Thursday, November 30, 2023

TEA Summit: Lessons of collaboration

TEA Summit connects the global attractions community

edited by Martin Palicki and Judith Rubin

The annual Summit of the Themed Entertainment Association brings together industry members from around the world for two days of presentations, networking, discussion and project case studies, followed the next day by the annual TEA Thea Awards Gala. In 2018, this big weekend of TEA events is taking place April 5, 6 and 7 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

TEA Summit Day One focuses on raising issues and identifying trends in themed entertainment, along with presentations that feature the recipients of the Thea Classic Award and lifetime achievement honors. Day Two is Thea Case Studies Day, with frank, peer discussions on what made each project successful.

We asked each of the conference chairs to share a taste of what makes the TEA Summit special.

(Visit for more information about TEA, the TEA Summit and the TEA Thea Awards.)

Roberta Perry, VP Business Development, Edwards Technologies, Inc. (ETI) is a past president of TEA. She has been an enthusiastic leader in organizing the TEA Summit for many years. Roberta is a co-chair of Day Two.

Networking is a big part of the Summit experience and each year you take steps to encourage and facilitate it. What do you recommend people do to make the most of attending this year’s Summit?

The TEA Summit is an excellent opportunity to interact with your peers, exchange information, and develop contacts/resources. Information and people resources are power!

As a friend of mine says about networking – “it is constructive hanging around time!”

Here are my five networking tips:

1. Reach out, say hello and make networking fun!

2. Carry lots of business cards or mobile scan app.

3. Listen – focus attention on “them.”

4. Ask questions – be helpful if you can.

5. Connect them with others.

Remember that networking is a long game to build relationships. Business Development is about first building a community or tribe, then actively engaging with that community; and then, and only then, you have earned the right to ask of that community!

Christine Kerr, Vice President, BaAM Productions is co-chair of Summit Day One. She is also a TEA past president, and chairs the TEA Educational Committee.

What are some of the highlights of Day One this year?

First off, there’s the Conversation with Phil Hettema, founder of The Hettema Group and one of the top designers in themed entertainment. Phil is this year’s recipient of the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. He is an industry legend and a wonderful person. Attendees will have an amazing opportunity to learn about Phil’s career and hear his perspectives on the industry.

The TEA Summit presentation by AECOM – with whom TEA partners on the annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index – is a vital industry update, and an eagerly anticipated session each year. For 2018, Margreet Papamichael, director at AECOM, will present “The Future is NOW!” – looking at what is happening in the industry and around the world to influence the industry and our work.

Peter McGrath (SVP Creative) for Freeman is developing a new session for this year’s Summit. It will introduce the Design Thinking approach that guides the work of Freeman in creating Brand Experiences and exploring the overlap and opportunities with the world of themed entertainment.

Steve Birket, VP Business Development, Birket Engineering, Inc. is immediate past president of TEA and cochair of the “Elephants in the Room” session that is part of Summit Day One.

You help curate a thought provoking and very popular segment of the Summit. What do you see as the value to the industry for presenting the Elephants in the Room?

These sessions bring hidden or uncomfortable topics out into the open for discussion. In past years we have addressed issues of discrimination, failure, awareness, and sweeping industry changes. There is immense value in creating an environment that welcomes this kind of dialog and questioning. We also feel it is important to bring in voices from outside our immediate network to help provide perspective.

Kile Ozier, Experience Architect is a longtime TEA leader (and coiner of phrases) who has played a role in organizing numerous sessions and conferences for the association. He is co-chair of “Elephants in the Room.”

What can we expect this year from the Elephants session?

This year, we’ll explore issues of respectful equality; we’ll discuss the “greenness” of our parks and installations; we’ll talk about succession planning; and we’ll look at the evolution of tastes, experience and expectation in live
and destination entertainment and how best to “interdemographically collaborate.” Our goal is empowerment through enlightenment … and enlightened empowerment. Also, we want people to have fun.

Joanna Del Moral, Director Business Development, Leisure Services, BRPH ArchitectsEngineers, Inc. sits on the TEA International Board of Directors, and is co-chair of Summit Day One.

With your years of experience in TEA and the Summit, what have you learned about the event through your involvement?

There is always something new to learn in our industry and the TEA Summit provides a great opportunity to absorb industry trends and best practices from the experts. The Summit is a valuable tool for any entertainment industry professional. A special session we are looking forward to features Cedar Point, which has stood the test of time, and is recipient of the Thea Classic Award.

Pat MacKay, Ones&ZerosMedia has a long history of volunteer leadership within the TEA, including years of service on the Thea Awards Committee. She is a recipient of the TEA Distinguished Service Award, and co-chair of Summit Day Two (Thea Case Studies Day).

What is the educational value of presenting the owner + creative together in the case studies?

It’s always been a key component of Thea Case Studies Day to have representatives of both the owner/client side and the creative team talk about the project from their individual perspectives. In fact this usually results in some of the most interesting discussion about the project. By the time the projects get to the Summit stage all the kinks have been worked out … and creative accommodations have been made.

The very process of the diplomatic negotiation, the pushpull of creative/concept/financial/political requirements … these constitute the life blood of getting the vision and the reality to opening day. There are wise and important takeaways from each presentation that apply even beyond our industry. The lessons of collaboration are valuable in the classroom, at the office, and even in government! • • •

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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