Before Abby Lunn arrived in Las Vegas for The PPAI Expo, she was impressed with a few numbers—1,500 exhibiting companies, more than 3,300 booths, thousands of promotional products on display. But Tuesday on the show floor, she was more interested in a different number—one.

Lunn wanted to meet one new vendor who could become a long-term partner, or learn about one new marketing concept, or make one meaningful connection with a fellow distributor. To her, the mark of a successful industry event is its takeaway value. She hoped spending a couple days at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center would help her distributorship grow in 2016.

“We came to the PPAI show because it’s the best place in the industry to see the latest and greatest promotional products, all in one place,” says Lunn, vice president of sales at First Systems & Resources in Charlottesville, Virginia. She and her team met last week to discuss upcoming marketing projects the company will handle for its clients, and met yesterday with exhibitors with “extremely impressive solutions we hadn’t seen before,” Lunn says. One such product was a fold-up tote bag with a reinforced bottom. “We’re going to leave Las Vegas with new suppliers who will be getting our business.”

Lunn wasn’t alone. From the time the show floor opened Tuesday, it was buzzing with conversations between attendees and exhibitors. For newcomers and industry veterans alike, it served as a place of opportunity and action—connected aisles filled with connecting professionals.

One of them was Dean Ellis, who used his smartphone and the SAGE Mobile app to plan his show-floor attack. Ellis, president of Performance Marketing Inc., a distributor in Mequon, Wisconsin, created a “walk list” prior to the show, marking in red more than 30 exhibitors on the app’s interactive show floor.

By early afternoon, Ellis had only visited a few of them. “I’m spending way more time than I thought I would at some booths,” he said. “I’m extremely impressed with the exhibitors as a whole. It’s not the same old, same old at all.”

He should know. Ellis has been in the industry for 35 years, and recently refocused his business to concentrate on what he does best—offer customized promotional programs and apparel to businesses. He has been to this annual event many times, but had skipped it the past three years. “What impresses me most this year is the number of variations and customization options I’m finding,” he said. His phone reminded him to stop at HTT, Head To Toe/VPI Headwear, where he says he found several apparel styles that might impress a new manufacturing client that aims to boost its brand.

Ellis said the huge breadth of products at Expo is the main reason he attended, and discovered a difference between this event and ones in years past. “The level of sophistication my customers have for promotional products has increased. Before, clients would ask me to bring back some fresh ideas to discuss. Now, because they’re more educated and believe in the value of promotional products, they’re telling me to search for specific items. The script has flipped a bit. More of them understand the importance of using promotional products and apparel to communicate.”

On the opposite side of the show floor from where Ellis stood with his phone, Mark Myers and his associate, Jayson Manship, discussed a concept that was important to many of their clients—finding products with accurate “Made in the USA” claims. Fortunately for them and their team at Rector Communications Inc., the show floor included four easy-to-locate Product Pavilions, including one called Made in the USA Products.

“Where else can you see this many promotional product vendors in the same place?” asked Myers, vice president of sales at Rector Communications Inc., in Noblesville, Indiana. “This is the best trade show we’ll go to all year.”

“Absolutely,” Manship said. “And the reason is the Expo isn’t just about products; it’s about the coaching you get from exhibitors to help you sell those products. The show floor has exceeded my expectations, and we’re only four aisles into it.” As he talked, he held an imprinted bottle opener from MyTopOff.com that he thinks will kick-start a conversation with a prospect.

“The cool thing about Expo is this is just one of literally thousands of products here that can help us build relationships and grow our business.”

The show runs through today at 3 pm.