IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018 Resources - November 2018


Tips from Attractions Industry Veterans for Navigating IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018

Gathered by Scott Fais

IMAGINE A PLAYGROUND ABUZZ with the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of your favorite attractions: all connected, all in the same location. The 10 miles of aisles at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018 in Orlando, Florida, can be energizing, captivating, and, perhaps, a bit overwhelming.

“Wear blinders because you are going to lose focus as soon as your feet hit the floor,” says Chris Gray with Skyline Attractions. “From the sounds to the visuals, it is the most exciting trade show floor space in the world!” Gray recommends all buyers keep a list in hand of all the booths they need to visit and schedule appointments in advance. 

Ahmad Hussain, deputy CEO at DXB Entertainments in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, encourages visitors to dig deeper and get involved in discussions.

“Make sure you ask questions and meet the experts to discuss your business challenges and explore solutions,” he suggests.

With more than 100 educational seminars, workshops, and tours, the wealth of knowledge being shared at the Expo is stunning.

“Attend every educational workshop that you can,” suggests Bob Williams, general manager of Calaway Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “IAAPA is a place where industry information sharing is paramount. Practical ideas will come that you can apply and will make a difference to your operation.”

The largest playground in the United States, full of samples and helpings of what’s new, also comes with old friends.

“For those working in the industry for several years, Expo becomes a family reunion of sorts,” says Jerry Pierson with Dynamic Attractions, adding that collecting updated business cards is a must.

With this magical week each November also comes the need for pacing.

“Sure, it’s a marathon of a week, but it’s as exciting as Christmas morning!” says Lauren Weaver with Sally Corp.

Members helping members—Funworld asked attractions industry professionals around the world for their best tips when attending IAAPA Attractions Expo.


“Open your eyes to see all the different exhibits; open your heart to learn from the speakers in the education sessions, and open your arms when you need a massage after a few days walking the trade show floor!”

Vivian Lee 

Ocean Park Hong Kong
Hong Kong, China


“Identify the vendor booths and education sessions you want to explore before you travel. The show floor and educational programming may be overwhelming with options. A little planning will keep you on track.”

—Laura Woodburn, ICAE
Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States


“Set a list of objectives before you go to the Expo. What’s the goal? What do you want to achieve? What areas of your operation do you need to work on? Identify your top 10 ideas from the Expo and work toward applying a minimum of three to your operation. Watch your ROI (return on investment) grow.”

—Bob Williams

Calaway Park
Calgary, Alberta, Canada


“Attend a session that’s out of your field of expertise. It’s always good to hear and learn as many aspects of the business as you can.”

—Sharon Parker

Six Flags Over Texas
Dallas, Texas, United States


“Definitely attend the education sessions and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others. That’s when you’ll realize the long-term value of IAAPA.”

—Ken Whiting

Whiting’s Foods Inc.
Santa Cruz, California, United States


“Don’t be a stranger! Introduce yourself to colleagues during meetings and get to know people. Make the most of the workshops on offer and try to attend as many as you can—these are a real gold mine for knowledge exchange that can prove invaluable for your working life.”

—Ahmad Hussain

DXB Entertainments
Dubai, United Arab Emirates


“Go in with the right mindset. Don’t think of this week as work; think of this week as fun! The show is a great way to meet interesting people and learn about new companies, products, and cool developments happening all over the world.”

—Lauren Weaver

Sally Corp.
Jacksonville, Florida, United States


“Make a notes page on your phone to jot down any interesting booth numbers you want to go back and see as you make your way to your appointments.  Always try to keep your name badge turned around and visible. It makes it easy for others to engage with you.”

—Chris Gray

Skyline Attractions
Orlando, Florida, United States


“Always wear comfortable sneakers or other shoes to IAAPA Attractions Expo. Just shrug when people see you’re not wearing dress shoes! Remember: your feet will love you at the end of the week.”

—Ryan Jeffery, MA, ICAE 

Saint Louis Zoo
St. Louis, Missouri, United States 


“After the Expo is over and the noise has died down, update your contacts and take the time to send a kind note. Reach back out to those that you weren’t able to spend as much time as you would have liked—it will seem like only a few weeks have gone by, and you’ll find yourself busy planning for the next Expo, when in reality, another year has passed!”

—Jerry Pierson

Dynamic Attractions
Orlando, Florida, United States



5 Tips to Expo By

1. Get Tickets Early

From in-depth learning at special sessions like the HR ­Symposium, IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers, and IAAPA Safety Institute, to educational tours behind the scenes at water parks, you’ll want to get your tickets before traveling, as space is limited and events have a history of selling out.

“The Thursday night IAAPA Celebrates party is always a lot of fun and is a great networking event. This year’s IAAPA’s Centennial Celebration should be the best yet with a live concert with the Barenaked Ladies at Universal Studios Florida,” says Skyline Attractions’ Chris Gray.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes

While it’s not a race, your feet may feel like you ran one. Switching shoes throughout the week can help aching feet.

“Standing, walking, running, climbing, or ziplining at the Expo, it’s all about that footwear!” says Ryan Jeffery with the Saint Louis Zoo.

3. Join Give Kids The World for Morning Exercise

Wake up and lace up! The IAAPA Footprints from the Heart 5K Run and 1 Mile Walk is a great way to network, feel good, and do good. Benefiting Give Kids The World (GKTW), Thursday morning’s charity event is a great team-building opportunity , and a great way to build your network of contacts. 

4. Munch … and Learn

Make plan to learn from industry professionals while enjoying a meal. From special events like the “GM and Owners’ Breakfast featuring Bob Chapek” to “Lunch and Learn featuring Mohamed Al Zaabi, Developer of Yas Island and CEO of Miral,” sitting down to eat while learning can feed the mind and nourish the soul with stories and advice. Purchase tickets early, since space is limited and events have sold out in the past.

5. Treat Yourself

From a massage at Expo partner hotels, to making time for a dip in a resort pool, or just pausing for a tempting treat on the trade show floor, making time for you shouldn’t be overlooked. 

“Find Beaver Tails. Yes, they’re worth waiting in line for, and yes, you will immediately get back in line for another one,” says Sharon Parker of Six Flags Over Texas.