Lookin’ forward to hittin’ the road for fall events

Trade shows provide great learning opportunities and much fun 

It’s been a long, hot, quiet summer, not that I’m complaining. News announcements have slowed to a trickle. Emails have dwindled, and I’m all caught up cleaning out my inbox. It’s all been a welcome respite because the fall is about to get super busy again with trade shows and conferences. I hope I’ll see many of you as I walk the exhibit halls in Chicago, Las Vegas, and right here at home in Toronto. 

Going to these events and shows has long been a favourite part of my job. While there are various ways of learning about what’s going on in this industry, having it all come together under one roof with thousands of people just helps to crystallize many trends and concepts being talked about. Plus, it’s a great way to get caught up with friends.

First up on the schedule is Sign Expo Canada, September 21 and 22 at the International Centre in Toronto. It’s the only national graphic arts show in Canada this fall, and if you’re at all interested in exploring the complex and fascinating world of signage in all its guises, this is the place to be.

All the leading manufacturers will be there showing off their newest wares. Receptions and a golf tournament will round out the fun. Contests and competitions will feature some of the best sign creations in this country, and this year the organizers are featuring a special screening of the web documentary The Signmakers of Montreal (Les Enseignistes de Montréal), about the people and techniques behind the over-sized words and images in urban spaces across the world, with a special focus on Montreal and its experienced signmakers, a self-taught sign painter, and two sign collectors. 

Our next stop is the newly renamed PRINT show at McCormick Centre in Chicago, one of my favourite US cities. Formerly called Graph Expo, this is the largest event aimed largely at commercial printers, but with an expanding outreach to other segments. A big attraction this year, beside the exhibitors, the technology, the seminars, and the Chicago blues clubs, is a keynote address by marketing guru Seth Godin.

I’m particularly looking forward to this presentation and hearing insights from one of the most high-profile marketing voices around. To get in the mood and get a flavour for Godin you might want to check out his blog, simply called Seth’s blog. Also check out the Red Hot Technology Recognition program—the key technologies you have to take in during the show as chosen by an industry panel—and special tours that focus on various themes. 

The last stop of the fall tour for me is SGIA Expo in Vegas, baby. The city does not rank terribly high on my list of great places to see more than once, but as most of us will be staring at the approaching winter by mid-October, a few days of heat is no bad thing. And Vegas does have some pretty nice restaurants and great visiting performers, so you could get lucky and spend the evening with Elton John. If you’re prepared to part with at least a week’s pay. 

The expo itself is huge, with exhibitors and technology that will image on just about anything. Last year, fabric printing visually dominated the exhibit hall. If you want to explore the boundaries of what printing can be, this is the show for you. You’ll also find dozens of seminars, several printing competitions, and a few parties scattered around the Vegas strip.

For those of you who keep up with trade show developments, this is the last outing for SGIA in its current incarnation. Next year, the event will rebrand as Printing United and move to Dallas, after SGIA struck a deal with NAPCO, the US-based publishers of Printing Impressions, to create a giant event that will cater to the entire breadth of the graphic arts industry. All eyes will turn toward Texas to see how that plays out.

Enjoy the last days of summer. Get your comfy shoes ready and see you on the floor.

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