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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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.