After two years, attendees are finally dusting off their walking shoes. The PPAI Expo 2022 is here! Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned vet, this Expo will be unlike any other. All week long, Las Vegas will be a hub for ideas, connections and opportunities. The promotional products community is ready to do business, together.

When it comes to Expo, what happens in Vegas, shouldn’t stay in Vegas. With today’s extensive education line up, 710 exhibitors and a first look at trends in the Product Pavilion, attendees won’t leave empty handed. Here are five tips to make the best of your Expo experience.

1. Set Goals

Why did you decide to attend The PPAI Expo 2022? Are you here to see new products and exhibit booths? Did you come to network with peers and colleagues? Were you hoping to learn something new during an education session? Or, will you just be enjoying the industry’s sorely-missed homecoming?

Whatever your reasons may be, set your goals now. With only four Expo days, clear-cut goals will keep you from wasting time. You won’t mindlessly wander from booth to booth or sit in a session that doesn’t pertain to you. So, ask yourself: what three things do I want to accomplish this week? Keep referring to these goals, but don’t be afraid to be flexible. You never know what will “pop up.”

2. Plan Your Day

With set goals, it’s easier to pick and choose how you’ll spend your Expo days. If you haven’t already done so, take time to review events, education sessions and exhibitor listings. With the SAGE Mobile app, you can highlight standout sessions, create a unique booth walk list and search for any product. After you’ve got a good feel for the show, pick out three must-visit booths. You can create a separate list of other standout booths to visit, if you have time.

3. Stay Prepared

Expo days are long. All day, you’ll be walking, talking and standing. Be prepared to care for yourself, even if that means taking five to rest. Here are our must-haves for a full day on the show floor:

  • Comfortable shoes: Although the cobblestone flooring, in the walkway between Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and the convention center has been removed, you’ll still want to protect those arches. After four days of constant walking, swollen feet are a real possibility.
  • Small snacks: Sometimes, all you need is something to munch on. A protein bar or a bag of trail mix can offer a much-needed boost of energy. Plus, when your stomach is rumbling, it’s hard to think about much else, let alone business. Don’t be hangry on the show floor.
  • Chargers: Dead devices put you at a disadvantage. A dead phone means you can’t access valuable show tools. You also can’t take pictures of products or quickly swap contact information. Instead of making the trek back to your hotel room, make sure your devices are charged and keep a charger handy.
  • Mints, aspirin and TUMS: We’re all human. Sometimes, our breath isn’t fresh or we’ve got indigestion. Sometimes, it’s a bit of both. Be prepared for however you’re feeling.

4. Introduce Yourself

Networking can be nerve-wracking. Is your elevator pitch memorable? Do you have enough business cards? Instead of stressing yourself out with these questions, start by simply introducing yourself. When you meet someone new, keep it casual. Look for common interests rather than trying to immediately build rapport. Get curious about your fellow attendees. Asking questions is an easy way to get and keep a conversation going.

It’s okay if you’re not a natural networker. If you’re still apprehensive about meeting new people, connect online first. With a little internet sleuthing, you can reach out to nearly anyone digitally. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook or just a plain old email, meaningful connections can start online, too.

5. Follow Up

Don’t let everything you’ve seen, heard and learned this week go “in one ear and out the other”—follow up! Be prepared to take notes, whether it’s by using a traditional pen and paper or electronically. If you visit a booth, make a note of at least one takeaway; this will help you recall one conversation out of thousands. When you return to your hotel room later that day or night, review your notes. If you are interested in maintaining a company connection, take action to follow up. Send a quick email or follow a rep on social media and perhaps contact them there.

If you feel like you missed your follow-up window, don’t fret. The Association is bringing back Expo D2U, February 22-24, for those who want more time to follow up with exhibitors after the show.

Your Expo experience is completely your own. Plan as best you can, but don’t forget to enjoy the show.