The 2018 IAAPA show is just about to open its doors at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. If you intend on going, but still haven’t registered or made flight and hotel rezzies, have fun! This is an insanely popular world-class event in the broad out-of-home entertainment field, and for a reason: everybody who’s anybody goes. As far as goods and services are concerned, just about anything you need or will soon need is standing on the show floor or sitting on a booth table.
IAAPA is not for the faint of heart. It’s crowded, noisy and incredibly large. But as veterans know, it’s doable as long as you use your head and do a decent bit of advance planning on who and what you want to see at the trade show, what you’d like to learn at one of the umpteen seminars and which fellows from the trade you’d love to break bread with. This event is like a Las Vegas buffet. Newcomers want to grab everything in sight and then only eat half of what they take (if that), while the experienced know you can only do so much. Plan accordingly.
This show has grown substantially since I covered my first one in the fall of 1975. Back then, you still had a lot of showgoers using IAAPA’s old name “the Parks and Pools Show.” And, it sure was smaller (the 1975 one took place on the bottom floor of a Marriott hotel with the big rides set up outside in a parking lot). Instead of lots of individual booths showing our things, most were gathered in Empire Distributing’s display.
Come to think of it, the AAMA association does a similar thing at the IAAPA shows, with their multi-booth collection taken up by manufacturer members displaying current and coming games. This sure makes it easy for visiting arcade and route people to check out most of the new stuff and chat with most of the important sales and service people.
Of course, there are independent display booths elsewhere on the show floor with goods for the coin-op crowd. IAAPA simplifies the task of finding the booths you want to visit with a mobile app and its full-featured, interactive exhibitor list and floorplan available on the Expo website. Come early. Wear sneakers. Carry a notebook of sorts. And don’t forget your “show plan!”
Is this a pitch for readers to rush on down to IAAPA? We’re all well past that. The event is as established as the rock on the Prudential Insurance logo. All I can say is please, please have a good idea of what you’d like to accomplish before you walk off the plane. Even if you see only one guy to get help fixing one machine, that sounds like a workable plan. But, I know you can do better than that. Just don’t kill yourself. And, since this is the amusement business, try to have some fun!