Well, actually Mandalay. That is, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, for ISA’s International Sign Expo 2013, coming up April 3–6. The show—founded in 1947, and which alternates between Orlando and Las Vegas—will feature more than 500 exhibitors, more than 40 educational sessions, and ample networking opportunities, all related to the “on-premise” signage industry. The show brings together “environmental graphic designers” (professionals designing graphics to be integrated into specific environments) and fabricators, printers, and installers. As I and my confreres in this space have mentioned often, today’s wide-format industry is about finding unique applications, and shows like the International Sign Expo can offer present and prospective print providers a wealth of ideas.

Like the SGIA Expo before it, the International Sign Expo is growing phenomenally. According to the show organizers, exhibit floor space has exceeded 200,000 square feet for the first time in the show’s history and has, in fact, sold out all available exhibit space. Compared to the last year the show was held in Las Vegas (2011), registrations for the educational sessions are up 29%.

The Sessions

The ISA International Sign Academy’s educational sessions are aligned in six tracks: Architectural Design, Digital Signage, Management, Peer Networking, Sales and Marketing, and Technical/Product. (Architectural Design and Dynamic Digital Signage are two new tracks added to this year’s educational sessions.) The sessions will be conducted by the leading experts in digital signage environmental graphics, urban planning, architecture, and design.

Here is a small smattering of some of the sessions available for the print provider either currently producing signage and other wide-format graphics, or printers looking to explore more about this dynamic (in more ways than one) marketspace.

“How to Integrate Vehicle Wrap Design Technologies into a Sign Shop”—We’ve spotlighted the growth of the vehicle wrap market before, but here you’ll get an introductory course in how to get started, including “the software programs, online resources, and design tools available for designing vehicle wraps and graphics.”

In the Architectural/Design track, six sessions cover the waterfront (perhaps literally) of topics related to integrating signage design, printing, and installation with the needs and requirements of architects, designers, and others who are integrating signage and other graphics into preexisting spaces and environments. Some of these include:

“Five Ways to Make Yourself Essential to Architecture and Design Firms”—Collaborating effectively with the “front end” of signage production process. One of the recurring themes in these wide-format features is the enhanced need for collaboration between print providers and designers. This session looks at one specific application.

“Collaborating with City Officials on Urban Signage”—Perhaps not the most exciting topic in the world, but as was mentioned in a previous feature, different municipalities have different rules and regulations regarding public signage. Understanding the rationale behind these regs can help print providers and fabricators develop more effective signage applications.

We all love case studies, when we can get ’em, and this track concludes on Saturday, April 6, with a session entitled “Case Studies in Integrated Design.”

The Dynamic Digital Signage track (all day Wednesday, April 3, which is dubbed “Dynamic Digital Signage Day”) offers eight sessions that explain the technology, the business, and the marketing of digital signage, as well as the current (and future) trends, culminating with a “Sign Installer Industry Panel” that will answer any and all unanswered questions.

In the Management track, one of the 10 sessions looks at the yawning chasm that is today’s generation gap with a session entitled “It’s A ‘Y’ World: How To Manage & Motivate The Millennial Generation.” A youthful, energetic staff can be a print provider’s most important asset—but how do you harness that energy? Other sessions look at teambuilding, growing your business, and the nuts and bolts of pricing signage production.

In the Sales/Marketing track, one of the eight sessions is entitled “Better Selling Strategy: Uncommon Solutions For Common Obstacles and Objections.” That is, how do you overrule such objections as “We’re happy with our current supplier,” “I’m busy right now,” “I don’t need anything right now,” “Just send me some literature,” and/or “Your price is too high!”.

And, of course, since this is 2013 (I’m told), what self-respecting expo would not have a session on “The Secret to Social Media Marketing Success”? Social media is an important part of marketing today and print providers who give it a miss are overlooking a crucial piece of the overall promotional puzzle.

The Floor

All the usual suspects—and many unusual suspects—will have their wares and the applications those wares can produce on display. There will be a few major announcements, but the key to getting the most out of random show floor prowling is to look at what has actually been printed and get ideas for the types of products your own company might be interested in creating. “How did they print that?” is a common question to ask at shows like this, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask it.

Much is being made at this year’s show about digital signage, and in addition to Dynamic Digital Signage Day there will also be a “Dynamic Digital Signage Park” on the show floor which will feature exhibitors and free educational sessions covering all manner of, well, digital signage. It’s not exactly wide-format printing, but like any “digital” technology, we should keep it on our collective radars—if history is any guide, we ignore any encroaching digital media at our peril.

A complete schedule of events and exhibitor list and floor map can be found at www.signexpo.org. WhatTheyThink will be reporting live from the show, both in words and moving pictures.