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ISA Sign Expo: Taking Orlando by Storm

All signs point to a robust event in 2010.



When the International Sign Association rolls into Orlando next month for the 64th installment of its annual tradeshow, the ISA Sign Expo, it is expecting to draw a crowd of more than 18,000 participants, including representatives from 500 companies staffing some 1600 exhibit booths.

It’s this kind of involvement that points to a strong marketplace, according to the association.

“To experience a show of this magnitude in the midst of what has been a monumental economic crisis speaks volumes on a robust and resilient sign industry,” says ISA president and CEO Lori Anderson.

Indeed the event, the 85th largest tradeshow in the US according to Tradeshow Week magazine, has seen consistent growth for years, give or take a few bumps in the road in step with the constriction of the overall economy. As it has grown, the show has evolved to keep pace with the changing face of the sign business, as well. In the last decade or so, as print providers and sign shops have rapidly diversified and incorporated increasingly complex output and related technologies into their daily operations, ISA has remained nimble in order to offer a relevant tradeshow each spring.

This year is no different.

“In addition to providing the opportunity for thousands of sign industry professionals to conduct business at a global level, Sign Expo 2010 will provide an unparalleled opportunity to preview the most cutting-edge industry products and technologies, as well as participate in networking and education events that enable sign industry professionals to take their businesses to the next level,” Anderson says.


Products on parade
At the heart of the event, of course, is a sprawling exhibit hall, featuring a collection of product suppliers and service providers as diverse and encompassing as the signage and graphics industry itself. Exhibitors are classified in one or more of 29 distinct product categories—from adhesives and tapes to vehicle graphics—with subcategories specific to digital imaging that include large- and superwide-format printers and inks, large-format scanners, plotters, and inkjet media and substrates, among others.

The 2010 iteration of ISA’s Expo also captures the traditional focus on product innovations typically reserved for the show floor, and translates it to two distinct, but equally relevant, specialty showcases.

The first is the New Product Showcase, which debuted in Las Vegas last year to great fanfare, with more than 200 tradeshow attendees on hand as 25 companies pitched the newest and most exciting products on the market. The program will be much the same in Orlando, with presenters limited to just two minutes to introduce and demonstrate their wares. Attendees in this session will once again have the opportunity to vote on the “Coolest New Product” for 2010, an honor taken home last year by Albuquerque-based Tred Displays, for its digital display panels.

Building on the success of that event, and recognizing a trend toward sustainability in the industry, ISA also unveils its first-ever Green Products Showcase in 2010. Similar in format to its sister showcase, the hour-long session is free to registered attendees and will feature 25 of the latest environmentally friendly products and technologies for today’s sign industry, each in two-minute increments. At the end, attendees will vote on the “Best Green Product of 2010.”

Focus on learning
The Expo experience doesn’t end on the show floor. ISA has expanded its commitment to providing high-quality training for signage and graphics professionals, this year more than doubling its usual number of course offerings, from roughly 30 to 60 new sessions. The interactive forums, hands-on training, and in-depth workshops will focus on digital imaging, legislative regulations, technical industry applications, management techniques, sales and marketing methods, and more, and participants are eligible for Continuing Education Units for some courses through George Mason University.

The association also will offer Professional Development Units (PDUs) for each session through its International Sign Academy. ISA launched the academy at last year’s Expo and has been working to position it as the institute of higher learning for sign industry professionals.


“The new PDU program is designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate those who demonstrate knowledge essential to the practices of various positions within the sign industry,” says ISA director of education and training Tracey Cook. “Folks who complete ISA’s continuing education programs will acquire the essential knowledge they need to become a productive employee, an asset to a sign company, and a positive influence on their company’s bottom line.”

In addition, Cook says, any individual participating in a PDU-qualified program, such as those offered at the Expo, will receive the personal enrichment and recognition they deserve for improving their quality of life through continuing-education programming.

“Company enrichment and increased value is, clearly, as important as individual accomplishments. Companies that receive quality training and recognition will gain a competitive advantage over those that do not,” Cook says.

To ensure affordable access to such valuable training, ISA has developed three package-pricing options for Expo education sessions—Genius, WorkSmart, or JumpStart—each offering different levels of admission, as well as a la carte purchase options. Programming tracks include:

• Digital Imaging: three sessions—“How to Print Accurately in Digital Printing Quicker and Easier,” presented by Mike Ruff (Nazdar Consulting); “Digital Printing in Your Shop Environment,” by Ted Nesbitt (ND Graphics); and “Eliminating Printing Defects Caused by Static Charge,” by William Larkin (Alpha Innovation).
• Graphics Arts/Design: three sessions – “Graphic Design 101,” presented by Larry Mersereau, CTC (; “Maximizing Productivity and Creativity in CorelDraw X4 for Digital Output,” by Jay Busselle (Digital Art Solutions); and “10 Killer Software Tools for Graphic Design,” by Mark Rugen (SA International)
• Sales/Marketing: nine sessions, including—“Introduction to Superwide Format,” presented by Mike Wozny (EFI Vutek);“21st Century Sales Skills and Attitudes,” presented by Dave Fellman (David Fellman and Associates); and “How to Build an Online Marketing Machine,” presented by Bob DeStefano (SVM E-Business Solutions).
• Project Management/Estimating: four sessions, including—“Estimating for Sales and Profits,” presented by Dan Hale (QRS Signs); and “Aligning Your Cost-Based Pricing to Your Strategy,” presented by Scott St. Cyr (Cyrious Software).
• Production and Fabrication: four sessions, including—“100 Ways to Make Money with Your Printer/Cutter,” presented by Skip Grant (Grant Graphics); and “Plastic Substrates for Signage,” presented by Dr. Ted Trautman, Jeff Hester, and Ken Licklider (Sheffield Plastics).

If you go
The Orange County Convention Center is the epicenter of sign industry activity throughout Expo week. Centrally located on International Drive in Orlando, just 15 minutes from the airport, the facility is within easy walking distance of a plethora of hotels and restaurants. It also is a drop-off point for The I-Ride Trolley, offering inexpensive transportation to hundreds of destinations in the International Drive resort area. ISA has coordinated with Travel Planners to offer discounts at hotels throughout the city, and reservations can be made online or over the phone.


In addition to booking travel, Expo attendees also can use the Internet to map out their entire tradeshow from the comfort of home. ISA’s MyShow Planner allows participants to search companies and products, create a personal agenda and custom route through the exhibit hall, and e-mail colleagues who are also attending the event. While you’re there, stop by The Big Picture booth (1902) and introduce yourself.



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