Following the success of the Paintball Festival and Business Conference this past August in Pittsburgh, the folks at Team Effort Events (previously responsible for the world’s largest amateur competition – The International Amateur Open series) announced that that would be hosting a field owners conference in conjunction with this year’s PSP World Cup in Orlando.
Having attended the August conference, 68Caliber was interested to learn what was in store for October. We got in touch with the mighty powerhouse Debra Dion Kirschke (the first woman to work in paintball) and set down a few questions:
68Caliber – Let’s get the preliminaries out of the way: When and where is the event and WHY are you doing it?
Debra Dion Krischke – The Field Owners Business Conference will be held Wednesday Oct. 19, 2011 at the Radisson Celebration in Kissimmee. This is the day BEFORE World Cup begins. And it will kick off with a poolside cocktail party the night before. Having been on hiatus for the past 4 years I re-entered the industry this summer and it became obvious to me that field owners need to gather to discuss how to maximize their facilities and operations. Since our daughter graduated college a year ago, she has taken over Three Rivers Paintball as Operations Manager and I want her to learn from the best!
At that time, there were no other conferences on the horizon so for me, it was just natural to look at producing an educational conference to provide all field owners with the best expertise available. We produced these for 16 years at the IAO and have always believed in the value of educating field owners!
68 – Earlier this year you held a Festival at Three Rivers Paintball. Why another one so soon?
Debra – We produced a conference for 16 years in conjunction with the International Amateur Open ( the IAP) and have always believed in the value of educating field owners! During those years it was the perfect location because we were “ Switzerland” in that we could host the entire industry in a non-political atmosphere.
The Festival this past August in Pittsburgh allowed me to get my arms around the “State of the Paintball Union” . The weekend was light in numbers but valuable in education. Attendees had a great time, the content at the conference was excellent and within a week following it, I thought World Cup was the right place to replicate it. Honestly, it would have been great if it were a year off but I think it’s important to take action – always – and sometimes you just have to crunch through getting a good idea launched to lay the foundation for the future.
68- You’ve got such a great (and familiar) facility at Three Rivers. Why are you moving it to Orlando?
Debra – Three Rivers was an ideal place to gather when it was in conjunction with a major event. At this stage of my career, I’m all about strategic alliances. Each party doing what they do best. Let’s not forget I’ve been involved in this sport for almost 30 years so I’ve lived through the rough beginnings, to the years of growth, to the tumultuous years of lawsuits and mergers, to the current challenging economy. Orlando has always been the ideal city to gather since everyone worldwide wants to come to Disney World!
68- This time around you’re working with Paintball Sports Promotions. What benefit(s) for your attendees do you hope to achieve by partnering with a major tournament series?
Debra – We have to be careful with the word partnership since that’s not the case here. Team Effort Events is producing the conference. PSP is producing World Cup. And our intention is to cross promote for the betterment of the industry. As I said – it’s all about strategic alliances. The PSP needs to stay focused on their tournament and how to augment that element to attract the entire industry. I can stay focused on putting together a top-notch conference that can really have value for the attendees. And this gives another “Value Add” to anyone thinking about coming into the Orlando area. I’ve already sent them a valuable sponsor contact that’s a great fit for them, but not for the conference. Working together in this manner creates a win/win and both Lane Wright and I get that part.
68 – Some have suggested that the Field Owners Conference is ‘another’ Paintball Extravaganza. Is that true? If not, what sets them apart?
Debra- It’s Apples and Oranges. Our vendors will have nothing more than a 10×10 booth and will be driving traffic out to see their show booth at World Cup the next day. We are BUSINESS focused so we’ll be leaving all the tech classes for another time and place. But perhaps the BIGGEST difference is we’ll be discussing AIRSOFT along with the other options like 50 Cal and Outdoor Laser Tag for capturing the really young (ages 6 to 10) Birthday market. Several companies within the industry do NOT want that discussion to take place. We are not owned or controlled by ANY commercial entity in this industry and for those who’ve known me over the years, I won’t shut up about something that I believe has VALUE for field owners. I suspect they are stalling or believe they can control the marketplace. Field Owners are the front line to the consumer so the healthier and more educated they are about business, the better for the entire industry. Change is the only constant in business, and it’s time for all of us to wake up and realize that we have serious VIABLE options for additional revenue streams. Again – because we’ve been field owners since 1984 and I worked as the PR Director for The National Survival Games with Bob Gurnsey – Ryan and I bring those years of experience and expertise to any conference we produce. It makes a difference. In my conversations with field owners, they are ALL interested in exactly the same things we are – growing their business in a challenging economy.
68 – How will attending the event help field owners? In other words – what can they expect to get out of it?
Debra – – I’m really excited about the various opportunities for Field Owners to increase their bottom line. We have 3 viable options – two that have been around before but merit taking another look at- 50 Cal and Outdoor Laser Tag. The third option has been around for a few years but has now hit critical mass. Airsoft is the TAG sport of choice for the younger kids. Looking at the shelf space at Dick’s Sporting Goods, previously taken up with Paintball, we can see that Airsoft has become the big seller in the marketplace. I see this as another opportunity for us to go after the really junior Birthday market – ages 6 to 10 . I’m sure as an industry, we’ve conceded millions to Chucky Cheese and Laser Tag. In this economy everyone should be looking at how to maximize their field operations. We’ll be talking about every possible new revenue stream as well as Social Media and marketing in general. I’m fine tuning topics and speakers as we speak but they can be seen on our website.
68 – Is there a major subject or ‘theme’ for the conference? If so, could you explain it?
Debra – Re-Connect, Re-Group, and Re-Load! I think that about sums it up! We all need to meet, and talk, and share best practices as well as learn from the best experts in the business.
68 – Are there any showcase events/speakers that you’d care to highlight?
Debra – We’ve got an excellent Key Note – Julie Dion (who is absolutely NOT relatedJ who comes with 20 years of marketing experience in the IAAPA world. She’s going to give us great Action Items for going after the JUNIOR Birthday market. We’ll have an excellent presentation on Social Media and we’ll be rolling out The Bob Gurnsey Scholarship Program, which will be a fabulous way for fields and the industry to be involved in giving back to high school senior paintball players for their education. Everyone is going to want to participate in this.
68 – For attendees who are also participating in the World Cup, how are you managing the scheduling so that they can effectively do both?
Debra – We’ve designed this with Field Owners in mind so they can come in Tuesday Oct. 18 for a poolside cocktail party 5PM to 7PM – attend the full day conference the next day – then on Thursday Oct. 20 they can get on out to see World Cup and depending on their druthers – either stay in town and enjoy World Cup or Disney for a few days – or head back to their fields. It’s the perfect get away!!
68 – For those who attended the Festival/Conference, what changes have you made (if any) that they can expect to see?
Debra – It will be a combination of some speakers from the August event along with new speakers. New Products on parade will be the first time for media and attendees to see some of the latest items coming into the market. We’ll have a session on Mobil Marketing, Text Message Marketing, Advertising and Social Media. There will also be round-table discussion time where fields can talk to each other about the nuts and bolts of their operations. Tippmanns new Marketing book will also be available so there’s a lot to talk about!
What’s your business worth to you? Do you invest in its growth? When you decide your business is how you earn a living and stop treating it like a hobby – everything changes – immediately!
The great hotel rate of just $71 is only available until September 30 so folks should go to our site, get registered and make their reservations! www.FieldOwnersConference.com