Of all the pitfalls that face businesspeople, perhaps the most hazardous is not knowing what they don't know. It's an often-cited cliché, but that doesn't render it less true. For instance, I am well aware that I don't know advanced calculus or have a good grasp of quantum physics. Blame New Jersey's public education system or my own laziness. However, what is far more worrisome is some vital skill set out there that I don't realize I need, and which may prove critical at some future point.
That is why truly successful businesspeople have an insatiable hunger for information that ranges from the specifics of their own companies and industries to the larger world. This is where trade shows prove their value to the high achievers. They offer the kind of information feast not available anywhere else.
Not surprisingly, Amusement Expo International, which takes place March 14 through 16 in Dallas, is promising to be among the more important trade shows in recent years. The venue has changed from Las Vegas to Dallas, and the show looks as if it will build on the momentum of optimism and spirit of innovation apparent at the past few expositions. AEI is owned by the Amusement and Music Operators Association and American Amusement Machine Association; this year will be the sixth time that the National Bulk Vendors Association has collocated its annual meeting and exhibit at the trade show.
As much as anything, trade shows are about the future of an industry. In ours, it is where operators, manufacturers and suppliers place their bets. For equipment operators, shows are a valuable resource even in off years, but when the mood and bottom lines are on the upswing, organized trade events become a greater necessity by providing products and knowledge that can optimize the potential of those good years.
As coin-op industry veterans regularly observe, meeting operators from around the country to share ideas also is a valuable opportunity. If history is any indicator, Dallas will bring together a high concentration of industry professionals on and off the show floor. Las Vegas, although boasting its own unique appeal, often sees participants scatter after the show floor closes. Conversely, trade shows hosted in the Big D, usually have showgowers clustering around the host hotel or nearby venues. The new location is also very likely to draw operators who typically skip the annual conventions in Vegas for a variety of reasons, including travel time.
There is also Amusement Expo's format, which begins with a full day of educational seminars before the two-day show opens, and it is shaping up to offer a strong line-up of topics and presenters on both the amusement and bulk vending sides. Instituted just a few years ago, operators have enthusiastically embraced the concept. This is particularly true for small to midsize operators who have increasingly come to view the seminars as a valuable resource that sends them to the show floor better prepared and more informed. On the bulk vending side, show organizers have noted growing attendance of seminars at each successive event.
What this all adds up to for the typical operator is an opportunity to acquire practical knowledge at a relatively low cost. This is no small thing at a time when coin-operated amusements and bulk vending seem to be in the midst of an innovation surge as new technologies and concepts continue to emerge at a steady rate. This is all good news, but many operators will miss the opportunities present in Dallas, citing lack of time or money, or both. But in case you didn't know, opportunity, despite rumors to the contrary, rarely comes knocking. Sometimes you have to travel to Dallas.
Hank Schlesinger can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org