The Specialty Advertising Association of California’s (SAAC) annual SAAC Expo brought the promotional products industry to San Diego, California, earlier this month. Held August 6-8 at the San Diego Convention Center, the SAAC Expo drew more than 700 attendees to experience its 200-exhibitor trade show, networking and professional development opportunities.
“I feel honored to have been part of such a successful show for SAAC,” says Jennifer Bingham, SAAC executive director. “The members, the SAAC board and the numerous volunteers that made the event possible also helped to breathe new life into our association. The energy and excitement felt on the show floor made for an incredible experience for all involved. This was just a glimpse into what the future holds for SAAC members and I’m excited for the next chapter. We’re just getting started.”
The SAAC Expo featured education opportunities for attendees throughout its run. On August 7, before the show floor opened, PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, delivered a town hall-style keynote on current issues and opportunities facing the promotional products industry. The following morning a series of select suppliers delivered fast-paced presentations on case studies and marketing strategies. The bulk of the SAAC Expo’s education, however, took place in an area alongisde the trade-show floor. Sessions included panel discussions on building a strong community of empowered women in the industry, generational differences and their impact on businesses, the end-buyer/distributor relationship, developing successful websites with SAGE Website Professional Plus, and Prop 65 and state regulations.
“What stood out to me at the show was the optimism for SAAC and the future, and our sense of community,” says Craig Weiss, vice president of sales and marketing and distributor Initial Impression. “For me, it’s always the quality of the suppliers and distributors that come. It’s never about quantity. A standout for me were the breakout sessions off the show floor. They were short but sweet and you could pop your head in and didn’t have to make the commitment of getting there early or staying late.”
Steve Parker, regional sales manager at supplier Starline, says, “This year’s show was amazing on all levels. We as part of the supplier community want more touches and contacts with people and the show outperformed expectations. It’s a great community, and in typical fashion, the SAAC show had a great atmosphere that was warm and friendly. The quality of participants on both sides made for a great promo atmosphere and place to do good business.”
The SAAC Expo allowed attendees and exhibitors to connect and celebrate each other’s successes at the SAAC Awards reception, held at the San Diego Convention Center at the end of the show’s first full day, and a meet-and-greet opportunity at the Stone Brewing Tap Room a short walk away.
“The SAAC show is a great opportunity for distributors to pick their suppliers’ brains in a casual and fun setting,” says Kaitlin Kennedy, West Coast business development and event specialist at supplier Orbus. “Without these face-to-face interactions, we’re all just sitting behind a computer screen. My favorite moment from any show is when the doors open for the first time. There’s an electric feeling that’s buzzing through the air. I see curiosity and excitement in the attendees’ eyes and it reassures me that I’m in the right industry.”
Kennedy adds, “I haven’t talked to one person about their start in the industry with ‘I’m going to sell mugs for a living.’ They’ve all said that they wanted to help others and there’s nothing wrong with earning a living while doing it. I believe attending SAAC as a supplier or distributor will help grow your brand.”