Chicago Room Escape Conference: Behind the Scenes [Interview]

We are excited to be speaking at Chicago’s Room Escape Conference August 12-14. This is a new event for the escape room community. In order to learn more, we recently spoke with Jen Braverman and Elisabeth Garson about how this event came to be and what you should expect.

Jen Braverman is President of TransWorld.

Elisabeth Garson is a member of the TransWorld Escape Room Board. The Board consists of escape room owners and one enthusiast who serve as advisors to the conference organizers. Elisabeth has focused on the seminars, an educational series that addresses all the big industry questions, directions and types of experiences.

Elisabeth is also the founder of Steel Owl and her game Escape the 1980’s is a truly special experience. If you’re anywhere near Philadelphia, you should check it out.

It turns out that there is a lot more to Chicago’s Room Escape Conference than just seminars.

Room Escape Artist: What is TransWorld?

Jen: TransWorld is a trade show company that specializes in experience-based trade shows, most famed for haunted house events. The company has been a leader in trade shows for 60 years. TransWorld brings experiences onto the floor, striking a balance between education, interactivity, and off-site parties and activities to create a full event that can be justified as a vacation. TransWorld events provide a way for attendees to connect and meet an entire industry.

What was Escape Room City at TransWorld this past March?

Jen: Escape Room City was a trade show inside a trade show. Dedicated to just the escape room community, it consisted of booths that had products geared towards escape room owners and / or people looking to get into the escape room business. It included daily demonstrations on the show floor as well as six seminars geared toward educating escape room owners and / or potential owners.

What were the most interesting ideas that came out of Escape Room City?

Elisabeth: There is an industry directional shift to immersive, experience-based Gen 2 games. The off-site discussions, seminar content, even “how to” talks seemed to unify a bunch of scattered owners who were all looking to move in the same direction.

Who should attend Chicago’s Escape Room Conference?

Jen: This conference is for people who love the industry, be they escape room owners, prospective game owners, or enthusiasts. The seminars and show floor will be a portal behind the scenes of escape rooms. It’s also a full vacation getaway packed with escape room activities, parties, on-site games, behind-the-scenes tours and much, much more.

Chicago Conference Logo. Abstract art: An open mind with a maze and a clock in it.

The educational series will be a big draw. What should attendees expect from the seminars?

Elisabeth: The conference offers “tracks” such as tech, business, room escape 101, and game types (i.e. megagames, kids games, mobile games, etc.).  From immersion to introductory classes… from mobile to kid-based games to megagames…. from advertising to financials…  there isn’t any other conference, book, or resource that is offering this level of education. This is all in addition to a trade show floor that includes vendors from all over the country presenting their products, offering consulting, and discussing the industry. This is like an Ivy League education for the escape room community.

Who should exhibit?

Elisabeth: Anyone who has a product, service, or offering that’s relevant to the escape room community should exhibit it here. This includes vendors that are exclusive to the industry and others that aren’t. The show will have artists, tech builders, set designers, product makers, booking systems, game writers, book authors, advertising professionals, and bloggers! — all of whom have one thing in common: a passion for the industry. TransWorld has vetted every one of the vendors to make sure they’re bringing relevant products to the trade show floor.

What can owners expect to take away from this show?

Jen: Owners will take away new ideas from the seminar series.

The trade show floor offers owners the opportunity to purchase products first-hand from exhibitors. This means buyers can experience product demonstrations before purchasing.

Also, this show will create networking opportunities with other escape rooms that can be an invaluable resource for many attendees.

Elisabeth: This conference will give owners a nationwide perspective on the industry: new ideas, “how to” solutions, answers to their questions, and contacts that may shape and differentiate their businesses.

In addition, the event is just plain fun. It’s bursting with outside excursions, industry parties, and on-site games — at least one of which is free and offers prizes. It’s not just a conference; it’s a purposeful vacation!

What will independent puzzle or prop designers get out of the experience?

Elisabeth: New orders, new ideas, new resources and new clients!

Why would enthusiasts want to attend?  

Elisabeth: Enthusiasts can go behind the scenes of the escape room industry, see how things are developed, meet escape room owners, and participate in a totally game-focused weekend. They can play games on the trade show floor, receive discounted tickets to the games in the Chicago area, and meet other enthusiasts and industry owners who are passionate about various aspects of the experience.

Finally, they can weigh in. Escape room owners want to hear from escape room enthusiasts. This type of networking is limitless.

Help our audience understand the packaged pricing.

Jen: The cost is $25 for admission to the trade show floor where all the exhibit booths and live demonstrations are housed. This price also includes the two free seminars. If someone just wants to visit Chicago and hang out at the conference, it’s $25! The seminars are individually priced at $50 each. There are also discounted seminar packages. For example, you can purchase five seminars and access to the trade show floor for $200 ($275 value). The goal is to let people create their own schedule and package.

Elisabeth: Here is an exciting, affordable itinerary for enthusiasts:

  • Pre-Networking Mixer (FREE)
  • Player Experience Seminar — Lisa & David Spira (FREE)
  • Show floor entrance ($25)
  • On-floor Pop Up Game (FREE)
  • Industry Mixer – Game Time Party at Level 257 (FREE)
  • 15 Escape Games with discounted tickets
  • Megagame – 3 hour game – on show floor ($55)
  • Great Room Escape Dinner, Behind-the-Scenes Tour & Open House ($99)

Enthusiasts may also be interested in purchasing tickets to some of the seminars, such as the Future of the Industry Breakfast.

That sounds like a lot more than just seminars. Can you recap the non-seminar events?

Jen: Absolutely!

  • Megagame
  • Free in-show pop-up game with prizes
  • Discounted area escape room tickets
  • Behind-the-scene tours of The Great Escape location (which is a haunted house facility that runs 3 escape games)
  • Nighttime parties and mixers
  • Sneak peak at one of Chicago’s premier haunted houses, which will be opening for the first time this October.

We may even add other events in to the mix.

Even with the escape room-focused show, we see your haunted house background shining through. How are these industries interrelated?

Jen: Both industries are about creating experiences…

Elisabeth: …and these experiences unlock emotional reactions to things. For haunts, it’s fear and terror. For escape games, the emotional reactions are up to the owner. Sometimes it’s fear, but other times it’s a sense of achievement, fun or thrill.

In your experience, what are the biggest differences between the haunted house industry and the escape room industry?

Elisabeth: Haunted houses are focused on throughput (getting people through as fast as possible). Escape games are focused on personalized experiences.

Jen: And the room escape crowd has a lot fewer monsters!

What is your goal for Chicago’s Escape Room Conference?

Jen: To create a meaningful conference for the industry…

Elisabeth: …that helps to create incredible games across the country!

In your mind, what would constitute a successful show?

Elisabeth: It’s a success if participants walk away feeling rejuvenated, excited, and starry-eyed with new ideas.

Jen: And it’s a success if buyers and exhibitors feel like it was a worthwhile event to have attended!

What has been the biggest challenge in planning this show?

Elisabeth: This is a funny question. The truth is, the challenge is monetizing it. The industry is still small and TransWorld is going into this with an eye on the future. At the moment, it’s not a money maker, but it’s an industry we love and want to help build.

What comes next for the team behind TransWorld and Chicago’s Escape Room Conference?

Jen: Our plan is to continue producing events and trade shows that focus on growing the escape room industry. After this conference, our next event is March 23-26, 2017.

Room Escape Artist concludes

We are looking forward to attending Chicago’s Escape Room Conference. We are excited for this opportunity to meet so many different people who share this interest and passion with us. Stop by our lounge on the trade show floor (Booth 303). Attend our talk (it’s free for all attendees!). Most importantly, let us know who you are. We want to meet you.

Cheat Sheet

  • Location: Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel
  • Dates: August 12-14, 2016
  • Tickets are on sale now
  • The Room Escape Artist session comes free with your ticket!

Book your tickets to Chicago’s Room Escape Conference, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

3 thoughts on “Chicago Room Escape Conference: Behind the Scenes [Interview]

  1. Wow, we are going to be there that weekend, thinking we’d maybe get invited along to some after-conference drinks or something…I had no idea until now that there was even an entry option for enthusiasts! So it looks like we’ll be picking up some tickets and maybe scoping out some of the sessions, after all.

    Question about the discount vouchers being offered during the conference, though…we’re in town only for the conference, so we’re booking room escapes in Chicago *now*–literally, was just putting finishing touches on the map and spreadsheet!–not on the day of the conference. Is there an online booking promo code for attendees of the conference to use?

    Also, we are going to be in Philly next weekend to play Escape the 80s! Everyone tells us we have to play that one…it’s way overdue 😀

      1. Oh, great! Thanks for the quick reply 🙂 We will scope out the discount codes.

        We’ll be there 7/31 at 3:30 🙂 It would be lovely to meet you!

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