Academy Schedule

ASTRA Academy

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Friday, June 8 & Saturday, June 9

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM — Friday, June 8 & Saturday, June 9

Certified Play Expert Workshop

Master the science behind PLAY: Become a PLAYfessional at Marketplace & Academy!

You know play is powerful, but can you explain why? ASTRA's Certified Play Expert Workshop gives you the research, language, and tools to support the science behind play. For the first time, you can become a Certified Play Expert at Marketplace & Academy. This pre-conference workshop will elevate your expertise in just two days.

ASTRA invites toy industry professionals, therapists, librarians, educators and anyone in the business of play to take part in this event. Become a Certified Play Expert at our first in-person, interactive 2-day pre-conference workshop!

Dates/Times:

Friday, June 8, 2018 @ 8am-5pm
Saturday, June 9, 2018 @ 8am-5pm

Location:
Hilton New Orleans Riverside 
2 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Workshop Room TBA

Price:
$399/person

Inclusions:
Breakfast and lunch on both days
Certificate of graduation
Certified Play Expert pin

Speakers: Jean Bailey, National Lekotek Center former director & Kerry Bauer, Child Life Specialist

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM — Saturday, June 9

Certificate in Social Media Management

Take Your Social Media to the Next Level: Get Your Certificate in Social Media Management at Marketplace & Academy!

Do you want to take your social media expertise to the next level? Receive your Certificate in Social Media Management during a full day of hands-on application of social media best practices. This workshop will teach attendees how to create a strategic plan, interpret social media analytics, and create meaningful content for your audience. HR employees, sales or marketing professionals and business owners with a basic understanding of social media who are interested in taking the next step in the business of social media are invited to attend.

  • Do you understand the value of social media, but struggle to create a plan that can be implemented by you and your team?
  • Are you looking for efficient and effective ways to create content your audience will engage with?
  • Do you and your team have a plan for responding to questions as well as positive and negative comments on social media?
  • Have you identified how to measure success and uncovered what’s growing your digital presence?

Join in on the conversation! Discuss how to plan, implement, manage, and report all aspects of an organization’s social media strategy with your industry peers, brainstorming real solutions to maximize your digital presence. This workshop allows you to participate in experiential exercises and create a strategy and content you can use immediately.

Dates/Times:

Saturday, June 9, 2018 @ 8am-5pm

Location:
Hilton New Orleans Riverside 
2 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Workshop Room TBA

Price:
$199/person

Inclusions:
Breakfast and lunch 
Certificate of graduation

ASTRA is excited to host Amy Jauman of the National Institute for Social Media (NISM) to facilitate the Certificate in Social Media Management Workshop. Amy has a plethora of knowledge and will share her insights and expertise during this full-day course. 

Speaker: Amy Jauman, National Institute for Social Media

Sunday, June 10

10:15 AM - 11:30 AM — Expert Led Workshops

Play Through the Ages!

Track: Children & Play

Get ready for a jam-packed learning journey! This session will propel your profits with practical tips and promote a powerful play mindset. The essential research on child development and play, contextualized for the independent toy industry, has been compressed for maximum impact. Don’t miss this experiential session if you are looking to boost your bottom line with new knowledge of ways to differentiate and disrupt in all areas of your business through the power of play. 

Speakers: Kirsten Anderson, Integrate Play Solutions

Location: Room 215

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Play Through the Ages Worksheets, Holiday Listing, Trivia

The Changing Toy Market: Who's Buying & How To Reach Them

Track: Industry Trends & Relations

There’s no question the specialty toy market is changing. If you want to sell toys and games to today’s consumers, you have to know who they are, what they want and where to find them. This session, given by one of America’s leading small business experts, Rieva Lesonsky, tells you exactly that. Learn effective marketing methods, how to create a loyal customer base, what products are driving sales and more. America is on the cusp of yet another baby boom. Act now to position your business to benefit from the changing market—and reap the rewards.*

Speaker: Rieva Lesonsky, GrowBiz Media

Location: Room 221

*This session will be recorded for viewing post Marketplace & Academy. 

60 Innovative Marketing Ideas in 60 Minutes

Track: Sales & Marketing

Attract more than one thousand shoppers in a week, grow sales by more than 50% in a month, and obtain the highest store sales in one day using ideas from this fast-paced, one-hour session led by specialty retail expert Patricia Norins. This session will reveal 60 proven digital and traditional marketing ideas that you can implement right away for extraordinary results.  

Speaker: Patricia Norins, Marketing Lemonade 

Location: Room 209


Performance Data: Gauging the Independent Toy Industry

Track: Financial Management

Having specific financial statistics from the independent toy industry can help your business in lease negotiations, securing lines of credit and determining the areas that can provide the greatest return on investment. Financial benchmarking information is more important than ever before. The ASTRA Retailer Benchmarking Survey provides the best source of performance data for the independent toy industry. The survey’s findings should serve as the standard for gauging your company’s health – and letting you know how you compare with your peers. Senior Vice President of Industry Insights, Greg Manns, will describe why certain metrics are so important to your business and how you can quickly and easily monitor your performance without needing any financial expertise. The information in this report provides retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives the answers to better business practices.

Speakers: Greg Manns, Industry Insights

Location: Room 207


Mighty Together: Managing the Bottom Line

Track: Industry Trends & Relations

Being “Mighty Together” requires teamwork. Teamwork requires contribution, collaboration, cooperation, communication and commitment. Join this panel session to learn more about how retailers, manufacturers and sales representatives in the independent toy industry are more alike than different when managing the bottom line. Panelists will share their top three costs of doing business along with insights on how working together will not only help us survive but thrive. Our community is a place of connections and this session will deliver a vision of support for the future of doing business.  

Moderator: Roger Bildsten, Hip Hooray, LLC

Panelists:  Brice Elvington, Toy Shop Florence, Christine Blumberg, Roberts Blumberg Giacobbe & Damien Crocker, HABA USA

Location: Room 211



OpenSpace 

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—OpenSpace sessions! We listened to your feedback and created an opportunity to have more candid conversations and network with new people. OpenSpace establishes a marketplace of inquiry, reflection and learning. It’s an interactive process with participants involved in simultaneous mini-discussions based around a theme or an issue. OpenSpace sessions generate communication and collaboration, while helping participants develop new solutions to various challenges and business problems.

The OpenSpace sessions will focus on subjects like trends, the aging population, in-store events, STEM and Q4 survival and will provide attendees the platform to lead the discussion with the support of an expert facilitator. These eight sessions will be held as another option during the breakout and workshop sessions of Academy.

Toy Trend Spotting 
Expert: Adrienne Appell, The Toy Association
Location: Room 205

Community & In-Store Events 
Expert: Brian Turtle, Endless Games & Mariah Romaninsky, Drexel University 
Location: Room 218

Neighborhood Toy Store Day & Best Toys for Kids 
Expert: Cassandra Forcier, Building Blocks Toy Store
Location: Room 225

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: NTSD Timeline 2018, NTSD Table Set Ups


11:45 AM - 12:45 PM — Networking Lunch & Learn

Navigating Industry Consolidation Beyond Big Retail: What a Look at the Independent Toy Industry Over the Past 15 Years Tell Us About Its Future

Relying on government statistics, market trends and fresh data from the ASTRA membership, this session will detail and explain trends in the independent toy industry, including an illustration of how the field has evolved over the past 15 years and is expected to grow into the future. Particular attention will be given to the impact of big retail outlets and online sellers on the evolution of the independent toy market, along with adjacent industries. Attendees can expect to walk away with the latest data and information to understand the direction of the industry and a framework for navigating the market in the future.

Speakers: Patrick Glaser, McKinley Advisors 

Location: Great Hall A

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1:00 - 2:00 PM — Breakout Sessions

Getting Your Customers to Talk (About You!)

Track: Business Operations

Word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising. Yet most retailers don't know how to consistently get their customers to talk. This session will equip you with four simple, yet effective ways to generate word-of-mouth marketing and get people to brag about your business to others.

Speaker: Phil Wrzesinski, Phil's Forum Publishing, LLC

Location: Room 209

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Generating Word of Mouth 

Theorists, Thought Leaders & Thinking Behind the Value of Play

Track: Children & Play

Attend this session for a whirlwind tour of theorists and thought leaders who have a lot to say about the value of play. Learn the lessons of Piaget, Vygotsky, Brown, Erikson and others and tap into the science of the playful mind and the drive to play that kids experience every day. These superheroes of child development have led the way to where we are today. By attending this session, you will receive a certificate of achievement and become a superhero advocate by promoting play and all its benefits.

Speaker: Jean Bailey, National Lekotek Center former director 

Location: Room 205

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Theorists & Thought Leaders

Building the Right Succession Plan 2.0

Track: Financial Management

You’ve spent years building a successful business and are looking toward retirement. But do you have a plan on how to extract the value from the business you’ve worked so hard to develop? Learn how to calculate your value and successfully market and sell or transition your business for when you retire. Follow real businesses through a series of vignettes which outline the planning issues faced by the businesses, the key stakeholders involved and how they overcame their planning obstacles.*

Speakers: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney

Location: Room 221

*This session will be recorded for viewing post Marketplace & Academy. 

Growing Your Own Geeks: How Game Culture Keeps Customers in Your Store

Track: Industry Trends & Relations

Board games are more popular than ever! Did you know there is an age gap in the marketplace that you can take advantage of? In this session, explore the world of games that bridge the distance between traditional children’s games and the heavyweight European titles. Known as “gateway” gaming, these games are designed to appeal to tweens and teens, as well as adults in the family. Providing a rich and interesting experience, gateway games keep the family playing together throughout the crucial teen years (ages 10-18) and keep customers in your store long past the typical exit age. Learn how to spot gateway games and how to market and sell not only the games, but also the interpersonal experience inside each box during this session.

Speaker: Ray Wehrs, Calliope Games

Location: Room 215

Wow Merchandising: 100+ Examples to Drive Sales

Track: Sales & Marketing

Do you want WOW in your store? This session will share 100+ merchandising examples that include DIY ideas and low budget tricks to help drive sales. Along with creative examples, you'll learn some big box merchandising secrets, how to set up your store to optimize traffic flow and create stories from your merchandise that will draw the customer in. This session will utilize examples from ASTRA member stores and exhibits at Marketplace & Academy to provide attendees with ideas on how to create WOW merchandising.  

Speaker: Lindsay Anvik, See Endless, Inc.

Location: Room 207

We Are Family: Inspiring the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Family Business

Track: Business Operations

Face it—the toy business is a family business. So, let's talk family. Join this session for a discussion on designing family roles and responsibilities from the multigenerational to the couple with young kids and one spouse keeping a full-time job. Explore new ways to re-energize your family’s life outside of toys and develop strategies to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in your family’s next generation to include children in the growth of your business and prevent burnout.

Speaker: Sarah Fowles, Ruckus & Glee LLC, Matthew Poulson, Ruckus & Glee, LLC, Melanie Hall, Hall of Toys & Brett Hall, Hall of Toys

Location: Room 211

The Power of Play: An Interactive Experience

Track: Children & Play

This session will provide education on the power of play at the commercial, customer, and community levels. See a physical play class setup and the opportunity to participate in a mock play class filled with sensory exploration, art, story time, and music. You will experience firsthand why play classes are so powerful and beneficial to their store, their customers, and their community. By encouraging community education on the power of play, we will change the world!

Speaker: Megan Philpott, Toodleydoo Toys

Location: Room 225

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: The Power of Play, Preschool Play Lesson Template

Barefoot in the Pitch

Track: Sales & Marketing

You don’t have to be a high-powered entrepreneur, you can just play one on the stage—welcome to Barefoot in the Pitch! Having a good pitch is more than having the gift of the gab and a smile. Trained actors have an advantage and it’s not because of stage presence alone. Learn basic improvisation including how to harness nervous energy, adlib in the case of a glitch and feed off audience interaction. Discover key ways to make your pitch or presentation feel organic and raw while maintaining a prepared and professional persona.

Speaker: Maggie Held, Scribfolio® llc

Location: Room 218

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Barefoot in the Pitch

2:15 - 3:15 PM — Breakout Sessions

How Can Our Community Harness the Power of the Marketplace

Track: Business Operations

Harness the power of the Marketplace! This session will discuss the role each of us has in protecting the value of specialty toys on Amazon. Learn what brands can do to control their representation and the listing price of their items legally and ethically. You will learn specific techniques to attract or repel Amazon sellers as well as what sales representatives and retailers can do to support manufacturers to protect pricing and distribution, all while increasing sales for their own businesses.

Speaker: Robyn Johnson, Best from the Nest 

Location: Room 209

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Controlling Content on Amazon, Essential Questions for Amazon, Attracting or Repelling Amazon Sellers

Certified Play Experts Present: Become a Community Resource Center

Track: Children & Play

There is a plethora of indisputable evidence supporting the need for children to experience authentic, three-dimensional play to achieve their true potential intellectually, socially, physically and emotionally. Come away from this session with the knowledge that will help you empower you and your team to become messengers of play, advocates for healthy childhoods and advisors on appropriate toy choices in your community.

Speaker: Peter Reynolds, HABA USA & Carah Killian, Beyond the Blackboard

Location: Room 205

Profit Margin is Not Your Only Money Maker

Track: Financial Management

While most retailers play the keystone-plus profit margin game, there are other ways in retail to make money. This session will show you how to evaluate lower margin goods to see how they can make you money, when you can actually “make it up in volume” (and when you can’t), and how to find lost dollars in your inventory. Attendees will also learn some key tips and tricks that keep the cash flowing and improve the bottom line.

Speaker: Phil Wrzesinski, Phil's Forum Publishing, LLC

Location: Room 207

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: Selling Lower Margin Goods

Safe Play: Human Factors' Impact on Toy Safety

Track: Industry Trends & Relations

Understanding the potential risks of play, above and beyond safety standards is key to selling, creating and marketing toys. Learn how Human Factors considers foreseeable play patterns and interactions of children at specific ages to anticipate hazards based upon physical, cognitive, and developmental abilities. In this session, look at current trends and the role Human Factors plays in determining their appropriateness for target audiences. You’ll also discover the role and the goal of Human Factors in toy safety as a necessity in the growth and development of children.

Speaker: Ellen Metrick, UL, LLC

Location: Room 211

You Lost Me at Hello

Track: Sales & Marketing

Knowing how to engage customers and keep them happy is perhaps the most important business skill to have. Yet day in and day out, we witness countless examples of how not to treat customers. In this high-energy and practical session, learn about the tools you can use to teach your team how to interact with customers so that they’ll keep coming back for more. You will also come away with resources to train your employees how to win over a customer in the first three seconds (okay, maybe five seconds) and how important it is that they project confidence and likability.

Speaker: Kevin Carroll, TENZI

Location: Room 218

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: The Positive Energy Scale

The Paradox of Potential 

Track: Sales & Marketing

Business achievement is about striving toward potential. But having "high potential" does not equal high performance. A large percentage of professionals do not feel they are meeting their personal goals. This interactive session and research gets to the heart of achieving more through an individual and company-wide mindset for growth. The "future of work" is about more than telecommuting and stand up desks; it’s about getting everyone in an organization to achieve their potential.* 

Speaker: Thom Singer, The Conference Catalyst

Location: Room 221

*This session will be recorded for viewing post Marketplace & Academy. 

Retail Math 101: What You Need to Know to Survive & Thrive

Track: Financial Management

Do you know your numbers? Understanding what numbers matter for your bottom line is the key to retail success. This Retail 101 session will explore key financial calculations to create and sustain a healthy, thriving business. From managing mark-up to understanding the importance of turn, dig deep into the content that can help you remain competitive and prosperous in today's challenging marketplace.

Speaker: Deborah Scholl, Fundamentally Toys

Location: Room 225

Strategic Planning Made Simple

Track: Business Operations

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. How is a business owner supposed to plan for the future? What does a strategic plan even look like? Strategic planning is much simpler than one might think. This session will outline the steps involved in strategic planning and guide you in exploring how you can best develop and plan for the future of your own business. You’ll come away equipped to identify and understand your principal business objective and learn the five key parts of any strategic plan.

Speaker: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney

Location: Room 215


3:30 - 4:30 PM — OpenSpace Sessions

OpenSpace 

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—OpenSpace sessions! We listened to your feedback and created an opportunity to have more candid conversations and network with new people. OpenSpace establishes a marketplace of inquiry, reflection and learning. It’s an interactive process with participants involved in simultaneous mini-discussions based around a theme or an issue. OpenSpace sessions generate communication and collaboration, while helping participants develop new solutions to various challenges and business problems.

The OpenSpace sessions will focus on subjects like trends, the aging population, in-store events, STEM and Q4 survival and will provide attendees the platform to lead the discussion with the support of an expert facilitator. These eight sessions will be held as another option during the breakout and workshop sessions of Academy.


Product Diversification
Expert: Deb de Sherbinin, Women in Toys
Location: Room 205

Q4 Survival 
Expert: Christine Osborne, Wonder Works
Location: Room 211

The Aging Population
Expert: Jean Bailey, former director of the National Lekotek Center
Location: Room 218

STEM
Expert: Catherine Croft, Catlilli Games
Location: Room 225

DOWNLOAD HANDOUTS: What is STEM?

Monday, June 11

10:00AM - 3:15PM

Lightning Learning

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—Lightning Learning! We listened to your feedback and created an opportunity to have more candid conversations and network with new people. Lightning Learning will bring education sessions to the Marketplace floor by delivering concise content in fifteen-minutes. The session will follow with an additional fifteen-minutes of time for Q&A where attendees can stay for further conversation or head back to the show floor. Lightning Learning sessions will focus on high level ideas on subjects like social media, lease negotiation and merchandising to ponder as you peruse the Marketplace and network with other attendees.


10:00am - 10:15am | 3 Approaches to Business Valuation
Speaker: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney
Location: My ASTRA Center Booth 919

12:00pm - 12:15pm | 10 Tips to Taming the MAPP Jungle  
Speaker:
Ron Solomon, The Creditors Network/MAPP Trap
Location:
My ASTRA Center Booth 919

1:00pm -1:15pm | Top 3 Merchandising Tips
Speaker:
Lindsay Anvik, See Endless, Inc.
Location:
My ASTRA Center Booth 919

3:00pm - 3:15pm | Top 3 Tips for Creating a Social Media Presence
Speaker:
Amy Jauman, National Institute for Social Media
Location: My ASTRA Center Booth 919

10:00AM - 4:00PM

Consultation Stations

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—Consultation Stations! ASTRA understands the importance of providing high level expertise to attendees at our annual conference. As the independent toy industry shifts, change presents opportunity. The Consultation Stations will bring one-on-one expertise to the Industry Service Pavilion on the Marketplace floor. Stay tuned to register for a 30-minute appointment with an expert on subjects like social media, merchandising, lease negotiation, succession planning and strategic planning. Experts: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney—Succession Planning & Strategic Planning Lindsay Anvik, See Endless, Inc. —Store & Exhibit Merchandising Amy Jauman, National Institute for Social Media—Social Media Ron Solomon, The Creditors Network/MAPP Trap—MAPP


REGISTER NOW!

Tuesday, June 12

10:00AM - 3:15PM

Lightning Learning

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—Lightning Learning! We listened to your feedback and created an opportunity to have more candid conversations and network with new people. Lightning Learning will bring education sessions to the Marketplace floor by delivering concise content in fifteen-minutes. The session will follow with an additional fifteen-minutes of time for Q&A where attendees can stay for further conversation or head back to the show floor. Lightning Learning sessions will focus on high level ideas on subjects like social media, lease negotiation and merchandising to ponder as you peruse the Marketplace and network with other attendees.


10:00am - 10:15am | 3 Approaches to Business Valuation
Speaker: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney
Location: My ASTRA Center Booth 919

12:00pm - 12:15pm | 10 Tips to Taming the MAPP Jungle 
Speaker:
Ron Solomon, The Creditors Network/MAPP Trap
Location:
My ASTRA Center Booth 919

1:00pm -1:15pm | Top 3 Merchandising Tips
Speaker:
Lindsay Anvik, See Endless, Inc.
Location:
My ASTRA Center Booth 919

3:00pm - 3:15pm | Top 3 Tips for Creating a Social Media Presence
Speaker:
Amy Jauman, National Institute for Social Media
Location: My ASTRA Center Booth 919

10:00AM - 4:00PM

Consultation Stations

NEW to ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy—Consultation Stations! ASTRA understands the importance of providing high level expertise to attendees at our annual conference. As the independent toy industry shifts, change presents opportunity. The Consultation Stations will bring one-on-one expertise to the Industry Service Pavilion on the Marketplace floor. Stay tuned to register for a 30-minute appointment with an expert on subjects like social media, merchandising, lease negotiation, succession planning and strategic planning. Experts: Paul Sunderland, Business Consultant/Attorney—Succession Planning & Strategic Planning Lindsay Anvik, See Endless, Inc. —Store & Exhibit Merchandising Amy Jauman, National Institute for Social Media—Social Media Ron Solomon, The Creditors Network/MAPP Trap—MAPP


Register Now!

Wednesday, June 13

8:30am-10:00am


FL!P: Proven Strategies for Turning Challenge Into Opportunity


Peter SheahanThe fact that the world is changing is not new to anyone. The more important question is, what do we need to do in the face of change? Whether you are dealing with disruptive technology, shifts in customer expectations, or changes in regulation, as a leader you must apply an innovative approach to effectively navigate disruptive forces. With deep experience accelerating transformation in some of the world’s most innovative companies, Peter knows first-hand how to take disruption and turn it into competitive advantage.

Peter will explore best-practices from multiple industries that have experienced transformative change, and unpack the key insights from those who profited from the change compared to those that became victims to it. In this provocative, research-based session, we will inspire you to:

  • Embrace change and break free from thinking that made you successful in the past but could undermine your success in the future
  • Re-think competitive advantage and leverage intangibles to manufacture tangible points of difference in your market
  • Improve your margins by driving non-sexy innovation and finding new ways to innovate across the value-chain
  • Turn chaos into opportunity by leading the market in response to new regulation, customer expectations, and technological disruption
  • Take the intelligent risks required to innovate and drive change within your organization and industry

*All Marketplace & Academy sessions are located at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center unless otherwise noted. Schedule is tentative and subject to change.

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Session Tracks

ASTRA's Marketplace & Academy offers 6 learning tracks for education:












Business Operations  OpenSpace 
Children___Play.pngChildren & Play Industry_Trends___Relations.pngIndustry Trends & Relations
Financial_Management.pngFinancial Management Sales___Marketing.pngSales & Marketing