Trade show season is upon us, and as I write this, PRINT 17 is looming. Next month, the SGIA Expo returns to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center In New Orleans October 10–12, 2017, with some new features and some old favorites. The SGIA Expo is often thought of, at least in the general commercial printing segment, as “the wide-format show,” and that’s certainly true to an extent. But if you have been to an Expo in recent years, you know that the SGIA Expo—and SGIA as an organization—has come to embrace a wider and wider variety of print technologies and applications. While its core has traditionally been sign and display, garment decorating, and industrial printing, not only have the lines between those segments been blurring, but the lines between those and other parts of the printing industry have begun to blur as well.

“One of the things we’re seeing is people from the commercial printing sector showing strong interest in our core sign and graphic segments and have been moving strongly into those areas,” said Dan Marx, VP Markets & Technology, SGIA. “That’s not entirely new, but as an organization, we are embracing some of that interest and change as we put the show together and move forward.”

Another blurred line is packaging. “There has been a move by some of the OEMS to move high-production inkjet systems toward the corrugated and packaging markets, and we’re seeing interest from our segments.”

One well-received program for wide-format newbies is Wide Format 101. Held the day before the Expo opens—Monday, October 9—and now in its fourth year, it is an afternoon-long suite of sessions that has been expanded this year to include a more diverse array of speakers. The topics run the gamut, from an overview of technology and markets, to choosing equipment, to color management, to materials and finishing, to running the business. “Wide Format 101 is always a popular program for people new to the segment and to wide format,” said Marx, “and it provides a nice grounding so people can go out on the show floor and make better decisions.”

A new program this year is a suite of sessions called “Your Business: Prepare for Success,” being held Monday, October 9. The sessions cover topics such as branding, marketing, assembling a good sales team, and time management. “Regardless of whether someone is a wide-format producer or a garment decorator, wherever they’re coming from, if they’re a new or small business, this program is really designed for them.”

At last year’s Expo, SGIA kicked off its Women In Print Alliance, an initiative aimed at raising the visibility of women working within the industry. There are two events at this year’s Expo. The Women In Print Alliance Breakfast, to be held Wednesday, October 11, from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m., features keynote speaker Fawn Germer, author of Work Life Reset. Wednesday afternoon, at 2:30 p.m., the Women in Print Alliance will host a panel discussion including the winners of this year’s “Big Picture Women in Print Awards,” recognizing the trailblazing efforts of women in the printing industry. Fawn Germer joins the 2017 winners to discuss the role of women in today’s print industry. This session will also present some of the Women In Print Alliance’s research. “We will be sharing some first-ever collected data on the experience of women working within the printing industry,” said Marx. “Not just owner/operators, but production-level employees, as well. What they love about their work, what they don’t like, what their expectations are, and what their path was to get where they are.”

Sustainability has long been a major topic for SGIA, and on Tuesday, October 10, from noon to 2:00 p.m., SGIA’s Marci Kinter will host “Brands Talking Sustainability,” gathering speakers from major brands such as Starbucks, REI, and ANN Inc., to talk about the goals and objectives for their sustainability efforts, and how print service providers can help these brands meet those objectives.

Other long-time favorites are back, such as the Wrap Like a Pro vehicle wrapping tutorials. Held each day of the Expo, these hands-on sessions are geared for those new to or looking to get into vehicle graphics installation, as well as seasoned professionals who need to stay up to date on the latest techniques, tools, and materials. 

In addition, there are more than 40 educational sessions divided among seven tracks, including Graphics and Sign, Garment Decoration, Industrial Imaging, Business Management, Graphics Installation, Commercial/Publication, and Packaging. These cover the waterfront of technology, trends, and business practices.

And of course there is the show floor, where a lot of informal educational opportunities abound. “There are lots of interesting new product announcements, new materials and consumables that we’re very much looking forward to,” said Marx.