For the first time since before the pandemic, the ISA International Sign Expo is heading to its West Coast home at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, April 12–14. The Sign Expo is ever-evolving, and this year’s event will boast some new features, as well as some recurring favorites.

Last year, ISA introduced the “Fabrication Experience” in which teams compete to construct a lightbox or some other element of traditional signage. This year, the Fabrication Experience has expanded to three contests. “These are all hands-on, interactive opportunities for attendees to build things with experts leading the sessions,” said Iain Mackenzie, ISA’s VP of Meetings & Events. “No experience is necessary. It’s totally free, but participants have to sign up in advance. It’s a chance to have a little bit of fun, learn about the products that are out there, and win a little bit of money.” The Fabrication Experience is complemented by the Wrap Experience, a vehicle-wrapping contest, a long-running staple of ISA Sign Expos.

Other “zones” on the show floor include the Education Zone, expert-led sessions presented by exhibitors, and the Business Zone, a meeting space on the floor where attendees and exhibitors (or some combination thereof) can have private meetings. “It’s an extra opportunity on the floor so people don’t have to leave and go and find a quiet space,” said Mackenzie. “They can meet on the floor and get their business done face-to-face, which is the essence of what the trade show is all about.”

Another popular feature is a kind of “speed-dating” event for national and local sign companies: ISA Install. This unique event, which sold out last year, brings together national sign companies and connects them with local installers for potential business partnerships. This year, ISA is adding an additional networking component, as well as expanding into different markets, such as wide-format printing, which they are “beta testing” at the event.. “ISA Install is amazing for the electrical signage side of the industry, but we realize that there is a whole need out there for vinyl installers and other wide-format graphics installers,” said Alicia Auerswald, International Sign Association (ISA) SVP Strategy & Marketing.

Another feature that launched in 2022 also returns: the New Exhibitor Pavilion, where Sign Expo newbies can gather in one place and be easily found by attendees. “We have a lot of new exhibitors, but this is a focused area for a select number of them on the show floor,” said Auerswald.

This year’s show does indeed include a good number of new exhibitors, as well as some that are coming back for the first time since the pandemic. “That’s a really positive sign, not only for the show, but also our industry, that we have some companies that didn’t come back in 2021 or 2022, but they’re coming back in 2023,” added Auerswald.

ISA has also expanded the number and scope of pre-conference “bootcamps,” including:

  • The Digital Signage Workshop by Sign Builder Illustrated (SBI), which will focus on navigating sign codes and regulations pertaining to dynamic digital signage installations.
  • Several Make It Happen Signage Bootcamps, led by Make It Happen’s Sam Armstrong, Harbinger Sign’s Mike Lev, and inSIGNia Wholesale’s Wendy Graves, which provides a detailed overview of both sales and production techniques. One in particular is dedicated to illuminated signage, which has become a hot topic in the sign industry.
  • Business Bootcamp for Wrap Professionals by Avery Dennison with Justin Pate and John Deuver, designed to help wrap professionals master business functions.

Other education sessions cover topics like ISA’s advocacy programs, which help signmakers navigate the often byzantine world of sign regulations. “Our one session on electrical sign codes is sold out already with almost 250 people,” said Auerswald.

Also returning is Women Leading the Industry (WLI), an initiative launched by the International Sign Association and Sign Builder Illustrated, which works to inspire and empower women in the sign, graphics, and visual communications industry, which has an all-new program this year. “We want to keep it evolving year over year,” said Auerswald, “and make sure that it’s known that this isn’t just for women. We are designing these programs so that they’re beneficial for everyone in our industry to learn these different aspects and create an inclusive environment in this inclusive industry.”

Thursday evening will include a tour of Las Vegas’ Neon Museum, and of course there is the return of ISA ROCKS, the industry party, to be held this year at the Luxor pool. “We learned last year when we’re outside that everybody loves just getting some fresh air,” said Mackenzie. “You’re in the convention hall for three full days so it’s a chance to get some fresh air and socialize and extend the personal time with each other off the show floor.”

“Being back in Vegas has really created a great vibe for this event, not only from the exhibitors, but also attendees. We’re super-excited about that,” said Auerswald.

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