Education & Strong FEC Turnout Highlight Expo
Q: At the Amusement Expo, you wore three hats – that of attendee, exhibitor and AAMA President. Looking at the show from those different viewpoints, what were your takeaways?
A: From an exhibitor standpoint, we’ve been doing this show (as Amusement Expo, ASI or AMOA) since 2005 when I began working in this industry for MEI/CPI. We’ve had great experiences working with the Glasgow organization, with them getting exhibits onto the show floor, coordinating the space and getting everyone in there.
I’d say that attendance this year felt really positive, though as we speak, I’m still waiting to see the final numbers. Talking to those who came up to our booth, I noticed a lot of FEC people this year. I didn’t really feel like we had a lot of street operators come to talk to us, but maybe that’s because they feel like they know our product well enough.
I do think the way they’ve structured the hours of the trade show works very well. I’ll be honest that the second day felt pretty long, but there were still people on the floor, talking to exhibitors, stopping to see product and doing business at six o’clock when we shut down. That’s a good sign that we’re on the right track with this two-day format.
You might think this is odd, but from an exhibitor standpoint, even while it got a bit slower the second afternoon, I actually liked it. That shift in pace gave me time to get out of my booth to go talk to other exhibitors. If the second day ended earlier, say at four instead of six, I wouldn’t have had time to go talk to the other OEMs who use our validators.
The Expo seemed to have a pretty good vibe overall, and people seemed to be pretty upbeat. I’m not quite sure if it’s that because unemployment is down, or since gas prices are down they have more disposable income, or what the overall driving factor was, but it was a pretty energetic crowd.
Putting on my AAMA President hat, I have to say I was really happy with how well the show turned out. This being my first time as president, I was a little bit of a Nervous Nelly going into it. If the show does poorly or there’s a low turnout, it could reflect one way or the other on me. On Education Day, I thought the luncheon turnout was phenomenal and attendance for the sessions themselves was really great. I think that’s much to the credit of Emily Dunn and Todd Louthain who put such a strong program together that managed to really bring people in for that first day.
The welcome reception at the end of the education day went really well, too. That’s been hit or miss over the years depending on whether other companies are having parties or events that same night. As an association, we’ve gotten really good at talking to the manufacturers to make sure there’s nothing conflicting and that the show reception takes precedence. I think it’s great that we’ve gotten to the point where we can have that conversation. In the past, that hasn’t been the case. I feel the reception is a great way to kick off the show. I also liked the way the room was set up this year, with the band on the side; people seemed to move through the floor a little bit better than they have in the past.
It felt like we did a good job at attracting FEC operators. I had a conversation with Geno Guintoli from Team Play and he told me he wanted to thank whoever got the FEC people to the show. He said he had more people coming up to his booth saying they wanted to start an FEC and get into the FEC business, and wanted to know how to do it. That was the biggest thing that stuck out in his mind. People were coming up to him and talking about the games, the things they could do, and that just really struck a cord with him.
I think the fleshing out the FEC education to its own track this year really helped.
We do need to figure out how to get more street operators to the show, and I think that’s something we need to work on with AMOA since that’s not something the AAMA has much control over. It’s often said that it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. If the manufacturers brought more equipment or new stuff for the street, then more route operators would come.
The manufacturers did come with a lot of FEC pieces, and that speaks to who’s buying equipment these days. We have to figure out how we get greater attendance, be it from the street operators or from the FEC crowd and, at the end of the day, its that attendance that’s going to drive the manufacturers.
If I’m looking at the Expo from the attendee point of view, quite honestly I think the education day was the highlight of the show. There is obviously a need for education and the rooms for the sessions were full. We’re seeing that people do want to come in a day early for that experience and then go to the trade show the next day to see the new equipment in person.
You can see product a lot of different ways today, and there are a number of education programs out there that aren’t tied to a trade show. I think if we can have a solid education program and strong trade show built into one travel experience, it would be the ultimate combination.
We did have some people who wanted to attend sessions in both route and FEC tracks that were going on at the same time. With only one day for education and having a lot of strong programs in it, that’s going to be an interesting, but good, problem to sort out.
I think the challenge we have ahead of us is in moving the show to Dallas next year (March 14-16). I’m excited about the move because it’s somewhere other than Vegas, and with it being more central, we may get more people from the east coast to come in. We’re also focusing on the Latin American market, hoping they’ll come up to Dallas for the show. These are people who traditionally might not have been willing to come to Las Vegas. We need to get busy getting people excited about going to Dallas.
Chris Felix, National OEM Sales Manager for MEI Conlux/CPI (Crane Payment Innovations), worked for MEI prior to its acquisition by Crane. Felix, who was elected to his two-year term at the AAMA Annual Meeting and Gala in August, has been honored with the group’s President’s and Joe Robbins awards. A U.S. Navy veteran, he served as a Nuclear Reactor Operator aboard the USS Minneapolis St. Paul and the USS Greeneville submarines. When he’s not busy with work or association duties and travel, you might find Chris out training for a marathon.