The PPAI Expo is under way this week at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, with more than 13,000 distributor personnel pre-registered from more than 4,500 companies to attend the industry’s premier, largest and longest-running show. The pre-registration numbers mark a four-percent increase over the 2017 show.

Enhancing a trade show the size and scope of The PPAI Expo and perfecting the experience for attendees and exhibitors alike year after year has its own challenges, but was a goal PPAI was determined to achieve. Reaching it required staff, board members and volunteer leaders to remain laser focused on ultimately transforming the show from great to extraordinary, says Darel Cook, PPAI’s director of expositions. PPAI listened to what members wanted, and worked hard to deliver it.

“We addressed the members’ recommendations by adding water refill stations on the show floor and upgrading the wi-fi for a better experience,” he says, adding that, for the first time, PPAI also offered three pre-show registration packages that include resort credits and discounts on Expo events, and expanded the post-show data it provides to attendees so they can fully utilize information from the show.

“Ultimately, moving the Expo from great to extraordinary requires PPAI’s commitment to creating the best experience imaginable for the members. We are excited about the opportunity to deliver that experience this week,” he adds.

Dale Denham, MAS+, chief information officer for distributor Geiger and 2018 PPAI board chair, says he sees the Expo as offering a one-of-a-kind experience. “The opportunity to meet with essentially every industry vendor and see their entire line is only possible at Expo,” he says, adding that he’s excited to see how the water stations, upgraded free wi-fi and other refinements will further enrich attendee experiences this year.

“It’s my personal hope, and the hope of PPAI, that each attendee and exhibitor will leave Las Vegas with new connections and new ideas to help drive their success in 2018. PPAI has done a great job of taking Expo from great to extraordinary; now it is up to each attendee to make their results extraordinary.”

Among the thousands of distributors who will take part in the show this week is Jane Mitchell, president of distributor Jungle Jane Promotions in Lansing, Michigan. For her, Expo is integral to her company’s success. “I attend Expo every year. This is my favorite time of year,” she says. “Expo allows me time to meet with suppliers to discuss ideas for my client projects as well as discuss how we can work together to form a strong team. I enjoy walking the show floor and looking at new products that are out for the year. I also enjoy meeting with friends and colleagues to share best practices and any other issues that we have in common.”

Patrick Black, MAS, owner of distributor Perfect Imprints in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, sees the show as equally valuable to his business. “What Expo means to me can be boiled down to one word: relationships. Sure, seeing new products and attending the educational sessions at Expo are great, but I feel the single most valuable component of Expo is connecting face-to-face with suppliers, distributors and service providers. At Expo, I get to see old friends and make new friends. Simply engaging in conversation and being around so many creative minds within our great industry encourages me to become better at serving my clients.”

“This year at Expo, I expect to meet many new people from whom I can learn from their past experiences, both good and bad,” he adds. “I have no doubt I’ll leave Expo this year with a newfound excitement for the industry and a head full of ideas to take back home.”

For Janie Gaunce, president and CEO of Grapevine Designs in Lenexa, Kansas, attending Expo is the way she ensures a strong year for her business. “Attending Expo every January is, simply put, an exciting, welcomed focus of our new year. It’s a teambuilding event for us that we plan around this wonderful show experience. It’s a time for education and reflection during the classes we attend and the speakers we love to see. For Grapevine Designs, attending PPAI’s Expo is a time for regeneration, collaboration and creative thinking that is so refreshing and needed after the crush of fourth quarter.”

She adds, “This time is sacred to us as a company, as it is to so many others in the promo world.  We can’t wait to reunite, be amazed at what’s new and talk about what can be.”  

Education takes center stage today as PPAI presents nearly 60 sessions designed along eight different specialty tracks. The main attraction is this afternoon’s Power Keynotes featuring professional speakers David Avrin, Rita Davenport and Seth Mattison, who will each deliver a sneak peek into their core message. Attendees can then choose which session to join for the remainder of the program.

On Tuesday morning, the trade show opens for a three-day run. At 8 am, early-bird attendees can see more than 700 products in a single setting at the Product Pavilion Sneak Peek, adjacent to aisle 400, and at 8:30 am, door prizes will begin to be awarded, concluding with a Grand Prize drawing at 10 am. The brand. pavilion, with its inspired array of premium and incentive products, opens at 9 am in aisles 400-900 and the entire show floor, featuring 1,250 companies in 3,120 booths showcasing thousands of products, campaign ideas and creative solutions, opens at 10 am.

Show hours through Wednesday are 10 am to 5:30 pm; the show closes Thursday at 3 pm.