Things are looking promising for the 2012 Orlando Pool & Spa Show, set for Feb. 23-25 at the Orange County Convention Center.

“We sold more booths faster than in many years,” said Wendy Parker Barsell, executive director of the Florida Swimming Pool Association. “That tells me the manufacturers see things [as] going forward. Preregistration is ahead as well.”

Organizers expect the event to meet or exceed last year’s numbers, with more than 4,000 attendees looking at the product offerings in approximately 220 booths in the 32,500-net-square-foot show space. She noted that a number of companies new to the show will be exhibiting products such as waterproof cases for smart phones and tablets, lifts, spas, pavers and more.

For another chance to learn about industry merchandise, attendees can stop by the New Product Showcase in the lobby outside the show floor. Up to 20 new items will be displayed, running the gamut from innovative to eco-friendly, and all points in-between.

From seminars to soirees

This regional show always has a strong emphasis on education, and 2012 is no exception. “In Florida, many take courses for credit to renew their licenses,” said Bernice Ryder-Smit, FSPA technical training coordinator. With around 65 seminars slated, there’s training for everyone from beginners to industry veterans. Of course, the seminar track includes basics such as water chemistry, staining, and equipment installation and troubleshooting, as well as “green” classes. New this year are numerous courses addressing the 2010 Florida Building Code and the 2010 Accessibility Code, which go into effect March 15, Ryder-Smit said.

“Besides the technical courses, there are some really good business and finance courses,” she added. “It’s more critical now than ever to know how to run your business wisely.” One special session will be led by Tom Grandy, president of Grandy & Associates. The eight-hour pricing and profit workshop on Feb. 23 will be tailored to participants’ own businesses. Then there are several one- and two-hour seminars covering business practices and financial management, from service agreements to family business and leadership strategies to building wealth for retirement.

Nearly all the seminars meet the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board’s approval for continuing education credit. (CILB providership number: FPSA dba FSPA CILB/ECLB/BOLA Providership #0000917.) The manufacturer-led, hands-on training sessions in the exhibit hall do not offer CE credits, but meet a real need for specific product information, Ryder-Smit noted.

Once again, there will be activities where industry members can exchange ideas and network. First up is the Welcome Reception and Design Awards, set for Feb. 23 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel. The soiree starts at 6:30 p.m., and admission is free with registration; there will be a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres. More than two dozen building design awards will be bestowed that night in categories such as pool/spa combinations, vanishing edges, residential waterfeatures, semicommercial pools and others. Individual awards will include Person of the Year and Directors of the Year from FSPA chapters.

Another popular activity is the Private Industry Party on Feb. 24, 6:30-10:30 p.m. The festivities are returning to Howl At The Moon, a nightclub known for its high-octane atmosphere. Admission is $25 per person, and there will be an open bar and free food. An outdoor tent featuring video games also will be on the premises.

One thing that will not be on the agenda this year is the golf tournament. Parker Barsell said the chapters hold golf events all year long throughout the state, and turnout at the show’s tourney had been slipping anyway. So organizers decided to focus on education in 2012.

A giving spirit

There’s a time and place for purely fun activities, and that’s where FSPA giveaways come in. Once again, cash raffles will be held every hour or two in the exhibit hall, starting with a $100 giveaway. The amount increases as time goes on, and may reach $700 by the end of the day, Parker Barsell said.

As if that weren’t enough, the first-ever spa giveaway is being held this year on Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m. The winner of the drawing gets a Journey spa from Dimension One Spas. Not unlike the original, barrel-style hot tubs, this model seats four, has 20 jets, and measures 78 inches in diameter and 35 inches high. Calling the giveaway “something new and different,” Parker Barsell said it’s a way to add interest and perhaps attract even more people to the show. For more information, call FSPA at 941.952.9293.