A DISTRIBUTOR ASKS: I’m heading to the PPAI Expo 2019 for the very first time this month, and I’ll probably be going by myself. Can you share some feedback, advice and experiences so that I feel prepared?


Plan your time on the show floor now. Based on the number of exhibitors on the floor, you physically cannot visit every single booth in the three days the floor is open. Decide who your must-sees are, then fill in with those you’d like to see, then leave some time for stops along the way. (You’re going to see something while you’re on the floor that you’ll want to check out. Just make sure you have time to do so.)

If you’re flying and plan on bringing home catalogs and samples, fly in with a suitcase inside of a suitcase. Then when you’re ready to leave, use that extra suitcase to hold your catalogs and samples. Wear comfortable shoes. You’re going to be on your feet for 10 hours a day. The show floor is massive, and depending on where you stay, you could easily have a mile or two to walk just to get to the show.

Make appointments with the suppliers you want to meet with. Most will schedule five- to 15-minute time blocks where you’ll have their undivided attention. Check out the PPAI-sponsored networking events, such as the Power of Two Party, as well as some of the other events, like PromoKitchen’s mixer. These are great networking opportunities to meet your industry peers. I’ve met quite a few over the years and always look forward to catching up with them.

Chris Clark, CAS
Radius Marketing Solutions
Warner Robins, Georgia


Warning: it’s generally overwhelming for first-timers. Don’t worry about catalogs unless you have an immediate need. Every vendor is online, and it can become burdensome to carry them all. Take photos so that you will remember important products. Depending on time, you can first do an overview, then re-walk as you will have missed a lot. If you have specific vendors you want to see, mark them in your mobile SAGE app. Enjoy!

Sam Weinberg
Focus Marketing Group, Inc.
Louisville, Kentucky


It’s a very big show. Take time to pick 10 to 20 suppliers that you must see and map them out. Visit those on one day. They could be suppliers you already have a good understanding of or ones that you want to check out. Just plan to spend 10 to 20 minutes at each of their booths. Gain a partner on the inside and figure out how they can help your business. Leave at least half a day, if not a full day, to wander the outskirts. Most of the big suppliers are front and center, but there are some hidden gems and good partners that are more personable in business. This can help you to idea-generate and sometimes discover solutions that you overlooked in the past. There are lots of good custom suppliers in this area.

Bring good walking shoes. I don’t know if I’ve ever successfully walked the entire show—it’s that big. Check out the new products section for at least two hours. This also may be a good place to start your show, as you’ll be introduced to what’s new and the suppliers you may want to visit.

Aaron Dufford
Offbeat Productions/Boundless Network
Park City, Utah


Use the SAGE Mobile app to plan who you will see. Then use the map in the app to guide your floor-walking and mark “visited” after you’ve visited a supplier. You can get to the app from this page of the Expo website: expo.ppai.org/experience/show-floor.

As others have said, you cannot see every booth. Pick and choose. We generally have a “check in with our tried-and-true” category and a “they sound interesting, see them to check them out” category. I will add some to the second category as we see the New Products Pavilion.

Start now to select the suppliers you will see, using Sage Online. Have a list of your clients and anything you need to look at for them. Your brain will get fuzzy as the show progresses, and you won’t even know what industry they are in. Be prepared for, “Is there anything you’re working on?” and “What kinds of clients do you have?” The more you can ask for specific help, the better your answers will be.

Drink lots of water. It is really dry in Las Vegas and you can easily become dehydrated. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet for many hours each day. Now is not the time for fashion over comfort. Take notes. This is probably the most important tip. Either use a notebook or electronic, whatever works for you. Try to note what you need to do as a result of what you’ve seen. An idea is not as valuable if you don’t act on it. Take pictures to go with the notes. If you have a social media presence, choose something every day to highlight. If you don’t, consider a daily email or a weekly one at the end to highlight what you saw and learned.

In the end, know that even if your show experience isn’t perfect, you’re miles ahead of your competitors who don’t expend the expense and energy to attend.

Jennifer Reissaus, MAS
Advertising Specialties Alliance/ Kaeser & Blair
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania


My first bit of advice is to take a good, comfortable pair of shoes. Last January we walked almost 14 miles in three days, just on the show floor. Next, take an extra suitcase for samples you will collect. Don’t take a catalog unless you are prepared to carry it home. We took a rolling cart with us, so we did not have to carry everything.

It is a good idea to look through the list of all the vendors and mark the ones you really want to see. Make sure you do that, otherwise there is so much to see that you might not make it to them. Use the map to find the vendors you want to see. The area that showcases the new products is amazing. Most of all, make some good vendor connections and have fun.

Cindy Shelton
Nifty Promotions 
Overland Park, Kansas


You are going to see the best in our industry and the underbelly. The biggest takeaway is meeting your peers in the industry. We tend to be hermits. Seeing the industry from others’ perspectives will help you immensely. I am still in contact with other reps and owners of other promo companies. Attend the educational features. SAGE, now for the second time, will be on my list. Plan the who, what and where on the floor. You have about 750,000-square-feet to cover. If you are very familiar with certain suppliers, walk by, say “hi” and keep on walking.

Pat Moller
Santa Clarita, California


My husband and I attend every two to three years. The first year is pretty overwhelming! Taking the classes offered is very worthwhile. Be sure to get your PPAI education credits for your classes. You can seek out familiar suppliers, go for products you would like to focus your business on, or just cruise up and down the aisles. Ask lots of questions. We usually get one box to mail home and take a small wheeled cart or bag. Take a notebook, because you will not remember anything. Touch and hold products if you can. If there is a process you are unfamiliar with, now is the time to ask the suppliers and manufacturers. With banners, for instance, you can ask about inks they use, vinyl weights, durability, etc. There is so much information at the PPAI Expo, your brain will be tired at the end of the day. Learn about SAGE and what it has to offer. Have fun!

Mary DeWald
Ink Nutz
Monroe, Washington


Do You Have An Answer?

A Distributor Asks: I had somebody reach out to me on my website to place an order for 500 knit hats. I live in Wisconsin and her company is in New York, so I’m not sure how she found my website. I told her we would require pre-payment via check, and she said that was fine. I just started my business in January and typically only work with clients I have met in person, which is why this encounter makes me feel a little uneasy. Should I accept the offer? What are some ways I should vet this potential client to be sure the company is legit?

What’s Your Answer?Email answers along with your name, title and company name by January 20 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.