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As September draws to a close, we’re officially less than a month out from Pinball Expo. The long-time pinball show (in its 39th year) is one of the annual highlights on the pinball event calendar. It takes place October 18-21 in Schaumburg, Illinois.
This will be our first time attending the show, so we’re excited to explore all it offers.
We’re particularly excited about the seminar schedule, which, alongside the annual Pintastic New England (my hometown show), offers one of the best opportunities to learn from some of the greats in the industry.
The schedule this year looks packed, but we wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the sessions that captured our eye. For this roundup, we’ll focus on some lesser-known (though no less important) names. We expect the manufacturer-led discussions to be fascinating as well, but they probably don’t need our help getting butts in seats.
Sessions are listed in the order they appear on the schedule.
Marketing to New Audiences and the Power of Pinball
- Speakers: Jeff Cernava, Corbin and Zach Angeli, Kyle Crison (with surprise guest Don Garrison of Don's Pinball Podcast)
- Day: Thursday
- Time: 4 pm
- Synopsis: We plan to cover our united approach and how it has led to growth in pinball. We focus on social media promotion and interaction that lead to pop-up in-person unique events.
- Why we’re interested: As a marketer, I’ve always been fascinated by what works and doesn’t in pinball marketing. Jeff and his team at Mad Pinball have made their presence known in the pinball space since starting operations in 2021, so we’re sure there will be some valuable tidbits for anyone looking to get a little more juice from their marketing efforts.
Above & Beyond: Topper Talk with the Electric Playground
- Speakers: Rob Rath & Alec Gleason
- Day: Thursday
- Time: 6 pm
- Synopsis: Join the founders of The Electric Playground as they explore what it takes to design the world’s greatest toppers and to explore the question of “what’s next”! In this highly interactive session, audience members will take a behind-the-scenes look at TEP’s design process and product launches to date while also helping concept future topper projects in real time. Through a mix of interactive polling and open Q&A with attendees, we’ll explore potential future project concepts and collaborate on how we could potentially make your topper dreams a reality!
- Why we’re interested: We are absolute suckers for startup stories and people doing the hard work of bringing their vision to the world. The Electric Playground is doing really unique and creative work in the growing market of pinball toppers, and we’re excited to learn more about the company and what might be coming next.
Under the Playfield
- Speakers: Ernie Silverberg & Dan Rosenstein
- Day: Thursday
- Time: 7:30 pm
- Synopsis: Under the Playfield is a panel discussion and Q&A for folks who are looking to get started with custom pinball, get over a hard problem, and otherwise facilitate some knowledge transfer by those who have gone down the homebrew rabbit hole and those who want to.
- Why we’re interested: The homebrew pinball scene seems primed for a moment at this year’s Expo, where many custom-built pinball machines will be available for play. We’ve enjoyed listening to Dan Rosenstein’s podcast, Pinball Innovators & Makers, and have seen how this niche part of the pinball community can influence the direction of larger manufacturers. The homebrew and custom pinball community has a number of other activities planned as well like a happy hour and maker meet & greet.
Mappin’ Around (with Pinball Map)
- Speakers: Ryan Gratzer, Scott Wainstock & Beth Poore
- Day: Friday
- Time: 10:45 am
- Synopsis: Meet the team behind the map and learn more about pinball's ultimate crowdsourcing project.
- Why we’re interested: If it hasn’t been made clear on this site already, we’re huge fans of the Pinball Map project and what the team behind it is currently doing and has been doing for many years now. We’ll be looking forward to learning more about their efforts in this session.
Female Lead: How Digital Pinball Can Pave the Way for More Women-Driven Pinball Everywhere
- Speaker: Anna Lengyel, Mel Kirk (Christopher Wells Graham moderating)
- Day: Saturday
- Time: 1:30 pm
- Synopsis: Christopher Wells Graham talks to Anna Lengyel, Lead Designer, and Mel Kirk, COO from Zen Studios, about women in pinball in general and how Anna became the first female to fully design several (digital) pinball machines. Can digital design pave the way for more women in the hobby in general?
- Why we’re interested: This is a panel that caught our attention for a couple of important reasons. For one, we’d like to see more women in the pinball hobby! But also, we see digital pinball as an important entry point to the game for underrepresented groups, as well as younger and more casual players. It’s a very accessible (and fun) way to get exposed to pinball, particularly for those who may not have easy access to an arcade.
Check out the full panel schedule for all the goods. We’re confident you’ll find a few sessions to satisfy your pinball curiosities.
And for those who can’t make it in person, the sessions will be uploaded to the Pinball News YouTube account for later viewing.