IAAPA FEC Summit Returns in Arizona
Traditionally, IAAPA FEC Summit marks the beginning of a year full of IAAPA events. The gathering is the Family Entertainment Center (FEC) community’s premier event where attendees come to grow their business, network, evolve their careers, and depart inspired—all within 48 hours.
Those who attend IAAPA FEC Summit are small business owners, managers of large facilities, directors of operations at the national level, and the suppliers who keep them stocked and running—each is an all-around rock star. They make time for each other and themselves as they connect, share best practices, and explore the latest trends in the FEC space.
“Coming together in a shared, physical space, provides a better opportunity to network and create connections that cannot be duplicated in an online or virtual setting,” says IAAPA’s Michael Shelton, North American director of education, safety, and membership. “Meeting in person facilitates idea generation and creativity—as well as a visible energy amongst attendees.”
Michael is right. I have come to look forward to the event each January, normally held in places with amazing scenery, away from distractions. The 2022 event in Scottsdale, Arizona was my fourth IAAPA FEC Summit and the third time I had the honor of serving as emcee.
From my perch at the front of the room, I have seen firsthand how expert speakers can unlock new ideas, challenge old thinking, and introduce cutting edge concepts. The enlightenment on the faces of attendees is noticeable when a speaker provides an answer to the challenge they’re struggling with or empowers them to feel like they’re again in control.
As I reflect on the time we shared together among the towering cacti and rocky buttes found at the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, these "Top 10" moments below rise to the top.
No. 1: Dynamic Speakers
Kalhan Krippendorff, an international business strategist and author of four books served as 2022’s keynote speaker. He trained attendees to be a disruptor, NOT the disrupted, and how to find innovation within.
No. 2: Networking
Nobody needs to feel like they’re a stranger at IAAPA FEC Summit. This is a group that enjoys each other’s company. During breakfasts, breaks, and at receptions, socializing and sharing are standard.
No. 3: Spontaneous Dance Parties
The F in FEC can also stand for F-U-N. Afterall, we’re in the business of fun and there is plenty of it at FEC Summit. When the DJ surprised the room with YMCA before 9 a.m., everyone was on their feet in the ballroom!
No. 4: Friendships
A conversation often leads to contacts who become friends at FEC Summit. Whether they’re owners or suppliers, everyone in attendance shares the common goal: be the best you can be and inspire each other. There are no strangers among this crowd.
No. 5: Field Trips
A cornerstone of IAAPA FEC Summit is getting out of the building and getting into a facility … or several. In 2022, the group visited Mavrix, a highly respected facility in Scottsdale. Step inside and it’s evident why the facility has taken home several awards. With its tactile walls, urban décor, low lighting, and amazing menu, you’ll never be able to tell this was former Toys R Us (the blueberry and honey pizza is worth the flight to Phoenix alone).
No. 6: FEC LIVE
IAAPA FEC Summit is fortunate to have several dedicated sponsors each year. One-by-one, they come on stage to share how their products and services can make a FEC money or save an owner time. Conducted in a game show-style format, FEC Live has become a popular feature. In 2022, Wendy Smith from QubicaAMF Bowling Products pulled a wildcard that asked her to channel her own supermodel, as she turned the stage into a catwalk.
No. 7: Peer-to-Peer Advice
Many owners and operators are continually willing to take the stage and share answers to tough questions, challenges, and explore best practices. There are no competitors here. Rather, an industry that is committed to helping each other grow.
No. 8: Accessible Leadership
IAAPA President and CEO Hal McEvoy and 2022 IAAPA Chairman of the Board Ken Whiting were in attendance. Both attended sessions, addressed attendees, participated in field trips, and connected with members at receptions. Having the top leadership accessible in Arizona shows how valued the FEC community is to IAAPA.
No. 9: Time to explore—or, be still
In 2022, attendees were treated to an evening at Phoenix’s Odysea Aquarium. From gazing at sharks and watching playful sea lions to meeting a sloth or meeting each other, the Odysea Aquarium at the Arizona Boardwalk is someplace special (so are their bathrooms—often voted best attraction loo, since the walls of the facility look into the shark habitat).
No. 10: A dedicated IAAPA FEC Committee
A fresh IAAPA FEC Committee stands ready to help business owners grow and sponsors connect with new clients. These folks are volunteers that take to heart what’s best for the industry.
Where is IAAPA FEC Summit heading in 2023? The location will be announced in the weeks ahead. Until then, my colleague Michael offers this prediction:
“Next year will be better than ever! The attendee experience will be prioritized as we bring back a more immersive program and explore the era of experience transformation,” Michael says.
See you next January? I know I can’t wait!