Party Professor – March 2022


Back to Partying!

There Ain’t No Party Like an FEC Party!

Beth Standlee 0319

Beth Standlee

By Beth Standlee, CEO, TrainerTainment

Let’s take a closer look at virtual communication as it relates to personally connecting. Many times, it isn’t easy to personally connect with a buyer due to distance, time and money. I’ve had to rely on the phone, email and technology that allows for face-to-face meetings, like Zoom, Go-To-Meeting and Google Hangouts.

When industry leaders get together, it’s certain big things are going to happen! After two long years of caution, cancellations and virtual events, it’s fantastic to gather with friends again. And a recent trip I made was to IAAPA’S FEC Summit which was in Scottsdale, Ariz., this year (Jan. 23-25). The location was beautiful and the lineup of speakers was very good.

Kiahan Krippendorff, The Outthinker, devoted two workshop-styled sessions to helping us think more creatively and strategically. His premise was that the big ideas and fast-growing companies had common game-changer ideas and strategies that others thought were laughable or impossible. The concept that intrigued me the most was the thought of “What’s the 4th option?” Average folks look at what others are doing and try to do it better, faster, smarter or cheaper, he explained, taking a 1-2-3 look at their choices and then deciding. What if the 4th option –– the big crazy idea that others think won’t work –– is where real success lies! This got me to thinking for sure!

IAAPA 2022 FEC Summit

The leadership panel at this year’s IAAPA FEC Summit featured Wild Island/Coconut Bowl’s Craig Buster, Conroe’s Incredible Pizza’s Mario Valdez, Altitude 1291’s Kyle Allison and Dave & Buster’s Trish Ritchie.

There were other great education segments in the fun-filled packed 2.5 days. My favorite session was a leadership panel that included Craig Buster (General Manager from Wild Island/Coconut Bowl), Mario Valadez (owner and managing partner of Conroe’s Incredible Pizza), Kyle Allison (owner of Altitude 1291) and Trish Ritchie (regional operations director of Dave & Buster’s). They tackled the tough questions of staffing, learning and growth as a leader during these difficult times. Their ability to be authentic and vulnerable as they shared their wisdom and experience was refreshing. It seemed to me that an overall lesson learned was that Covid has been humbling and required leaders to grow their ability to move quickly, to be willing to be wrong, and to lace up their shoes and do the next day all over again, even with great uncertainty.

Of course, the best part of any get together is the networking. The Summit opened with a reception to get the party started. As someone who loves others and loves to hug and visit, I was in my element! However, some of my clients needed a little push to make sure they met everyone they could.

Sometimes it’s too easy to stay in your comfort zone and just visit with the people you know. I can fall into that trap too. So, at that reception, I gave Renee Ruby and Kelsey Redwing from Throwback, a not-yet-opened facility in Arizona, a big challenge for the entire conference. I asked them to connect with at least 50 people and ask the following question: “With the knowledge you have now, what is one thing you wish you had known before you opened?”

Renee Kelsey and Beth at IAAPA 2022 FEC Summit

Renee Ruby and Kelsey Redwing from Throwback were challenged by Beth Standlee (right) to connect with at least 50 people. They didn’t hit that number, but they did score some great takeaways!

I followed up with Renee and Kelsey and below is what they learned. (Spoiler alert: They didn’t hit the 50-person mark, but they did meet more than 20 people they didn’t know before they went to the Summit!) Kelsey’s report was:

“We asked the question and got our answers. However, the big surprise was that it led to many other wonderful conversations. We learned about many things we could have never thought. A recurring theme was that, as operators, we need to really pay attention to our employees. We need to be okay with taking off our ‘boss’ hats and put on the ‘mom/dad’ hat to reach them on a personal level that they may not have elsewhere. We need to make sure our team members know we really do care about them and about their future.

“We asked Christine Buhr how she managed raising a daughter while building a business. Her daughter was 2-years-old at the time she opened her first facility. Our ownership and management group has a lot of children at home and we wanted advice on how to keep it all in balance. Christine said she rarely took her daughter to the facility, but built in quality time and trips with herz…and she stuck to that. She made sure her daughter felt important, even during the ‘busyness’ of the business.

“We spoke to many people and most told us to grow fast and don’t overthink, and to use our resources and build a good management team. Jeremy Hoyum advised us to ask questions of everyone around us. Most in the entertainment business will answer questions and help provide insight. If they don’t, move on, he told us.

“Invest in the people who are working in your facility to help them become great at what they do. Keep training your lead management team and take every opportunity to train yourselves. Do everything you can before you open. And once each person found out we are working with TrainerTainment, they said, ‘Awesome, you guys are getting it right.’

“It was interesting to hear some say that in their facility, the customer isn’t always right. Employees need to be heard. Also, the book, One Minute Manager was recommended several times. I have purchased two copies for our team to read.

 “I came away feeling like I need to step up and be more assertive in my ideas. Also, we need to figure out what will be best for our team, our families and how we serve our community.

“One of the big things I got from the leadership panel is that we need to focus on our staff in the hard times, especially during something like Covid. I was impressed at how each person cared so much for how the shutdowns would affect their team.

“So, all in all, FEC Summit is a must. I love IAAPA in Florida, but I really felt like having the training that is focused on our specific part of the industry was very valuable. I also ended up talking to the president of IAAPA without knowing it and he clued me in to where the next summit will be. It should be a fun one and I’m taking the time now to save money and plan for it next year as well.”

As I said at the beginning, when owners and operators come together it is a party worth having. I hope I’ll see you soon at an upcoming event!


Beth is the CEO of TrainerTainment LLC, a training company devoted to the family entertainment and hospitality industries. Beth and her team are focused on helping the companies they serve to make more money through sales, guest service, leadership and social media marketing training. Training products and services are delivered in person, through books and DVDs, and virtually with e-learning courses, webinar development and 24/7 online access. Visit her company’s website at



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