When it comes to Bowl Expo, that’s been a strong market for AAMA over the last 10 to 12 years, and bowling centers today are investing heavily in our industry more than ever. You also have FECs mixing bowling into their attractions more often, so our longstanding relationship with the Bowl Expo organizers has really paid off for our member attendees.
We also attended the roller skating convention, and that market is once again seeing growth and evolving. It’s been fascinating to watch as the younger generations start to take over. Anything retro is in again!
We’re trying to learn more about VR and will keep reaching out to relevant event organizers and associations in that market. The Pizza Expo is always a win as well. I think everyone can agree pizza and games go hand in hand. We always throw on a handful of other trade shows as well, as long as we have the interest from membership.
The biggest benefit of exhibiting at these events through AAMA is our pavilion, which essentially groups together at least five exhibitors into one space. This makes sure we don’t get lost in the crowd, and anyone new to the event has some support. If you are a brand-new exhibitor at IAAPA, for example, you have no idea where you will end up and it might be hard to be as visible as you’d want to be. But when AAMA is one of the larger exhibitors at the event through this LTS program, it gives us and each participating company a huge benefit. That alone is easily worth the membership dues.
Finally, AAMA has been working on improving their web presence and member engagement, and there was talk of a members-only forum where industry folks could share their tips, tricks and strategies. Has that materialized?
In a way, yes. We realized that, originally, we were trying to get people to go to our website, where they weren’t already going commonly. So Don Marshall had a thought recently and it was an ‘aha’ moment! Why not put it somewhere they are already going?
So we’ve put together a private Facebook group that is getting a lot of engagement and discussions started. We’ve hired two staffers and they’ve been doing a great job engaging AAMA members online. Reach out to staff if you’re interested in getting involved.
Late in 2017, the AAMA inaugurated the association’s first ever female president, Holly Hampton. Hampton has been involved with the industry since she landed an internship at Bay Tek Games, where she still works today, and developed quickly as a potential leader for the AAMA. She started getting involved in 2008, pushing herself out of her comfort zone and onto the horizon she flies today. Among her goals: to continue to diversify the association’s leadership and membership, continue to pursue the group’s growth within the FEC part of the business, and to encourage idea sharing through a new online forum. “When you’re trying to create anything, you need input from people. Field testing, focus groups, all that helps us make a better game at Bay Tek,” Hampton said. “It’s the same with the association. We want to make sure we provide a good product. If that happens, everyone wins. We hope to do that and have some fun while we’re at it.”