How The PPAI Expo Moved The Industry Forward
After a one-year hiatus, The PPAI Expo returned in-person to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas this month. Running Jan. 10-13, The PPAI Expo 2022 delivered the networking, education and business opportunities the longest-running and premier promotional products trade show is known for.
The PPAI Expo 2022 faced the challenges of the pandemic head-on. The promotional products community had made it clear that it was ready to return to Las Vegas, and PPAI worked to ensure it could, in as safe an environment as possible.
Working closely with the Mandalay Bay, the Association put in place plans and policies that followed CDC recommendations and Clark County requirements to respect the realities of the ongoing pandemic, while allowing exhibitors and attendees to make the most of their time at the show and with their peers. The Mandalay Bay stepped up as well. Since The PPAI Expo 2020, it had installed a significantly updated and improved ventilation and filtration system in the building, and substantially enhanced its sanitation practices.
Nearly 10,000 supplier and distributor professionals attended The PPAI Expo 2022, a strong number considering the challenges imposed by the pandemic. And The PPAI Expo continues to be the tentpole event of the promotional products industry’s calendar. Those attendees represented more than 50 states, the District of Columbia, four Canadian provinces, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Curacao and Belgium. The Expo is also the undisputed hub for first-of-the-year business meetings and events. Several member companies and organizations scheduled their annual awards programs and meetings in conjunction with the show.
And universal among everyone at the Expo was the drive to do business, connect with peers and get 2022 off to an exciting start.
“Expo was another great experience for our crew,” says Brittany David, MAS+, chief revenue officer at exhibitor SnugZ USA. “The pent-up energy was released and everybody was engaged and ready to get some momentum going into the new year. The valuable time we were able to spend with each person made this well worth our investment in time and money. Another successful Expo in the books for the SnugZ team.”
Mike Landry, director of corporate sales with TUMI, says, “People came into the TUMI booth with specific opportunities, delivery dates, model numbers and categories. There were some amazing discussions that we were grateful to have. The quality of conversation was every bit as strong as any other non-pandemic year. I was pleasantly surprised in people’s acceptance of supply chain disruptions. They get it. Those that really wanted to be there and do business made the effort to show up. And do business they did!”
For attendees, The PPAI Expo 2022 delivered practically everything they expected from the show. The EXPO Live interview booth returned, in a new location, and streamed live product demonstrations and interviews with notable PPAI Expo speakers, exhibitors and industry leaders. Pop-up experiences brought surprise and delight to the show floor, including a puppy playpen from Wagging Tails Rescue in Las Vegas and complimentary coffee and tea in multiple locations. A beer garden created a fun environment for networking opportunities. These were all alongside more than 700 exhibiting companies, covering almost one million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Some 5,800 distributors attended the event.
“This was my second PPAI Expo, and compared to 2019, I got so much more out of this show,” says Jeff Cowens, owner of Amplify Branding. “This time around, I had specific questions I needed answered and vendors I wanted to connect with. So many new ideas, so many ways to improve my efficiency. So many ways to get my customers on a whole new level!”
Brian Jolin, MAS, of Jolin Promo, says, “For me, the highlight of the week at the PPAI Expo were the one-on-one discussions with supplier executives, other distributors and industry leaders. I finally met a ton of people in the flesh who I had become digital friends with during pandemic. I had serious conversations about capabilities, lead times, inventory coming into stock and the possibility of selling my business in the future. Despite being masked almost 90% of the time, I came home feeling connected, energized and like I got tons of real work done. Overall, it was an incredible investment and I feel better prepared for 2022 for having attended.”
The PPAI Expo is also where the industry’s big ideas and developments are unveiled. On Jan. 10, Dale Denham, MAS+, PPAI president and CEO, made two marketplace-shaping announcements. First, PPAI will be launching the Promotional Products Work Expo, a virtual show geared toward distributors and their clients, with a preview show in late spring 2022 and a full show in the fall of 2022. And second, the Association is starting a discussion to create an open standard through industry service providers, primarily SAGE, to simplify communications between distributors and suppliers so that every member has ease of access to data and information. The Industry Standards will be designed to help ensure suppliers can communicate inventory, order status and more to customers in real-time.
“Today is about the future. Today is about moving forward,” Denham said during his opening remarks of The PPAI Expo. “That's what I love about The PPAI Expo, it kicks off our year. It's a beginning. This year it's more important than ever. Two years was too long not to be together and have those collisions where we just have creative ideas being together in person.”
The promo community’s big ideas were also on display among the presenters taking part in The PPAI Expo Conference’s education programming, and in the accomplishments and histories of the industry luminaries celebrated at the Expo’s Chairman’s Leadership Dinner. The PPAI Expo Conference keynote speaker Simon T. Bailey kicked off of the education line-up by urging attendees to take a more purposeful approach to customer service, what he calls “customer love,” in his opening keynote, “Breakthrough Thinking For Breakthrough Sales.”
At the Chairman’s Leadership Dinner, two industry legends, Sherri C. Lennarson, MAS, retired senior vice president of business development at Bankers Advertising Company, and Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, president of Cliff Quicksell Associates, were inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame. Additionally, PPAI also presented its H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award to Peter Hirsch, MAS, president of Hirsch Gift, and its Distinguished Service Award to Brandon Mackay, MAS, president of SnugZ USA, and David Regan, MAS, vice president of sales and marketing at The Vernon Company.
The Expo is also where the promo industry cuts loose. In a first for the show, on Wednesday evening, PPAI and SAGE hosted Promopalooza at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. More than 1,000 professionals from The PPAI Expo attended the event, which almost doubled the attendance from previous years. Partygoers enjoyed networking, drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres at the stadium, which opened its doors for pro football and major events in 2020. Attendees got access to the playing field and locker room and enjoyed entertainment from musician and DJ Marquise Jones. Attendees were also able to take home souvenirs in the form of hand-rolled logoed cigars.
A virtual extension of this years’ experience, PPAI Expo Direct-2-You, is scheduled for Feb. 22-24. During the virtual event, attendees will have the opportunity to meet with suppliers and participate in professional development sessions with keynote speakers and industry professionals. Those interested can register today at ppai.org/Expo-D2U.
The PPAI Expo 2023 will return Jan. 9-12 to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.