Growth and Opportunity: ISA Sign Expo 2011

Back in Vegas, the event is on track to be its largest since 2008.

The 65th annual Sign Expo hosted by the International Sign Association (ISA) will take over the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, April 28-30. As this article is written, ISA looks to surpass the crowd numbers of last year, with early registration being up by 47 percent and there is already a 12-percent increase in committed exhibitor space, with more than 1900 exhibit booths on the show floor.

With the ISA show on track to be its largest since 2008, will the event be a harbinger of better times for the graphics and signage marketplace?

“All signs point to an improved outlook for the industry,” says Lori Anderson, ISA president and CEO. “When speaking with our supplier and distributor community, they are sharing stories of growth and opportunity that we were not hearing a year ago. The optimism currently being expressed is also noted in the recent increase in [our organization’s] membership numbers.”

What’s new?
Perhaps the biggest news for this year’s ISA Expo event is that, for the first time, ISA will co-locate its Sign Expo with the International Reprographic Association (IRgA) convention and tradeshow. The world’s leading trade association for the reprographics and blueprinting industry, the IRgA ( represents businesses involved in large- and small-format imaging as well as file transfer technologies and document distribution and management. The co-location will provide an expanded platform for ISA and IRgA attendees and exhibitors to network, attend expert-led educational sessions, and visit a more robust tradeshow floor all in one location and at a reduced cost, the ISA reports.

“ISA always strives to develop opportunities that create a win-win scenario for everyone,” says Anderson. “ISA has spent this year looking for ways to help unify the visual communication industry. It was only natural that IRgA and ISA work together to help increase value to our members, attendees, and exhibiting community.”

And, says Steve Bova, the IRgA’s executive director: “The IRgA is excited to offer its attendees and vendors an opportunity for two shows with one trip. Vendors will be able to leverage their sales efforts by networking with reprographers at the IRgA event. Reprographers will be able to attend the International Sign Expo and discover more about the world of color and new revenue opportunities. While the ISA and IRgA events will be separate, we are all part of one big industry. Connecting in this manner makes sense.”

Returning to the ISA Expo are the event’s New Product Showcase and Green Products Showcase sessions. Although the sessions themselves aren’t new to the show, the products each will feature most certainly are.

The third-annual New Product Showcase honors the latest technologies in the graphics and signage market by allowing 25 companies to pitch their most recent creations and developments (those that debuted after April 2010). Each company delivers a two-minute Powerpoint presentation promoting its wares and attendees then vote to choose the “Coolest New Product.” Ultraflex’s Descor, a specialty textile for custom interior design and graphics, received the honor in 2010.

“With innovations such as Descor and the other products showcased, sign professionals can begin to visualize new business opportunities or ways to improve their existing services,” says Anderson.

After a successful debut in 2010, the second-annual Green Products Showcase will mirror the New Products Showcase as 25 companies compete for the title of “Best Green Product of 2011.” The eco-friendly products will feature advances in energy efficiency, low-VOC, post-consumer waste products, and other similar traits. As with its sister showcase, companies have two-minutes to present their latest in green technologies. ConVerd’s Enviroboard, the company’s moisture-resistant alternative to traditional foam and corrugated plastic boards, which is comprised of 10 percent post‐consumer waste and 90 percent Forestry Stewardship Council-certified fiber, took home last year’s prize.

Both hour-long product-oriented showcases are free to registered attendees and will be held back-to-back on April 29. All attendees are welcome to attend and judge.

The exposition is also adding a few other elements to the event, including an iPhone-friendly conference brochure and a new virtual “help desk” that allows attendees to simply text a question from anywhere on the show floor, without ever having to locate an ISA official. Other new features like a rock-climbing wall adorning the ISA booth and a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy giveaway will add elements of surprise and excitement to show.

Staying current
Beyond the tradeshow floors, attendees can take advantage of an array of industry-specific educational programs, with seminars focused on digital imaging, environmental issues, legislation, business management, sales and marketing, and more.

“Educational events allow attendees to stay current on the latest information. ISA International Sign Expo is the place to be for businesses that want to be ready to capitalize in an upward economy,” says Anderson.

Here are just a few of the 75 educational sessions available at this year’s ISA Expo, categorized by programming tracks:
• Digital imaging: “Image Optimizations: Save Ink and Produce Awesome Color,” presented by Mike Ruff (Nazdar Consulting); “Thermal Transfer is Not Dead,” Dana Goodale (Gerber Scientific); “Getting the Most Out of Your Wide-Format Printer Investment,” Reed Hecht (Epson); “Beyond Banners: New Applications for Growth,” Roman Barba and John Stevens (HP).
• Production/fabrication: “Expand Your Market with Fabric: Generate a New Revenue Stream,” Nora Norby (Banner Creations) and Jeff Leagon (Fabric Graphics Association).
• Sales/marketing: “How to Build an Online Marketing Machine,” Bob DeStefano (SVM E-Business Solutions); “100 Ways to Make Money with a Printer/Cutter,” Skip Grant (Skip Grant Productions).
• Graphic arts and design: “Maximizing Productivity and Creativity in CorelDraw X5 for Digital Output,” Craig Mertens (Digital Art Solutions); “New Markets and Applications with Metallic Silver Ink,” Robert Ozankan and Dana Curtis (Roland DGA); “10 Killer Software Tools for Graphic Design,” Mark Rugen (; “How to Integrate Vehicle Wrap Design into Your Sign Shop,” Mark Rugen.
• Estimating: “Aligning Your Cost-Based Structure to Your Strategy,” Scott St. Cyr (Cyrious Software); “How to Estimate and Price Signs,” Dan Hale (QRS Sign).
• Customer service: “Striving For Excellence: The Key To Superior Customer Service,” Tom Hudgin (Wilmington Quality Associates); “Delivering the Ultimate Experience,” Kevin Dougherty.
• Management: “The Chaos Factor: Bracing for the Next Economic Revolution,” Brad Dawson (LTV Dynamics); “How to Manage Your Time When You Wear Too Many Hats,” Bob Losyk (Innovative Training Solutions).

Pricing for educational sessions is $129 per session or attendees can choose from among three package-pricing options: Genius ($459, unlimited selection from 75 sessions Wednesday - Saturday); WorkSmart ($359, unlimited selection from 57 sessions Thursday - Saturday); or JumpStart ($259, unlimited selection from 18 Wednesday sessions). Discounted prices are offered to ISA members.

In addition to the more formal educational seminars, attendees can make their way to the American Wrap Star competition to experience live vehicle-wrap applications done by wrap professionals from across the nation. Sponsored by 3M, HP, Royal Sovereign, Eurosystems, Digital Designware, CADlink, Yellotools, Leister, and Master Magnetics, the contest will have 64 competitors wrapping four vehicles.

During the three-day event, the competitors will compete in five rounds vying for more than $250,000 worth of prizes. Here’s the schedule of events:
• Thursday, April 28: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Round one with eight 30-minute matches.
• Friday, April 29: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Round two, four 45-minute matches; and round three, two 60-minute matches.
• Saturday, April 30: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Round four, two 75-minute matches each and a single 90-minute round. Prize ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m.

Targeted networking
The Sign Expo offers several events designed to allow attendees to meet and potentially build solid business relationships, including the Global Sign Forum and Reception, the Custom & National Sign Company Meeting & Networking Event, and the ISA/Western States Sign Council Golf Tournament.

Hosted by ISA’s international committee, the Global Sign Forum and Reception gathers hundreds of industry leaders from more than 30 countries to discuss issues and exchange ideas while developing international business relations. All attendees are welcome to attend, but must indicate so on the registration form. Attendance is capped at 120 guests and the event has hit capacity the past five consecutive years. The Forum takes place Friday, April 29, 4:30-6:00 p.m.

The Custom & National Sign Company Meeting & Networking Event invites sign and graphic company executives to gather with representatives from major sign companies, who are on hand to answer questions regarding installation needs throughout the country. An informal networking event with a cash bar will immediately follow. No special registration is required to attend the event, simply bring your registration badge. This event also takes place on Friday, April 29, 4:30-6:00 p.m.

Offering a more relaxed networking platform, the ISA/Western States Sign Council Golf Tournament takes place at the Las Vegas National Golf Course and is open to 144 golfers of all skill levels. The tournament will be in scramble format Wednesday, April 27. Registration fee is $150 and includes green fees, cart, unlimited range balls, a boxed lunch, two drink tickets, and entrance to the awards party.

Maximizing your experience
Online registration for the Sign Expo (at before April 14 costs $25 ($15 for ISA members); after that, registration is $40 ($30 for ISA members). Registration for those under 17 years of age is free.

To further assist participants in coordinating their Sign Expo experience, ISA once again offers its online app, MySignExpo, an interactive portal to map out booth visits, educational sessions, and networking opportunities. By walking into the show with a strategic course of action, attendees can maximize a return on the trip-taking investment for the biggest ISA expo in years.

ISA Expo: At a Glance
Wednesday, April 27
9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Pre-Expo Education Workshops
1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ISA/Western States Sign Council
Golf Tournament

Thursday, April 28
8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Opening General Session
9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Exhibit Hall Open
9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. American Wrap Star Competition

Friday, April 29
9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Exhibit Hall Open
9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. American Wrap Star Competition
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. New & Green Product Showcases
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p. m. Custom Sign Company Meeting
& Networking Reception
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Global Sign Forum & Reception

Saturday, April 30
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Exhibit Hall Open
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. American Wrap Star Competition

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