Building on its success last year, the 3rd Annual AOAP Conference & Expo attracted a slightly bigger crowd in 2014. The event has grown each year, according to Juliene Hefter, executive director of the Association of Aquatic Professionals.
The Renaissance Hotel in Austin, Texas, was the destination for 276 registered attendees representing 44 states as well as Canada and Australia.
The opening session kicked things off on Sunday, Feb. 23, with keynoter Kevin Trapani of The Redwoods Group giving a motivational talk on the importance of aquatics and risk management. Dinner at the hotel included an awards ceremony, where three honors were bestowed: Distinguished Service Award, Shawn DeRosa, Penn State; Excellence in Programming Award, “Poolside CPR,” city of San Marcos, Calif.; and Special Event Award, “Splash Bay,” The Woodlands Township, Texas. Afterward, guests were taken to the Main Event, an entertainment venue featuring billiards, mini-golf and giant TVs. Another dinner was held Tuesday night at Estancia Churascara, a Brazilian steakhouse.
On Monday, the AOAP golf tournament was held at River Place Country Club. Thirty-four golfers played the 18-hole championship course, then enjoyed an awards luncheon.
That day the AOAP show floor began generating its own action as attendees checked out the products and services at 89 booths.
“We have a broad agenda [at the show],” said Frank Schiffman, senior market manager at Axiall Corp., a water-treatment product manufacturer in Pittsburgh.
“We want to talk with potential customers for our products,” as well as “interface with [colleagues] and get the temperature on what’s going on in the industry,” he added.
The conference’s educational track included 50 seminars, from lifeguard training and staff management to the MAHC, park design and two training sessions on the Americans with Disabilities Act. An Aquatics Facility Operators (AFO) course also was offered, and AOAP’s “RESPECT the Water Campaign” was unveiled.
Participants had plenty to say about the seminars in their evaluations, Hefter reported. For example, Kirby Fouser, staffing director at Sweetwater Pools of Atlanta, said: “The AOAP conference was a very eye-opening and enjoyable experience. There were a lot of great speakers and topics that I was able to bring back to our company to make effective policy and training changes.”
Seminar leader Christopher Whipple presented two sessions — “Changing Perspectives: Strategic Planning from the Bottom Up” and the “University/College Round Table.” Whipple, who is manager of lifeguards at University of Maryland, thinks the sessions went well and, in fact, suggests that the round table could’ve gone on for a couple more hours. Overall, he praised the AOAP event, saying, “It’s getting stronger and stronger each year.”
In 2015, the AOAP Conference & Expo heads for San Diego on Feb. 16-19.