The ISA Sign Expo-Not Just Another Trade Show


Alan Brawn, Principal Brawn Consulting

Alan Brawn, Principal
Brawn Consulting

It comes as no surprise that some feel that a trade show is a trade show is a trade show and as our kids might say, “Been there, done that”. In the case of the ISA International Sign Expo held down in sunny Orlando or Las Vegas in alternating years, if you are not there, we assure you that you have not “Been there, done that”. If you are not familiar with the show, then we suggest that a closer look is warranted especially in light of the implications this has for the digital signage industry overall. Of course this begs the question of what makes this event worthy of note among all the trade shows out there.

To begin with, it is accurate to state that the ISA Sign Expo is the premier sign show for the traditional sign industry and that it is the annual confluence of all the big sign equipment manufacturers and suppliers of signage products and their target audience being the sign shops they serve but that is only part of the picture. Their numbers speak for themselves in continuing growth in double digits. Their attendance tops 18,000 each year. Total exhibit hall space is expanding and is currently over 200,000 square feet with nearly 600 companies represented on the expo floor. A significant number use the show to introduce new product lines. The industry they serve is made up of over 35,000 sign shops around the country of every conceivable size from mom and pop operations all the way to giant sign “factories”. In short, ISA serves a wide spread and robust constituency to say the very least.

What rounds out the vision and mission of the show and what makes it special for those of us in digital signage is the growing acceptance and adoption by the ISA Sign Expo, their exhibitors and sign shops of what they refer to as “dynamic digital signage”. They have come to realizes that this is a growing part of the overall signage industry and is an additional revenue stream for manufacturers, distributors, and sign shops alike. They are coming to understand that it is not an either/or situation but a combination of static and dynamic that is in the process of becoming mainstream sooner than later. Sign shops have the customer relationships and content expertise built and nurtured over many years and they are increasingly expanding their business to embrace these new opportunities.

As an old television commercial once said, “Where’s the beef”? and so we will answer that question. Proof of this burgeoning market resides in the participation in the special events surround the ISA Sign Expo and dedicated to dynamic digital signage. The day before the exhibits open there is a full day of educational seminars sponsored by ISA with guest experts in the field to educate sign shops on a variety of topics aimed at facilitating their new and expanded business opportunities. On the show floor there is the Dynamic Digital Park and it includes multiple new exhibitors that focus on the niche.

There is an old saying that we are known by the company we keep and so it is with trade shows. Participants in the Dynamic Digital Park includes brand names that we all know and distributors from the IT and Pro AV spaces. Of special mention are names familiar to the traditional signage world who are entering into the dynamic digital signage market in a big way as well. Of course the digital signage industry is well represented by the Digital Signage Federation and the Digital Signage Experts Group who help sponsor the educational activities and to show support for the efforts of ISA in furthering the growth in this fast moving area.

We cannot say it any better than Lori Anderson ISA President and CEO as she characterized the event, “There is no doubt that ISA International Sign Expo year after year is an unqualified success. There are opportunities at every turn for sign companies to expand their businesses and to refine and improve their existing lines. Clearly, many take advantage of those opportunities and exhibitors report strong sales. That is just another signal that the on premise sign industry is stronger than ever.” The key words here are opportunities and expanding of sign business. As I said in the title, the ISA Sign Expo is not just another tradeshow.

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