I’m IAAPA Bound, Are You?
There’s Nothing Better Than Seeing People & Product at the Show!
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
The “Big Show” –– IAAPA –– is almost here! I have to say it’s kind of amazing how time flies. I’ve been going to this show since 1990 when I took a train ride down to Washington, D.C. At that time, there really weren’t any coin-op machines represented at the “Parks Show,” but I wanted to go see my friends from Coney Island and Nellie Bly Park in Brooklyn. I also wanted to keep current on innovations in their businesses and how I could help.
It was seven years after that trip that my friend, Gina Romano, became the first female president of IAAPA. Not too bad for a GM from a tiny amusement park in Brooklyn (the Nellie Bly Park I mentioned). I think they topped out at 200,000 visitors and more than 1,000 birthday parties in a season. Her dad, Gene, was the one who put the “Jackie, look at all these people walking around with my money in their pockets…” thought foremost in my mind.
I actually operated the coin-op games at the park (starting in 1983, though I don’t today). Gene and Gina were always coming up with new ways to keep their customers entertained and coming back for more. Essentially that’s what IAAPA is all about: what’s new, what can be learned and what can be shared. This is why trade shows haven’t been replaced by the Internet.
In Coney Island, Wally and Dina Roberts were fixtures since the 1940s. Wally passed in 2014, but I learned a lot from him, especially his way of selling and making people smile. Dina was there with him all the way, too, and we met up a few times at IAAPA and went to the Showmen’s BBQ.
I have many fond memories of trips to IAAPA. I vividly remember taking my daughter Jen with me in 1997 when she was 10 years old. I dragged her around with me and she loved it, but it was tiring keeping up with Dad!
I remember we were getting ready to go to the BBQ, which was in a big tent in the parking lot at IAAPA. I was parked way in the back of the lot and wanted to move my car closer to the tent if possible. Jen got in the back seat and I started to move the car, but by the time I found a closer parking spot, she was fast asleep. I let her snooze for about an hour and we went on to the BBQ.
People who “follow me” on social media know how much I travel and how many different amusement-related shows and events I go to throughout the year. To me, the personal touch can’t be beat and I take almost every opportunity to meet new people and to renew, refresh and reinforce relationships. Sharing a laugh, a meal or a new experience in person is best.
For a manufacturer, there’s no better place to show off a new game than at a trade show. The immediate reaction of the attendees and their comments are priceless. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to be at many trade shows introducing new games. (This year, you can find me in IAAPA booth 1011 and, yes, I’ll have a new game there, too.) The excitement and preparation leading up to a show is nothing short of electric. These events are those targets on a calendar which help to guide and motivate many to “get it done” so they can be there with something new.
Personal relationships are vital when it comes to putting into perspective all the new technology, games, products and services you see at a show. For example, VR and AI need to be seen and experienced so their potential value to your business can be understood as they evolve into viable amusement products.
It’s funny that when you visit a booth at a trade show you get the story the exhibitor is telling. But, in talking to other attendees walking the aisles and comparing notes about the various products and services offered, a better picture emerges of what’s at the show and how it can impact your business.
People often ask what you like or what you saw. Sharing those thoughts and opinions shape a convention for almost everyone. While IAAPA is an opportunity to see, play and decide what to buy, it’s also a big opportunity to share and learn from others. With around 30,000 people from all over the world, I feel this is the most important trade show for our industry.
And here’s one more thought before I go do the gazillion things on my “to do” list before we’re ready for Orlando: I want to dispell a common misconception. People seem to focus on the “spring buying season” or the “fall buying season,” but I think any day is a good day to buy a new game!
The best way to decide what to buy and when is by seeing the new equipment firsthand, renewing your personal relationships and getting other peoples’ opinions of the new goodies on the floor. I urge you to take advantage of the many opportunities IAAPA provides.
Will I see you in Orlando? I hope so!
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected] jerseyjackpinball.com.