PERSPECTIVES: A Conversation with Bob Wann, CEO of Patch Products and PlayCon Committee Chair


March 13, 20120 | With PlayCon, TIA's International Conference of Play Professionals just two months away, Toy News Tuesday editors spoke with Bob Wann, CEO of Patch Products and PlayCon Committee Chair, about the significance of the annual networking event for every segment of the toy industry.

TNT: How and when did you become involved with PlayCon? How does your professional experience guide you in your role as PlayCon committee chair?
BW: I first became involved with PlayCon as an attendee about 10 years ago. It was such a unique and valuable industry event that I then decided to become more closely involved as I wanted to be able to contribute more and help plan the content of this great annual conference.  I joined the PlayCon Committee about five years ago and became chair in 2011.

Having been in the toy industry for over 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies both large and small and from every segment of the industry:  manufacturers, licensors, inventors, sales rep organizations, etc.  Working with this breadth of industry players helps me to identify with the different types of PlayCon attendees and provide a balanced itinerary that will offer something of value for everyone. Additionally, I am fortunate to have similarly experienced committee members with diverse industry backgrounds which helps enormously in our pursuit of this goal to continually improve the “take home value” for every participant.

TNT: Why is this conference significant to you – on a personal and/or professional level?

BW:   I strongly believe that PlayCon is the most valuable networking event in our whole industry’s calendar year. This conference enables attendees to continue to not only reinforce and build upon existing industry relationships but also to establish new and more diverse relationships.

PlayCon provides an opportunity to get away from the day-to-day business responsibilities and really think about the long-term and strategic issues facing our industry. We try to create a relaxed, stimulating and creative environment that will enable attendees to focus on the bigger and broader issues facing our industry. The whole purpose is – in a very time efficient and synergistic way – to identify and address these important challenges and opportunities and work together to address them.
TNT: How has PlayCon evolved over the years?
BW: We’ve tried to make the event more interactive by adding new workshops and panels as well as networking events that will foster participant interaction with the content providers as well as each other. We’ve made a really strong effort to ensure more diverse content … covering consumer insights, business-building tools and key retail perspectives. We work hard to carefully choose content that will be valuable and actionable to those who attend. The goal is to have attendees leave the conference feeling confident that they can return to their businesses with new tools and knowledge that they can then implement themselves and that will enable their respective businesses to be more successful.
TNT: How do you determine the conference program and speakers? What is the typical process for planning this event?
BW: The PlayCon Committee is a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds in the toy industry – from licensing to manufacturing to international relations. With such diversity on the committee, we’re able to better understand the interests and concerns of attendees and give them that takeaway value they’re looking for.
 The planning process is comprehensive.  Regular committee and subcommittee meetings begin almost immediately following the conclusion of the previous year’s conference.  Feedback from the attendee evaluation surveys helps us develop the content for the next year’s conference.
TNT: What was behind the decision to hold this event in Washington, DC for the first time, in conjunction with TIA’s DC Fly-In?

BW: There were really two driving motivations for co-locating this year’s event: 

  • The first is efficiency and convenience for attendees.  Everyone’s calendars have become increasingly busy and attending two separate events on basically opposite coasts was neither cost nor time efficient. 
  • The second motivation is to create an enhanced synergy between these two important TIA events. We’ve had a number of members of the toy industry attend one event or the other.  Scheduling the two together provides an opportunity for more people to attend both.

I know from first-hand experience that I’ve always come away from the DC Fly-In impressed with what I learned about the legislative and political happenings in our industry.  Others in the industry – including those on the PlayCon committee – are excited more people might have the chance to get this exposure through the co-location of PlayCon and the DC Fly-In.

TNT: What can PlayCon 2012 attendees expect to walk away with?
BW: Our overall No. 1 goal is to ensure networking opportunities and provide diverse and in-depth content so those who attend can use newly-acquired insights and relationships in their own business endeavors.

We are building the 2012 program on a strong foundation of broad global insights from a variety of vantage points.  We are taking what worked best in the past – based on the feedback received – and making it ‘bigger, better and broader’ than ever.  Past sessions on consumer insights and retail perspectives are being expanded while fresh content, such as a new session on the ‘World of Licensing,’ will take us into an area we hadn’t touched on before. 

PlayCon 2012 participants are guaranteed to learn something of value they can take back to benefit their business.