Tim's Turn | March 2020
I have met many, many people from myriad countries during the 35 years I’ve spent chronicling this industry. Many were first met when I sat down to interview them or to take their photo during an IAAPA event. Some of those I have had little or no contact with since. Many others have turned into friends.
However, having so many friends and colleagues from around the world is sometimes frustrating. It takes a lot of time and money to visit them personally and keep that relationship alive. Sure, social media helps, but there’s nothing better than a big smile and a hug from a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while.
Yes, there is an answer. There is no need to travel to the far corners of the world when you can find many of them all together in the same place several times a year at IAAPA Expos in Orlando, Asia, and Europe.
With more than 42,000 attending IAAPA Expo in Orlando, representing more than 100 different countries, it’s hard NOT to run into someone you know. You will walk approximately 10 miles if you stroll past all the 1,100-plus exhibitors, and it’s not uncommon to see many friends during that walk. I serve on IAAPA Committees with some of these long-distance friends, and while I am in contact with them during the year, I usually only get to enjoy their smiles and stories once, during an Expo. In Orlando, I usually run into many as I hang out at the IAAPA Bookstore or at the hotel bar in the evening.
While chronicling this event for the now-defunct Amusement Business, it would sometimes take me an hour or so to walk across the trade show floor. “Hey Tim, come look at what’s new in our booth,” or “Hey Tim, take my picture, you took it last year,” or “Hey Tim, do I have a great story for you.” That hyperbole as I walked along was constant and most welcomed. I enjoyed it all, and I gathered a great deal of information. Now, that I am “retired” and don’t do much writing outside this column—and the fact that most of those who knew me are now retired and don’t attend—I joke that I can cross that same Expo floor in about 10 minutes!
Just for fun, knowing I was going to write about this subject, I kept a log of old-time friends and colleagues I ran into during the November IAAPA Expo in Orlando. “Friends” I saw and actually chatted with for a few minutes were from 11 different states, with most coming from Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. As for the more than 100 countries represented this year, I interacted with friends from 11, including England, Wales, Japan, the Netherlands, and Germany. It was fun catching up.
I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to IAAPA Expos as a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues. Many attendees list networking as one of the main reasons for attending. Our business is definitely a people business.
I also met some great new folks this year as I stood in queue at the booths of various food and beverage exhibitors. It’s amazing the conversations you can have with total strangers while waiting for free food samples.
Tim O’Brien is a veteran outdoor entertainment journalist and is a longtime Funworld contributor. He has authored many books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities and is the only journalist in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.