Instead of an official theme this year, organizers of the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show decided to go high-tech.

Keying into the huge popularity of smart phones, they’ve made the 2012 show accessible via a new mobile phone app (and QR code) and interactive map kiosks on the show floor.

“Seriously, [the mobile app] is like carrying the show around with you,” says show manager Trish McCormick. Using any smart phone, tablet or Web-enabled device, attendees will be able to access floor maps, connect with exhibitors and obtain information updates live on the show floor. It makes planning your day much easier, McCormick adds.

The show, organized by the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, returns to the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center on Jan. 23-26. For attendees without smart phones, there will be six large, touch-screen HDTVs strategically placed around the exhibit halls, offering maps and exhibitor and event information. NESPA volunteers will be at these kiosks, welcoming guests and offering how-to-use tips.

This all came about because show organizers originally wanted to be able to communicate more easily with exhibitors.

McCormick says she was looking for new floor plan software and came across Market Art, a firm specializing in enhancing the trade-show experience, with an emphasis on technology. NESPA subsequently partnered with the company, and the rest is history.

To further enrich the Atlantic City Show experience, NESPA organizers also partnered with local businesses and the A.C. Convention & Visitors Authority to offer attendees discounts at many nearby restaurants, stores, services and city attractions.

“It’s a phenomenal program for us,” McCormick notes. “We started it last year, and there are even more participating businesses this year.” To take advantage of the program, show-goers need only present their show badges at select companies to receive 10- to 20 percent discounts, reduced admission fees and the like.

Additionally, show organizers have secured the lowest hotel rates in 20 years, according to McCormick. “That’s good for attendees and their budgets,” she observes. Free shuttle service to and from the hotels is included.

Last year, McCormick was optimistic about the prospects for the show and the industry, and she says that feeling is even stronger in 2012. “Based on advance numbers, we’re on point to increase attendance and booths,” she notes. “I’ve been doing this 17 years, and it looks to be a fantastic show. It’s easy to get to and affordable.”

Admission to the exhibit hall is free for industry members, but to register for a show badge and to buy seminar passes, visit

Here are some show highlights:

Groovin’ at ‘The Pool’

The welcome party returns for a second time to the exclusive nightclub Harrah’s Pool After Dark, aka “The Pool,” on Monday, Jan. 23.  It was almost inevitable that the festivities would return after moving to that venue for the 2011 event.

“It was a huge success and sold out last year,” says Trish McCormick, show manager. “It will be better than ever this year.”

The setting is certainly conducive to fun: Beneath a huge glass dome lies a free-form pool, encircled by palm trees, tropical plants, and tables laden with island-inspired food and beverages. Lights flicker on the water as industry friends and colleagues network, dance and unwind before the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show.

The $20 cover charge per person includes admission; a buffet, dessert and coffee; and two cocktails. (After the two complimentary drinks, it is a cash bar.) Show badges must be presented to enter the establishment. Simply register online for the welcome party while registering for the show, and pay the $20 fee at that time.

Free shuttle service will be provided to and from the welcome party from participating hotels.

On the Boardwalk

You don’t have to go outside to find a special Boardwalk in Atlantic City. At the entrance to the NESPA show in the city’s convention center, you’ll find something most trade events don’t have: little green footprints on the floor. If you follow them, they will lead you right to the New Products Display Boardwalk, where you can view the latest eco-friendly industry items.

“We’re changing the layout of the Boardwalk, offering different options such as locked and lighted display cases,” show manager Trish McCormick notes.

Of course, if you want to see energy-efficient and/or green items at various exhibitors’ booths, just follow the green tracks and they’ll take you there, too.

The green footprints first appeared on the show floor in 2011 as part of an emphasis on eco-friendly merchandise — and they will always be there, McCormick adds, because it will always be emphasized.

Power to the People

It’s hard work setting up booths for a trade show, and some of the more complex ones may even feature water-filled pools or spas, landscaping, elaborate backdrops and the like. In the past, these industrious booth designers have been rewarded for their efforts with “Best Booth Awards.”

That concept is getting a new twist this year. Rather than NESPA volunteers picking the award winners, the show attendees will vote in the first-ever “People’s Choice Awards.” Trophies will be handed out for the top booth designs — and, though it’s still in the planning stage at this writing, there may be the chance for voters to win prizes from popular companies such as Stay tuned.

Pick a Prize

No, really — pick a prize. That’s what the new “Pick a Prize Auction” is all about. Rather than the silent auction of the past two years, which generated funds to benefit NESPA’s Foundation for the Advancement of Education and Professionalism, the show organizers decided to raise monies a different way.

“It was too hard getting items from exhibitors that could be easily carried out,” NESPA’s Trish McCormick explains. So this year, you can buy tickets to get a chance at winning an iPad, Bose System, 3-D big-screen TV, that sort of thing.”

Details are still being finalized, but the ticket price is expected to be nominal.

Once the purchaser has ticket(s) in hand, he or she can simply walk over to the prizes on display and drop the ticket(s) into the bins in front of the desired items. A drawing will determine the lucky winners.

Exhibitors will be sponsoring the prizes.

Kicking Things Off Show-goers can immerse themselves in one of two all-day programs on Monday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., focusing on either the technical (plaster pool start-ups) or business (social media marketing).

The National Plasterers Council’s Pool and Spa Start-Up Certification Program will be led by Greg Garrett of NPC. It will cover five primary areas: the history and chemistry of swimming pool surfaces; understanding water chemistry; using a water-test kit effectively; start-up procedures; and pool surface start-up problems and solutions.

The fee for the technical program is $325 for NESPA, APSP and NPC members, and nonmembers alike. It includes the eight-hour class, water-test kit, NPC Tech Manual, two reference manuals, Start-Up Cards, lunch and refreshments. The program ends with a test on proper methods of testing water and a one-hour written exam.

As a special incentive for attendees who join NPC as first-time members during the show, the NPC one-time administrative fee of $200 will be waived. For information about NPC membership, call Mitch Brooks at 941.766.0634.

The Social Media Marketing Program will be led by Sandi Frizzell of Skillpath. Pool and spa professionals who have not yet established a company presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn may be wondering if businesses can truly increase revenue by using social media. This session will answer that question — and more.

The class will teach participants how to make social media “connect” for their firms; new tools and ways to grow their businesses; how to define their strategies and formulate their plans before diving into social media; and how to recognize and avoid the most common mistakes being made. They’ll also learn how to deliver the type of social media content that customers want; which platform will work best for getting their corporate messages out there and generating more business; plus dozens of techniques for measuring the results of social media marketing efforts.

The fee for the business program is $195 for NESPA and APSP members, and $245 for nonmembers. It includes the eight-hour class, lunch and refreshments.

These all-day programs are not part of the 4-Day Seminar Pass. Seating is limited; to reserve a spot, visit

Staying Well-Rounded

There’s bound to be something for everyone in the show’s 70-seminar lineup. Kicking things off are the all-day business and technical programs, focusing on social media marketing and pool plaster start-ups, respectively, on Mon., Jan. 23.

“We decided to focus on social media marketing because the need is out there, which we saw from responses and evaluations. People wanted more,” says Pat Cava, education program director. “There also are breakout sessions, such as [online] marketing, throughout the four days of the show, for those who can’t or don’t want to be in a full-day session.”

An emphasis on technical topics has been built into the educational track as well, Cava notes. For example, more than a dozen water chemistry classes at all levels — basic, intermediate and advanced — are on tap. “We can’t leave the newcomers behind. Chemistry is evolving,” she notes. “There are new ways of clarifying water.”

Beyond water chemistry, there are numerous technical sessions, tackling everything from basic electricity and advanced shotcrete applications to hydraulics and variable-speed pumps, the myths of metal staining, and more.

An expected stand-out seminar, “The Epidemic of Pool Pops and Floating Vinyl Liners,” is slated for Tuesday, 8:30 to 11:45 a.m. It will be led by Jason Karamanol of CNA Insurance and Hans Van Brill of Van Brill Pool & Spa.

On the business side, there are speakers who can offer fresh perspectives on “the heavy hitters” — customer service and employee relations, Cava says.

Overall, she predicts that this year’s well-rounded education program will be, well, great. From self-improvement and group-building sessions to interesting business and technical classes, there really is something for all tastes and needs. For a full seminar listing, visit