IAAPA Trade Show

I was thinking about going to the IAAPA show and wanted some advice. First of all, where and when is it this year. Also how much does it cost to attend and is it open to people that do not work in the industry?

Besides this general info, considering I am a senior mechanical engineering student, I was wondering if it was appropiate to stop by some of the companies and give them my resume. I do not want to take business away from then and possible clients, but thought this would be a good idea to meet them, and have a chance of getting my foot in the door. Would this be professional or look unprofessional and not appropiate? Any information or advice would be helpful. Thanks. *** Edited 10/22/2006 12:47:34 PM UTC by Beast Fan***

I was a grad student last year in structural engineering with the same idea as yourself last year. The IAAPA show is being held November 13-18. The price of admission is a steep $300 dollars. However, last year I got in for $150 since I am associated with ACE.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the shear size of the floor. There are a ton of vendors and you won't know where to start. I would definately seek out some lesser known companies and distribute your resume to them first to get an idea of how the floor works. As for approaching them, you can tell when most companies are busy doing stuff. When approaching them, just be polite and tell them who you are. Most of them were in the same situation as you at one time and are more than happy to speak with you.

My biggest advice for a mechanical engineer is to make sure you research IAAPA's website thoroughly and search for the lesser known companies. Don't just settle for the roller coaster and ride manufacturers. There is plenty of business going on at IAAPA that involves theming, waterparks, animatronics, and anything else that you could possibly think of. Best of luck to you, let us know how it turns out.

Jeff's avatar
Be prepared to be bored to tears. Trade shows are not exciting unless you're shopping for stuff for your business.

Unless a company says that recruiting efforts is part of their plan for being there, I wouldn't say that it's particularly appropriate to network or drop off resumes. Remember that aside from small equipment manufacturers, the a lot of booths are dominated by sales people.

If you want to go to get an idea of what kinds of companies serve the industry, that's cool, but remember that people are there to conduct business first.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

If you go wanting to have a great time and see and learn new thing's then you'll have a fantastic time. Go there expecting boring and non-interesting vendors, well then you know what to expect. Personally I would go with a big smile on my face and having a good time like I always do. Enjoy, there is alot to offer.

Buisness people love others who are extremely interested ( In generel). *** Edited 10/22/2006 6:00:56 PM UTC by CoasterDiscern***

Jeff's avatar
Who goes to a trade show to have a good time? He asked if it was a good opportunity to network, and my point is that it's a whole lot less than ideal. Happy fuzzy feelings aren't going to change that.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

I have to tell you, back in my old "Radio Days" I was fortunate to grab a press pass and go to the Computer & Technogy Show and to the International Toy Fair every year at the Jacob Javits Center in the middle of New York.

Granted, I had no business there, and I was not allowed to photograph anyone or anything (Those passes were different), but I had a blast there seeing new things, trying out new games and playing with computers. As long as you dress appropriately (suit, tie, etc) most of the vendors will welcome you.

Keep in mind this was in the early 1990s. Since 9-11, they now have photo IDs and invitations required for keynote speakers and workshops in addition to the selling floor.

I have to tell you, it took nearly 3 hours to make a full pass at the upper and lower levels of vendors. Also, there were several alternate locations where the big players (Hasbro and Mattel would arrange their displays).

It was nice to see some of the small one-table vendors, crank it up a notch or two year after year. It was also sad to see some great ideas, get passed over. due to poor financial support behind it.

If I was directly asked about my credentials by a vendor I always said, "I'm just looking to do a story about how classic toys are making a comeback."

(Of course I was looking for a story, because I was nosey, it wouldn't air anywhere.)

Sometimes I would even get some free samples.

One last thing...

I once attended the Javits Center and there were two events being held concurrently. One was a hunting and fishing expo. The other was for housewares.

It was VERY easy to who was going where!

Trade Shows Are Great Fun!

Here's To Shorter Lines & Longer Trip Reports!

Tradeshows are not fun, Jeff is right. I just got back from the Waterpark trade show and my feet still hurt...and it is 20 times smaller than IAAPA. I go to IAAPA every year for my company and I dread it...same vendors, same colleagues..same conversations... "Hi, how was your season?...." blah blah blah...makes me sick...

If you still want to check it out, that's fine...for a first timer, it is quite impressive. it is huge, lots of plush vendors, tons of inflatables, and don't miss the Lazer Tag Chicks. Plan to walk about 8 miles if you want to walk the entire floor from end to end. And yes, the Dippin Dot samples are free...

If you are really looking to get a foot in the "Engineering Door", consider AIMS or NAARSO, which are much smaller, more maintenance orientated and offer more opportunity to chat with some of the "big dogs". You are not going to get any face time at IAAPA.

PS - I ran into Paul Ruben at the Waterpark show and he said that it was the BEST show of the year, so far...


Thanks for the info and advice. I am not going to the trade show to have fun really, just want to have an opportunity to get my foot in the door. I feel that if I email them or mail them my resume, it likely will be ignored. Did you go to all days at the event. How many days should I plan to be there if I attend.

I do remember Jeff Pike (Lead Engineer for GCII) saying that he went to the IAAPA trade show and ended up getting a co-op with Morgan Manufacturing. So I thought this would be a good idea to have a chance at getting a job in the amusement park industry. Jeff what other way is there really a chance to get in the industry, unless you meet the people. The trade show is just a way to have a chance to meet them. The situation maybe less than ideal, but I don't know of another way.

I do have other backup plans so to speak, since I am interviewing with other non coaster companies and took the GRE in case I want an ms in mechanical engineering.

You are a big boy, and can obviously make your own decisions --- but there will be 25,000 attendees there, some looking to spend millions on a new ride or concept. The vendors are there to make deals, not hire...so be careful and don't be surprized if you get "blown off" by a vendor. They only have a few days to make their sales and deals, so they will not have a lot of time to play "HR Manager". Just be careful, it may work against you. *** Edited 10/23/2006 1:42:20 AM UTC by Hanging n' Banging***
On the other hand, if you do go, keep your eyes and ears open...you never know what you might see or hear. A few years ago I watched a couple of industry heavyweights chatting it up on the show floor. Later I learned that what I had watched was the beginning of the negotiations that led to Cedar Fair buying Geauga Lake.

I'm not going to the show this year, for personal reasons. Although for other reasons I keep thinking it might be an interesting year to go...!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Beast Fan:

That GRE is FUN isn't it? Grad school is even more fun. Yeah right.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the event last year. I was planning on just spending one day but decided to head back a second day to talk with a few more people. Luckily, I knew a couple people already there who were able to help me out, even showed me where to get free food. I also have relatives in the Atlanta area which made my decision to go a lot easier.

One thing of interest that I would pass on to you is to not spend too much time on international companies. One thing that I found interesting and obvious is that they do not hire many, if any, engineers from outside their respective country. Nevertheless, do speak with them, you never know if an opportunity in the states or abroad may be available. However, unless you're dead set on moving to Europe, the international scene is closed.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at IAAPA and was able to contact several companies about opportunities. However, being a newlywed, moving outside the state wasn't a possibility. The things you do for love.

Good luck to you at IAAPA and early congratulations on your remarkable achievement with a degree in engineering. That is something you should definitely be proud of.


Thanks for your help and advice. I think I will try to go down there for at least a day or two. Well don't have my degree yet in engineering, senior so have this year to complete but almost there. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I do enjoy Engineering but the workload is very demanding. Just curious did you ever work at kings island or any amusement parks. Just wondering if you have any experience working in the amusement park industry.

Beast Fan, your experience sounds quite familiar.

As a mechanical engineering student, I did a co-op with a ride manufacturer in the late 1990s. The key wasn't going to the trade shows, necessarily, but rather being visible (not annoying) and letting the companies know that:

1) I exist;
2) I'm interested;
3) I'm qualified; and
4) I'm not a scary coaster geek.

The rest really isn't up to you.

I was not this company's first choice based strictly on resumes, but I ended up with the job because I was patient, knew a bit about the industry, and was willing to be flexible. Many of the other candidates were not.

I eventually got out of the amusement industry and went on to other things. But I vividly remember that for me, the three major factors in getting the job were a really strong resume, willingness to be patient and flexible with whatever company would talk to me, and a refusal to let people forget that I was interested in working for them.

One note on that last bit: Being annoying is the best way to get shut out forever. One conversation, one resume, one follow-up call, and then just casually check in every so often. These folks are incredibly busy, so you don't need to be calling every two weeks unless you've already interviewed, were promised a reply, and haven't gotten one yet. Short of that, just be cool about it. Nice and easy.

And if they aren't hiring, they aren't hiring. NoLimits skills won't convince them otherwise.

It also helps to be looking for a job when the industry is busy and hiring. But you don't always have that luxury... unless you're patient.

As others mentioned, there are tons of companies out there that are involved in the amusement industry. Getting into the perfect company with your first job isn't as important as getting into the industry.

Go to IAAPA, get a feel for who's willing to talk, and give it a shot. It might turn into something, and it might not. But you have to try.

In the late '90's the IAAPA show was held in Dallas. I was given admission from a ride company. As a long time amusement ride enthusiast I had a great time. I rode the rides, collected all kinds of brochures (pre internet or atleast before I had it), and visited with representatives from ride companies. There was all kinds of free food from the vendors who serve the industry. It was amazing to be in an environment that was all about the amusement industry. It was great!
What free food? I was at Dallas in 98. Lets see: Boardwalk Fries, Dippin Dots, we have them, and I am not waiting in line for them. Coke and Pepsi. Get your cup, since they stopped the vending machines. Pizzas of Eight. I wouldn't serve that to prisoners.

Yes, J&J is there, cookies, some other snack foods, the donut maker,and the usual new frozen treats and now Frosty Bites. You would starve if it wasn't for the convention center food. *** Edited 10/28/2006 3:23:52 PM UTC by Agent Johnson***

There's some great advice here by mrjah and others on what to be prepared for and a decent attitude to have. I'd also suggest go in with a game plan. The trade show floor maps and vendors at the show are available online well before the show starts. Definitely don't forget the smaller companies as you never know who may become a bigger company at any moment. But even besides that, its a foot in the door and can lead you to more connections. Lastly I would say if there are a few companies in particular you really want to talk to, call them ahead of time. Are they hiring? Is there someone who would be there you could talk to about your interest in the industry and would they have time to spare for you? You most likely will not be able to set up an appointment then, but now you have a name for starters. At the show, you can then go to the booth and ask when and if that person has some time to speak with you.

Jeff is right, there may not be any engineers even there from some of these companies, and anyone beyond salespeople very likely will not have the time to talk. But I would also say if you are polite and prepared, people generally don't mind talking if they aren't busy. We all started somewhere and most of us honestly enjoy our work (BELIEVE ME, its not as if we're in it for the money! :) ). Someone took a chance on me once and I would be repaying that back rather poorly if I didn't also take some time to talk with others who are in a position I was in at one time.


I made the decision to end up going and registered (cost $220). Now I have a question of what days I should go. I would want to miss the least amount of classes as possible.

One option is to go for friday and saturday, and miss one day of class. If I do that I would leave on a thusrday and spend all day friday and saturday there. And come back on sunday.

The other option is to leave on a sunday and be there for monday and tuesday.

The question I have is what day would be the best to go. Is it more busy the first 2 days of the show or the last 2. Would it be better if it was less busy if you want to talk to companies and give out resumes. I also plan to email/mail the companies a cover letter and resume, and tell than I plan to be there before the show, just so they have an idea who I am when I talk to them. So what would be the best 2 days to go. Do certain companies leave after the first few days?

Thanks for any advice.

Saturday is the dead day. Even when we run full tilt Wed-Fri our booth is empty that day, save for the 45 year-old enthusiast that tells me what we need to design and the kids poking the models. Also, the show floor doesn't open till Wednesday, before that it is meetings.

Adam *** Edited 11/3/2006 3:58:27 PM UTC by LONNOL***


Seems like friday and saturday is the only days I can go, since monday and tuesday are just meetings. However if saturday is not busy, that might be a good time to talk to the companies and give them my resume, etc. I would not be affecting their business since it would not be busy and they might be more willing to talk. What company do you work for and are you a sales representative for that company?


GO! GO! GO! I go every year and have an amazing time just walking the floor, seeing the booths, and networking with the companies. This year I am taking a friend to get some great ideas for his MacWorld booth in January. I’m very excited about both trade shows and I recommend taking your resume because it is a great networking opportunity that you won't get anywhere else. -Bobby

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