In February, the Association played host to the promotional products industry’s most exciting and innovative virtual event, The PPAI Expo Direct-2-You. Introduced in 2021 after the pandemic temporarily shuttered the in-person PPAI Expo, this year Expo D2U served as a companion to the Las Vegas show that extended its business opportunities to new audiences and reinforced connections made at the live event.

Running Feb. 22-23, Expo D2U’s virtual experience built on the successful in-person return of The PPAI Expo in January, and brought that experience to those who could not join the industry in Las Vegas, or who wanted to follow up further with the exhibitors they met there. More than 4,000 distributors registered to take part in the virtual show and meet with over 100 supplier companies exhibiting at the show.

“Our goal for 2022 was to give the opportunity for those unable participate in the live event as well those that did the ability to once again interact with one another in a convenient manner,” says Alan Peterson, PPAI vice president of business development.

Attendees browsing exhibitors’ booths had access to videos and featured products, were able to request samples, attend educational workshops and seminars and more. Additionally, Expo D2U let exhibitors interact with attendees through highly engaging, video chat conversations and live stream from their Expo D2U booth, giving attendees live product demos from their booths. The PPAI Expo’s popular Product Pavilions were also only a click away. Attendees examined the most sought-after and trending products in the show’s New Products, Green Products, Made In The USA Products and Healthpitality Products pavilions.

“Expo D2U was a convenient way to connect with distributors,” says Ben Drysdale, Western region account executive for Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based supplier Raining Rose Promos. “We’re living in a hybrid events world, so the ability to communicate with customers and build new relationships online and in-person is essential.”

Joshua Pospisil, TAS, key accounts manager at Houston-based exhibitor Hirsch Gift, says, “Thanks to having PPAI Direct-2-You as a direct follow-up to the PPAI Expo in Vegas, we were able to reach an even wider audience than ever before. We had a fantastic turnout in terms of visitors and chats in our virtual booth and closed out with several projects in the works along with many new leads to follow-up with after the show. All in all, I would deem it a success for not only myself, but Hirsch Gift as a whole.”

Exhibitor Brannon Craig, vice president at Hartwell, Georgia-based supplier Southern Plus, says, “If you didn’t attend the PPAI Expo Direct-2-You virtual show, you missed out! Possibly the most productive and collaborative show day in my history in this industry!”

Expo D2U expanded on the opportunities exhibitors enjoyed at in-person show in Las Vegas. Trina Bicknell, CRO at Braintree, Massachusetts-headquartered supplier HPG, says, “HPG was at the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, and we were very happy to see many customers in-person, but Expo D2U provided a great opportunity to see customers that didn’t go to Vegas. We had over 600 visits to our virtual booth. Customers were excited to see HPG’s new Storyboard+ tool and our new brand, Sugar Spot.”

Education, a core element of The PPAI Expo experience, was also a fundamental part of Expo D2U, with attendees able to take advantage of a diverse education schedule featuring industry thought leaders and subject matter experts. Expo D2U’s education lineup featured original content produced for the virtual event along with some of the most engaging sessions from The PPAI Expo 2022, Women’s Leadership Conference and the Product Responsibility Summit. Several sessions also included live Q&A components at the conclusion of the presentation.

“All of the speakers have been fantastic,” Mark Jackowiak, CEO of Margate, Florida-based distributor Zelta Enterprises, LLC, said during the event. “They are all passionate and get you motivated quickly.”

Importantly, Expo D2U again served as a chance for those within the promotional products community unable to attend the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas to take advantage of much of what the in-person show offers industry professionals. While exacerbated by the pandemic, the need is an ongoing one. Erin Eberhardt, owner and president of West Haven, Connecticut, distributor West Shore Associates, says, “As a small distributor, I no longer feel left out by my industry because I don’t travel to live shows. Thank you for offering PPAI Expo Direct-2-You! The content was amazing, and I learned so much and feel so inspired to get back to work!”

The in-person PPAI Expo returns to Las Vegas Jan. 9-13, 2023. Visit to stay up to date on the latest details.

James Khattak is news editor at PPAI.