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Pinball Expo 2014 - My thoughts


sleazius
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The event was a ridiculous success (just not financially). I got nothing but positive feedback and we learnt a bunch about what to do and what not to do if held again. We made tonnes of mistakes but you don't learn if you don't make them so I was overall happy with the outcome.

 

Money wise I haven't done the final figures, but we made a small loss in absolute terms. If you include wear and tear on the machines, and the 3000+ hours we put into it its a huge loss, but like anything hobby related, you don't tend to include those items.

 

Advertising

 

One of the issues that I wanted to address was advertising. I know that many of you were complaining that you hadn't seen anything in that regard, but we did spend $18000 on it. We ended up in 7 newspapers in the Sydney metro area however the majority of our attendees actually came from the banners we hung up around Sydney ($5000 of our budget went on this). Effectively we spent almost every dollar of ticket pre-sales on advertising.

 

What we learnt from advertising was we should have doubled the budget toward banners, and halved it toward media (we spent more on media than we did on banners). When asked at the door how they had heard about us, over half of our attendees had seen a banner. Only 3 people claimed to have read a newspaper article, online or otherwise.

 

Another question was in regards to TV - we were slated to have a TV crew come out from both 9 and 10, however it was always with the proviso that nothing else popped up. We had two things pop up, the British PM landed in Sydney instead of Brisbane, and a fire sprung up out of nowhere in the mountains - bye bye TV coverage.

 

The Venue

 

This was by far and away the best venue I could find in Sydney for this type of event. I investigated 40 odd venues, visited just over 20, and it won on these factors:

 

- Price (cheapest venue of this size in Sydney)

- Size (I was looking for 1500m^2 and this was just shy of 1900m^2)

- Ease of getting machines in the venue (surpisingly most decent sized venues are a nightmare to move things in and out of)

- Air conditioning (no other venue in Sydney this size has AC unless you want to pay double the price)

- Electricity (it was included, almost nowhere else was)

- The juice to run the thing (a lot of venues didn't have enough current available to power that many machines)

- Proximity to a sizable affordable hotel

- Proximity to multiple food options

- Proximity to beer

- Parking

- Proximity to our machine staging area.

 

It lost on:

 

- Centrality of location.

 

The only other short-list contender was a building in Olympic Park but it was under renovation at the time the event was being held and we couldn't use it, and it still would have been far more costly.

 

As for the cost, the venue was $19000 - they only go up in price from there. You can see why no-one has attempted this before other than the NPA and they get the venue for free.

 

My wife had the great idea of just building a bigger shed and hosting it here - I can't tell if she was serious though :)

 

The Comp

 

Although it had its problems I thought this was a success. I've decided even if expo doesn't return, the comp will. I'll just hold it in my barn. To hire a venue here in Sydney is prohibitively expensive, even school halls over a weekend are far too pricey.

 

Hold it somewhere that the expenses are already covered (my place) and the thing can live on regardless of the expo supporting it. We could probably even offer more prize money as I wouldn't need to divert sponsors money into paying for the venue.

 

Something to think about.

 

The Future of the Event

 

This is up in the air.

 

I spent all of last night going through my notes looking for a compromise venue that is smaller and cheaper. Call me crazy but I'd really love to do this again for some insane reason. The only catch is it has to stack up financially in a way that doesn't put mine and other's lives on hold. Both Dan and I took the month leading up to the event off work. I couldn't do that year in year out, and neither could Dan.

 

We had 2 volunteers who took a week off work, and one who was here the week and the two weeks preceeding that (Yee and Dave, and Edy) and I couldn't put them through what I did to them this year again. I think all of us said we'd need 3 years to recover if the bump in runs like that again. We were flogging ourselves for 20hrs a day, not possible to do that again. We either need twice the volunteers, or far fewer machines.

 

If it does happen again it definitely won't have the variety or sheer number of games that this year had. The first year was the year to go from that point of view. We had 228 games this year (about 15 were display only, that is, didn't work), plus about 30 vendor games, this was far too many to cope with. We simply don't have the man power in the form of volunteers to move that many games in the time frame we have. It also is an impossible task for the techs to keep up with the machines. Although we had 3 techs each day, plus the volunteer techs, it wasn't enough. Unfortunately there just aren't enough techs in Sydney to keep the event running once it gets over a certain size.

 

Any future event will be limited to 150 to 160 machines as a result. The general public has no idea between 150 and 250 anyway.

 

If it is run again I'd also want to open it up to other collectors. Its a great platform to sell machines however we'd have to be picky with what was included. My current idea is that all machines are checked into our staging area a week prior to the event, they either pass or fail the following criteria:

 

- tested and tagged (we'll do it, but it needs to pass)

- clean

- faults?

- how many doubles (we don't want 8 Twilight Zones for example like a lot of shows in the US seem to have... 'yeah we've got 350 pins, but only 90 titles when you actually look at the games list')

 

Summary

 

I'll let you know in January if I'm stupid enough to try this again.

 

This year was a bit of a disaster in terms of keeping people on AA informed what was going on and most of that is my fault as I lurched from disaster to disaster in my personal life, thinking that I could keep up to date with things here when I really couldn't - obviously in any future event that wouldn't (or shouldn't) be an issue.

 

I thank everyone for their patience and their support. I'd like to think we achieved the dream of an event in Australia that rivals some of the events held overseas. If it does continue (in whatever format) I hope it only goes onwards and upwards.

 

My only regret is I still haven't played most of Dan's rare solid states. I didn't get to play any of them over the weekend, and now they're back in storage! Doh!

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You've laid the cards on the table there Leigh, I think this will give some people the perspective of what was going on behind the scenes. Lost for words really as its all been said before and this post sums it all up. Once again awesome!!

 

Cheers

Jas

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Both Dan and I took the month leading up to the event off work. I couldn't do that year in year out, and neither could Dan.

 

We had 2 volunteers who took a week off work, and one who was here the week and the two weeks preceeding that (Yee and Dave, and Edy) and I couldn't put them through what I did to them this year again. I think all of us said we'd need 3 years to recover if the bump in runs like that again. We were flogging ourselves for 20hrs a day, not possible to do that again. We either need twice the volunteers, or far fewer machines.

 

 

 

My only regret is I still haven't played most of Dan's rare solid states. I didn't get to play any of them over the weekend, and now they're back in storage! Doh!

 

I'm glad you mentioned these things Leigh, I think its worth all of us considering the above...

 

These two guys took 1 month (ie: ALL their holidays for a FULL YEAR) off work for our and the hobby's benefit - not sure how many others would be as passionate as these guys!

 

They also lost money

 

They also are NOT exaggerating about 20 hour days

 

And they didn't get to play a machine the whole weekend!

 

Top work guys, plus Yee, Edy, Dave and the others and please know the effort is appreciated. Hopefully the rest of us can chip in a bit more time, skills, grunt work if/when it happens again.

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It is really interesting to see the event laid out the way you have.

I am sure there would be many hundreds of people would like to see this event and support it again.

Appreciate that it has to be viable, and more people would be needed to " take the strain"

At the end of the day, you guys did what you set out to do and made it a fantastic event.

Well done all round. :)

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Good write up. More different collections is the go to lighten the load. At Pinfest this year, there were 29 different people supplying the 75ish games. There were a few guys with half dozen or more (Slevbro, Edy, Marco, JPD and Brett come to mind) and people with 1 or 2, also helps get more helpers.
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I'm glad you rate this as a "ridiculous success". From my, and my kids perspective, it was awesome. I was glad to express this in person to you, even though it was a Saturday night 3am delirious ramble. I'm sure there are many many people, I for one, who would be prepared to share the load if there is a next time. Just say the word. Congrats on a great event.
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That was a great de-briefing of the event Leigh. If this does happen again, I'm willing to volunteer to assist with repairs and maintenance if I can. One thing I did notice, or should I say didn't notice, was that there didn't appear to be any signage in front of Panthers directing people where to head for the expo (please correct me if I'm wrong). I personally think you guys have laid the foundations, and word of mouth will also assist with increased numbers at any future event.

 

Again, well done for organising an event that hasn't been attempted before, it was a mammoth undertaking that few could have achieved on such a scale.

 

Regards,

 

Johns-Arcade.

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Great post, thank you :)

 

Have to agree with the collector supplied games for potential future events. It would certainly take an enormous amount of pressure off you guys. I vaguely remember discussing it with you ages ago, and I can't remember if you said public liability was more of an issue when there was multiple people supplying the games?

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My Wife and I, although new to the hobby and from Melb (don't hold that against us :) would be happy to stay longer next time. We both had the all access passes and even though we didn't set foot in the tournament area (not good enough yet) we stayed about 4 hrs friday, from about 9am to midnight sat (excl meals and breaks of course) and 1 hr sunday due to flight. We aren't tech savvy but could help somehow on a lead up day and post closing day. We would only need advance time like this event. We purchased tickets on the day they were available and to be honest, thought they were too cheap for what we ended up being exposed too. Thank you again to all involved as the expo was near on perfect in our eyes. Facilities, accomm, food, location all great :) WELL DONE
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Leigh I feel your pain at not getting to play Dan's fantastic SS collection. Six of us came together and apart from a go on WOZ we all played only the SS's and EMs and still didn't get to play all the ones we wanted to.

The one machine we all played was HERCULES as that was an opportunity not to be missed.

It is refreshing to see such an honest summary and I agree apart from maybe money it was a roaring success. That venue is perfect.

I also help promote a country speedway and we dropped radio and TV advertising and no one noticed. $$$$$ for nothing really.

Signs, posters, social media and word of mouth are the things that seem to work.

One thing that is for sure the second one (whenever that may be) is always easier. We still talk about the barn meet so it proves it doesn't necessarily have to be every year.

Thanks to all for an unforgettable experience.

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Was the event advertised on Facebook (or other social media)?

 

You need to deligate

Too much work for a handful of guys

Get somebody who is not running around organizing things, fixing machines, to handle online advertising and notification

 

Forget radio and TV. They are only turning up once the event is running, people need to know that the show is on before it is over

 

Use the forum members. We all work somewhere, there is usually a notice board, a printable flyer that we can take to work might be handy

Also if there was a full color poster that was available. If the expo was in Victoria I would have put a poster in my shop to promote the event

 

Re; tag and testing. Let people kbo this ia not a big issue. Not sure on prices but yoyr local Jins also does testing

 

I hope you run it again

Edited by Pop Bumper Pete
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Maybe limit the banner advertising to around Penrith, and closer by suburbs.

 

We asked where they had seen the banner, and people were from all over western Sydney. We only placed banners in the west and south as people in the east or north think Penrith is about the same distance as travelling to Bathurst. A lot of them think Penrith is the ghetto as well so it ends up being a waste of advertising. Try explaining to someone from the east that crime rates there are higher than here, all you'll get is a blank look.

 

If we do it again it's about squeezing as many deals out of suppliers as I can to reduce costs. I did that this time but I was time constrained for reasons I won't go into here, which reduced my ability to negotiate.

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One of the issues that I wanted to address was advertising. I know that many of you were complaining that you hadn't seen anything in that regard, but we did spend $18000 on it. We ended up in 7 newspapers in the Sydney metro area however the majority of our attendees actually came from the banners we hung up around Sydney ($5000 of our budget went on this). Effectively we spent almost every dollar of ticket pre-sales on advertising.

 

What are these "news papers" you speak of old man? :D

 

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing. But I like the idea of a 15 second Youtube pre roll ad campaign targeted to local IP's and relevant demographics. Not sure on cost, but I'm sure it would be cheaper and much more effective than newspapers.

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Great summary..

 

Can we kickstart or crowd-fund of do what ever the in thing is right now to gather some momentum already for the next possible event..?

 

___________

 

 

That banner over I think it was the Kent Street overpass on the freeway was huge..! It stood out like dogs balls. Did it remain up for the entire weekend..?!

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Was the event advertised on Facebook (or other social media)?

 

You need to deligate

Too much work for a handful of guys

Get somebody who is not running around organizing things, fixing machines, to handle online advertising and notification

 

Forget radio and TV. They are only turning up once the event is running, people need to know that the show is on before it is over

 

Use the forum members. We all work somewhere, there is usually a notice board, a printable flyer that we can take to work might be handy

Also if there was a full color poster that was available. If the expo was in Victoria I would have put a poster in my shop to promote the event

 

Re; tag and testing. Let people kbo this ia not a big issue. Not sure on prices but yoyr local Jins also does testing

 

I hope you run it again

 

The event was advertised on facebook, and that was our second biggest referral method. Our social media publicist posted 3 ads though and all of them had misinformation in them, it was at this point we effectively sacked her and my wife took over (that was 3 days before the event).

 

If in runs again all our advertising spend will go into banners, posters, flyers, and facebook. I'll cut media spend and divert it into the things that worked. I had two of those electronic billboards and they seemed to work too.

 

Tag and testing we can do, I don't want to make people pay for it, however it is a stipulation of our public liability that all machines are tested by our electrician.

 

- - - Updated - - -

 

What are these "news papers" you speak of old man? :D

 

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing. But I like the idea of a 15 second Youtube pre roll ad campaign targeted to local IP's and relevant demographics. Not sure on cost, but I'm sure it would be cheaper and much more effective than newspapers.

 

Newspapers was a total waste of time, but like anything the best referral source is word of mouth.

 

I know if we ran it again we'd get more attendees because everyone is talking about it in the local area. I've been stopped in the street 3 times now by people 'you're that guy with the pinball machines' etc. I like the idea about youtube. I just need to get more savvy with all that gear.

 

- - - Updated - - -

 

Great summary..

 

Can we kickstart or crowd-fund of do what ever the in thing is right now to gather some momentum already for the next possible event..?

 

___________

 

 

That banner over I think it was the Kent Street overpass on the freeway was huge..! It stood out like dogs balls. Did it remain up for the entire weekend..?!

 

The banner was up from the Wednesday till Monday night. I've got no idea how it stayed up so long as normally they get taken down every 2-3 days. You can apply to the RTA and council to have them up there, but supposedly they will only approve community events. I'd rather risk losing the banner and a fine, it still works out cheaper than going through the application process.

 

That was a $750 banner FYI.

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I like the idea about youtube. I just need to get more savvy with all that gear.

 

 

If it happens again, just let me know. Would't be much drama knocking up a 15 second ad with royalty free music, voiceover, stills, footage from the last event etc :)

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Speaking as an outsider. I live in Penrith and only heard about the event because I saw an article on the Facebook feed of one of the local papers. I didn't have any idea at all it was on until I saw that.

 

Was a great day though, would really look forward to seeing it happen again. I bought 2 friends along with me and we'd all be up for it again and would recommend it to everyone in our circle.

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Speaking as an outsider. I live in Penrith and only heard about the event because I saw an article on the Facebook feed of one of the local papers. I didn't have any idea at all it was on until I saw that.

 

Was a great day though, would really look forward to seeing it happen again. I bought 2 friends along with me and we'd all be up for it again and would recommend it to everyone in our circle.

 

:welcome: to AA

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Speaking as an outsider. I live in Penrith and only heard about the event because I saw an article on the Facebook feed of one of the local papers. I didn't have any idea at all it was on until I saw that.

 

Was a great day though, would really look forward to seeing it happen again. I bought 2 friends along with me and we'd all be up for it again and would recommend it to everyone in our circle.

 

Speaking as another outsider - and what you guys will consider an unusual case - here is how I heard about the event. This flyer came in the box of an order I placed with Marco Specialties. Maybe something similar in Australia would help.

 

938529859_PinballCalendar2014_2015.thumb.jpg.d54b2deea386c4e7fa959e7446f5998e.jpg

 

I would bet that word of mouth about this first event would help immensely for the second time around, yielding a higher attendance and there would be some 'repeat customers' looking for it. Also, I didn't see it listed on event calendars at IFPA or Pinside. That might help too.

 

Just trying to present some ideas in the hopes of a repeat...

 

Byron

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Great summary as others have mentioned Leigh. Just a thought as this IS such a huge thing to get off the ground here in Aus.

As our pinball enthusiast numbers are smaller is it more feasible to do this every 2 years??

 

You know when you go to something and then do it the next year and it can be Meh (not saying that it was in anyway but hope you get where i am coming from)

Where as to do it this big every 2 years as opposed to a smaller event every year.:unsure Just a thought. Might make it more viable as we would all be salivating.

 

And we have pinfest to tide us over maybe that could be expanded on the off year??

 

I was away this year and wasn't sure i would be back in time but would have liked to have committed to a set up day or tear down.I am sure there are others now that would nominate a day to help now that we have seen the enormity of it.

 

Just thinking out loud on what was a huge event. Thanks again to all involved.

Edited by JOKERPOKER
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Great summary as others have mentioned Leigh. Just a thought as this IS such a huge thing to get off the ground here in Aus.

As our pinball enthusiast numbers are smaller is it more feasible to do this bi- annually??

 

 

Was thinking the same thing, but I think you mean Biyearly.

 

Regards,

 

Johns-Arcade.

Edited by Johns-Arcade
Should have read was not what
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