The International Sign Association’s (ISA) Sign Expo 2016 comes to its East Coast residence at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Held from April 20 to 23, the Sign Expo has become one of the premier showcases of digital sign and display graphics technology, sitting comfortably between traditional analog signmaking and cutting-edge dynamic digital signage.

In what has become a common theme of sign and display-oriented shows, both attendee and exhibitor numbers are at record highs. “It’s the largest show floor in the history of the Orlando show,” said Iain Mackenzie, ISA’s VP of Meetings & Events. “[Exhibitor space] is sold out and we have a very large waiting list, so that’s very exciting for us.”

In addition to the show floor, the Sign Expo also offers 34 educational sessions, as well as two “Game Changer Sessions.” Launched at last year’s show, the Game Changer sessions are mini-keynote presentations, and this year’s Game Changer presenters are Seth Mattison and Kenneth Gronbach. On Thursday, Mattison’s “The Future of Work Today” session looks the rapid pace of business transformation and what new approaches to leadership are required. On Friday, Gronbach’s “Charting the Course through Demographic Change” looks at how changing worldwide demographics are effecting societal, political, economic, cultural, and commercial upheavals, altering the way we communicate, and thus how branding and marketing are changing. “Last year, the Game Changer sessions were standing room only,” said Mackenzie. “The numbers on all the sessions are tracking very high.”

Dynamic digital signage continues to attract interest, and Wednesday, April 20, is the fourth annual Digital Signage Day, with seven consecutive sessions that explore the technology and business of digital signage. And on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, there is the return of the Digital Signage Park on the show floor, comprising 23 companies in 67 different booths, with a central theater hosting a full slate of free 30-minute sessions.

Speaking of free sessions, booth 1295 on the show floor is the “Lounge & Learn,” an all-day series of 30-minute sessions on such diverse topics as using social media to attract customers, retail signage ROI, using UV flatbed printers for three-dimensional and Braille printing, and “Three Ways to Make Money in the Vehicle Graphics Market Without Wrapping a Single Vehicle.” Also in the Lounge & Learn is the ISA Sign Industry Quarterly Economic Report, and on Friday there will be a Q&A and book signing with Chris Calori and David Vanden-Eynden, authors of Signage and Wayfinding Design!.

This year, ISA has revamped its ISA Innovations Awards. All show exhibitors were invited to submit what they consider to be innovative hardware and software products. A panel of judges are reviewing the entrants, and winners will be announced at the show.

An interesting new program this year is the Wide Format Print Cash Incentive. If a show attendee buys $20,000 or more of wide-format printing equipment from one of the show’s 11 anchor exhibiting companies—or one of those company’s authorized distributors—that attendee will be eligible to enter a drawing to win a daily prize. On Thursday and Friday, the daily prize is $5,000, and the daily prize on Saturday is $10,000. All eligible purchase entries will be entered on all three days, regardless of the day of purchase. The authorized exhibitors are Agfa, Canon, EFI, Epson, Esko, HP, Mimaki, Mutoh, OKI Data Americas, Roland, and Tubelite. Full rules can be found here.

This year’s Sign Expo also continues the ISA Elite Program, which debuted as a pilot program last year. This is an education and networking opportunity for enthusiastic and energetic future sign industry leaders under the age of 35. “Last year, we had 72 applications, and this year we had 109,” said Mackenzie. “A panel of judges has whittled that down to 35.” These future leaders can attend the show with accommodations paid for by ISA, and they can attend as many educational sessions as they like for free, as well as engage with others in the industry at several networking sessions.

In addition to official ISA programs and events, there are two colocated events worth checking out. On Wednesday, April 20, is the second annual Roland ImagiNATION user group conference (the first was colocated with SGIA Expo 2014). The ImagiNATION conference is a full day of more than two dozen sessions covering the gamut of wide-format and specialty graphics, from designing for and selling specific end-use applications like vehicle graphics or interior graphics, to color management (a perennial topic at conferences like this), to pricing, all the way down to working with specific Roland hardware and software. The keynote speaker for this event is Dr. Chris Bell, a prominent author and speaker on customer loyalty and service innovation who will talk about “Innovative Service: Strategies for Creating Growth and Bottom Line Impact.” The Roland ImagiNATION event is limited to registered Roland users. More information can be found here.

Another colocated event takes place on Thursday, April 21. From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Rosen Centre Hotel (across the street from the Convention Center), Durst is presenting its third annual Retail 2020 event aimed at offering insights on what brand owners look for in a retail and POP printing services provider. This year, 30-year industry veteran Martine Padilla will present “Retail Realities: How Smaller Printers Compete in Today’s Marketplace.” Retail 2020 is open to all attendees, although space is limited. More information and registration can be found here.

The Sign Expo has grown into one of the specialty graphics industry’s premier events. “All the indicators are positive that we’ll have a great show,” said Mackenzie.

Information about the International Sign Expo can be found at