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Previewing ISA Expo 2009

News, knowledge, and networking in Si(g)n City.




By now you’ve probably received several pieces of standard and electronic mail reminding you that the International Sign Expo, the annual event hosted by the International Sign Association (ISA,, is right around the corner, April 15-18. As you review your shop's annual budget versus your current P&Ls, you may be hearing strains of The Clash’s 1980s hit, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

This year’s event ( returns to the Mandalay Bay casino and resort in Las Vegas, and the expo’s site design as well as the event's marketing materials feature a pair of dice-not only a symbol of the location but also an acknowledgment of the uncertainty we’re all feeling during this recession. Every dollar spent begins to feel like a risk.

ISA is very quick to reassure, however, welcoming you to the site with the words opportunity and potential, as well as this year’s theme: “Possibility Happens.” While the phrase is inspiring, many shop owners may feel they need something a bit more concrete to justify the cost. ISA has you covered there, too.

Technology happens
The goal of the expo, says the ISA, is to bring together signage suppliers to showcase the latest industry products, services, and technologies to sign shops as well as digital operations. To that end, the 2009 event will host 2000 exhibit booths of more than 560 companies of all sizes from all sectors of the industry. (For a complete alphabetical list, visit In just a few days of walking the show floor, you can learn about everything that’s new and notable in 2009 for the sign and graphics marketplace.

According to ISA's annual post-show attendee survey, 75 percent of attendees come primarily to see the latest technology and to purchase or explore purchasing new products/services. “This is the only North American venue where you can touch, feel, and test the most and the best in competing product lines in the sign/digital industry. Three months out from the 2009 expo, there are already close to 100 new products that exhibitors plan to unveil,” reports Laurie Kusek, ISA's director of communications.

The products that will be introduced and showcased at the expo are too numerous to include here, but you can find them listed alphabetically on the Product Locator page on the Sign Expo’s website:


Knowledge happens
With its Discovery Seminar Series of workshops, panels, and forums, ISA says it offers more signage-specific educational sessions than any other industry event. And, of course, it offers digital-printing sessions as well. The sessions are helpfully labeled basic, intermediate, and advanced, and can be purchased à la carte on the registration site. Programming tracks include:

* Graphic Arts & Designs: two sessions-“How to Integrate Vehicle Wrap Design Technologies into a Sign Shop,” presented by Mark Rugen (, and “Maximize Productivity and Creativity in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite for Digital Output,” presented by Craig Mertens (Digital Art Solutions)

* Digital Imaging: four sessions, including “Digital Imaging Design for a Competitive Advantage,” presented by Marty Guinee (Miratec Systems); and “The 21st Century Color Matcher,” presented by Bruce Ridge (Nazdar Consulting Services)

* Sales & Marketing: four sessions, including “Low-Cost, Low-Effort Marketing Strategies for Your Competitive Advantage,” presented by Carol Keljo (Security Signs); and “Increase Your Business: Sell to Business Value, Not Features and Benefits,” presented by John Maxwell (Blue Engine)

* Hands-on: two sessions-“Vinyl Application Basics,” presented by Jim Hingst (R Tape Corporation ), and “Fundamentals of Mounting and Laminating,” presented by Luigi Cristicini (Drytac)

* Management: eight sessions, such as “The Import Process: Practical and Legal Considerations,” presented by Mary Jo Muoio (Barthco International & National Custom Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of America) and Alan Klestadt (Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP); and “Keep More Money in Your Business: Give Less Money to the IRS and Insurance Companies,” presented by Lance Wallach, a tax-reduction specialist


Other tracks include Environmental Issues, Legislative, Digital Electronic Signage, New Innovation & Tools, and Forum: Women. You can find a complete list of course offerings at

Networking happens
If you’ve been to a trade show before, you know that one of the most valuable elements of the trip is the networking you can accomplish. Technology comes and goes, and topics for discussion are always changing, but the contacts made on the show floor and the relationships built during social activities can last much longer than just a week or weekend. ISA offers several social opportunities for attendees, including a golf tournament and reception.

The Western States Sign Council and ISA sponsor this year’s annual golf tournament, which will take place on Wednesday, April 15, at The Legacy Golf Club in Henderson ( There are 144 openings for players, and PGA-level skills are not required. The tournament will be scramble format with a 1 P.M. shotgun start. A $150 player fee covers green fees, cart, unlimited range balls, a box lunch, and an awards party.

From 4:30 to 6 P.M. on Friday, April 17, ISA will host its annual division meeting and reception on the second floor of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. At the reception, local/custom sign company executives can meet with representatives from major US national sign companies to discuss installation needs in different areas of the country. ISA is billing this event as a great opportunity for custom sign company and national sign company executives to meet, network, and find installers in whatever areas of the country they conduct business.

Even if by Saturday you feel like you’re all chatted out, make the effort to swing by the Sign Expo’s closing party from 4 to 6:30 P.M. It’s a good opportunity to catch people you didn’t have a chance to meet earlier or to continue conversations in a less frantic environment.

Also of note for international attendees: ISA provides an International Networking Lounge where you can find translators in Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and French.


Making it happen
If you’re registered for the show (or still need to do so) and haven’t already planned out your agenda, you can visit MySignExpo (, an interactive portal created to help attendees prepare for the show by allowing you to target and contact the specific vendors you need and choose the educational sessions that are most beneficial to you. By making use of all these tools and opportunities at your disposal, you can ensure that you get the maximum return on the money you invest in this trip. While you’re there, stop by our booth (3528) and introduce yourself. Safe travels to Vegas!




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