The PPAI Expo 2024 has been in full swing this week, with exhibitors buzzing that the show had that “old school” feel. Packed aisles, booths in full swing and connections being made, everyone felt The PPAI Expo magic this week.

“I feel like the buzz is back,” says Joe Douglas, trade show and event manager at Orbus Exhibit and Display Group. “It’s back to pre-COVID times. This is the most fun and the busiest we’ve been here for several years.”

A few years ago, trade shows across all industries were struggling to meet the impact that was being made prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, according to many exhibitors, the promo community is not only returning in full force but have developed new approaches learned along the way.

“I feel like pre-COVID, we took meeting in-person for granted,” Rhyen McFarland, communications and engagement strategist at Cap America. “Now, people come by and they want to have a conversation with you. A lot of times, they’ll wait for someone they’ve worked with. They’re like, ‘I have this chance to email this person that I’ve worked with the past six months.’”

  • Not taking anything for granted seems to be a theme that exhibitors have been noticing at The PPAI Expo 2024. Many distributors aren’t necessarily just browsing. Rather, they have a clear vision of what they want to come away with from the experience.

“We’ve heard more this year, that distributors want to intentionally participate with their customers,” says Jodie Schillinger, executive vice president at Maple Ridge Farms.

  • And of course, everyone providing samples got a pretty clear sense of the sheer number of distributors walking the show floor.

“We started out with 25 pounds of sausage the first day, and it was gone by about 3 p.m.,” Schillinger adds.

  • One big conversation point on the trade floor was the SnugZ USA booth, which was outfitted with a mechanical bull, adding a little levity and, of course, throwing any brave promo souls on to its inflatable bullpen.

Brandon Mackay, owner and director of SnugZ USA, says that his team accomplished its mission with the mechanical bull, and they had banked on a turnout to come participate or witness.

“I think for us it’s about coming up with eccentric ways to be noticed and leave the people-gathering to PPAI,” says Mackay. “This year, they’ve delivered the head count that is encouraging for us.”