Last week, promotional products industry professionals from around the world converged in Las Vegas to experience the industry’s largest, longest-running and best-attended trade show. Although verified numbers are not yet available, the PPAI Expo 2019 attendance is expected to be among the top five best-attended shows for PPAI and the highest in the past 10 years, with attendee satisfaction at an all-time high as well.

“The PPAI Expo showcases the world’s very best in the promotional products industry and the true power of the medium,” says Paul Bellantone, CAE, PPAI president and CEO. “From what I heard onsite and since returning to the office, this year will be remembered as one of the very best events we’ve ever presented—the most engaging, the best attended, and the highest satisfaction among suppliers, decorators and distributors.”

The Expo, which ran January 14-17, drew approximately 13,000-plus attendees representing 4,000 distributor companies and 30 countries. The show floor featured more than 1,220 exhibitors occupying one million square feet of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Next year, the show runs January 12-16, 2020, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

“There was great energy at the show and education was packed. We are back and ready to get to work. It was definitely the event to be at to kick off 2019,” says Brittany David, MAS, PPAI board chair. “The show floor was very busy, with distributors looking for trends and projects. Its energy and emotion has been a good indicator for sales for the year. Coupled with an optimistic attitude about end users’ marketing budgets, we are in for a good year.”

The 2019 trade show featured several elevated experiences to drive excitement and engagement on the show floor. The EXPO Live Get In Touch!® interactive stage returned to provide streaming live product demonstrations and interviews with notable Expo speakers, exhibitors, award winners and industry leaders. Pop-up experiences were also strategically timed and located throughout the event to drive attendee traffic to new areas of the show floor, including foodie favorites, gourmet bacon, meat balls and rolled ice cream, caricature artists and an illusionist, and puppies—lots and lots of puppies. Finally, a Beer Garden provided a fun environment on the trade show floor that set the stage for networking opportunities among industry professionals.

“I applaud every effort staff is putting in because they are gearing the show for the 22nd century,” says Joel Schaffer, president of exhibitor SoundLine LLC. “I love the mega data that we are getting on trade-show traffic and the testing they are doing with the pop-ups on the show floor. Everything is absolutely outstanding.”

Montreal-based Spector & Co.’s booth at Expo included a meeting room surrounded by four glass walls, designed specifically to hold discussions between company reps and potential clients. Loic Lefebvre, the company’s vice president of sales, North America, says, “It was an amazing experience. We had very, very good, quality meetings with distributors based in the United States and Canada.”

Zhang Yiwan of Nashville, Tennessee-based Holoblitz adds, “We were running out of business cards for the first day!”

Brad Bartlett, president of supplier Optigraphics, winner of eight PPAI Pyramid Awards at the show for supplier decorating, says, “We’ve been coming to the show for 29 years and it’s always the best. We love our new [booth] location, and our traffic and the quality of people have been fabulous. It’s been another great show—I look forward to next year.”

Daniel Russo of exhibitor TravelChair Company says,  “Coming out of the show we left on such a high. I couldn’t be happier with my staff, the amount of qualified leads we are chasing down and the seamless experience that PPAI puts into play each and every year. We cannot wait until next year!”

Bill McCormick, co-owner of distributor Team Creative Connections, who attended the show and also presented four education sessions there, says, “It was my first time at the show so I was a little overwhelmed by the size of it but what I enjoyed was how big the booths and displays were. There are lot more people here who are much more open to help than at other shows and the variety of not only products but suppliers is really more beneficial than other shows too. I’ll be back next year for sure.”

Laura High, marketing/director, trade & communications at BIC Graphic, USA, a company with a long history of exhibiting at the Expo, says, “We have always had a positive experience as a PPAI Expo exhibitor and this year was no exception. There was positive energy on the show floor, and we were privileged to talk with close to 5,000 visitors in the BIC Graphic booth. Distributors were excited about our new Souvenir® pen line and also spent plenty of time in the KOOZIE® section of our booth—especially after our KOOZIE® Hartwell Tumbler won a Gold PPAI Pyramid Award for new product development. The show was a success because we connected with our customers and created energy heading into 2019.”

Laura Martin, president of distributor Red Rover Promotions, adds, “It was a great place to connect to supplier partners who are there to be our partners, and that makes it easy to move forward in 2019 focusing our selling efforts with those people who made the effort to be here and have a meaningful presence.”

The PPAI Expo also hosted a variety of new options for exhibitors and attendees including the 1st-Time Exhibitor Pavilion housing the newest entries of products, suppliers and partners; an additional day of education sessions to provide next-level professional development opportunities; and hands-on learning labs with experience-oriented education.

Liz Solomon with first-time exhibitor Sourcing Society, of Secaucus, New Jersey, says, “As a first-time exhibitor, the show provided an opportunity to meet, present and network with peers as well as potential clients. We found attendees to be receptive and deliberate in their efforts to secure product, and it was clear to see that they put a lot of merit into the brands and products presented at the show. And I can state without a doubt that our participation in the Product Pavilion was key to our overall success at the show. Being able to feature a product and allow attendees a direct link to our booth—I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity.”

Expo’s packed education programming drew 21,000-plus industry professionals to the 136 educational sessions and networking events on offer. Among the extensive line-up, a Next-Level Professional Development Workshop, introduced this year and held on the last day of the show, gave 70 attendees a unique opportunity to learn from the Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI), a global sales and marketing professional association, and the American Marketing Association (AMA), the largest chapter-based marketing association in the world. The workshop featured a panel discussion moderated by Bellantone and featuring experts from the AMA and SMEI, and sessions presented by representatives from the two organizations. Topics included high-performance selling, unifying sales teams and the latest trends and topics related to social media, metrics, branding and positions.

During the PPAI Association Update, Bellantone reported on PPAI’s continued organizational growth, noting an increase of members from 15,000 in January 2018 to 15,725 in January 2019—including an additional 500 members from the new relationship between PPAI, SAGE and Promotional Products Professionals of Canada (PPPC).

The 61st PPAI Pyramid Awards Celebration recognized the best promotions and products in the promotional products industry, including 65 Gold, 79 Silver, 11 Supplier Star and eight Supplier Award of Merit winners. During the Chairman’s Leadership dinner, the industry’s luminaries, dignitaries and leaders celebrated the achievements of two industry legends, Gene Geiger, MAS+, of Geiger and Chuck Pecher of Skinner and Kennedy Co., as they were inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame. Tribute was also paid to this year’s winner of the Distinguished Service Award, Michele Jennrich, MAS, and the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award winner Daryll Griffin, MAS.

For more on the The PPAI Expo 2019, click here for a video on this year’s show.