First-Time Guide to Navigating PPAI Expo Like a Pro!

Now that the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) Expo is in our rearview mirror, we’re excited to hear tips and insight from our team who experienced the show for the first time!

Gearing up to navigate through the whirlwind of opportunities, trends, and innovations at PPAI Expo for the first time? Navigating such a large-scale event can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. Drawing from our recent experience, TK Promotions is here to provide some insider insights and tips to help you make the most of your first PPAI Expo experience!

The TK Promotions team looking at new promotional products at the "New Product Pavilion" at PPAI Expo

What is PPAI Expo?

PPAI Expo, centered at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, is the largest trade show in the promotional products industry. In 2024, the show featured nearly 1,000 suppliers showcasing new products and over 16,000 professionals in attendance. Held in mid-January, PPAI Expo kicks off the year for suppliers and distributors to see the freshest products and collaborate together to plan new campaigns for clients.

PPAI Expo features every type of customizable product you could imagine, including drinkware, apparel, technology, sustainable items, curated kits, and much, much more. But with over a quarter-million net square feet of exhibit space, we mean it when we say that PPAI Expo is an enormous show to navigate through. You definitely can’t tackle it all in one day.

First-Time Tips for PPAI Expo

TK Promotions ventures to PPAI Expo every year, but this year, a few team members experienced the Expo for the first time. We’ve gathered our best tips and tricks to help make your first PPAI Expo the best one!

Elizabeth Swindell holding a branded teddy bear

Elizabeth Swindell, Marketing Coordinator   

Tip #1 – Mapping Out Mandalay Bay

Allocate some time before the event to familiarize yourself with your hotel and plan your route to Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The Convention Center is connected to three MGM properties: The Mandalay Bay, The Luxor, and The Excalibur. If your accommodation is at any of these hotels, you’ll find interconnected indoor pathways that span the distance between them. These pathways are bustling with shopping, dining options, and casinos, eliminating the need for a ride-share service. Keep in mind, it can take about 20 minutes to walk from one destination to the other!

The Mandalay bay Convention Center

Tip #2 – Elevated Education Sessions

A speaker at PPAI Expo giving a presentation to a large crowd

Before PPAI Expo begins, be sure to visit the official website at Here, you can plan ahead and select which education sessions you’d like to attend. While the show floor typically opens on Tuesday and closes on Thursday, Monday is dedicated to educational sessions featuring speakers covering various industry-related topics. From sales and marketing to SAGE education and the latest updates on technology and AI, there’s something for everyone to explore. We recommend scheduling a mix of sessions that pique your interest as well as those you may not have initially considered attending. You never know what valuable insights and ideas you might uncover!

Tip #3  – Walk With Ease

We can’t stress enough how important it is to bring comfortable walking shoes! Prioritize comfort over style and skip anything that may look dressy or has even a hint of a heel. Most attendees opt for walking shoes or sneakers paired with comfortable socks to navigate through the Expo. With over a quarter-million net square feet of exhibit space, our team found ourselves averaging over six miles of walking each day, per person. So, be prepared to spend a lot of time on your feet and take breaks when needed!

A crowd walking through a busy hallway at PPAI Expo

More First-Time Tips!

Allison Snead at the "Puppy Petting Corner" at PPAI Expo

Allison Snead, Account Manager

What was your favorite part about PPAI Expo?

“Getting to know team members and suppliers on a more personal level.”

What advice would you give someone coming to PPAI Expo for the first time?

“Try your best to get outside at least once a day whether it be for a short walk or a trip to In-n-Out with friends!”

What education session was your favorite? What did you learn from it?

“How To Market To – Sell To – And Service People Not Like You. It was super exciting getting to hear new ideas on how to appeal to individuals or groups that are different from myself.”

How will your experience at PPAI Expo help you in 2024?

“Being able to leverage new connections & capabilities in order to show just how unique TK Promotions is.”

Traci Phillips, Vice President of Finance & Operations

Traci Phillips holding a custom cookie cup from Dirty Cookie at PPAI Expo

What was your favorite part about PPAI Expo?

“The New Products Pavilion was a highlight of the show. I enjoyed the opportunity to see new items across multiple vendors in a dedicated area. I actually returned to the New Products area on the second day (much less crowded!)”

What advice would you give someone coming to PPAI Expo for the first time?

“Come to the Expo with a clear plan to focus on your top two or three clients, their needs, events, annual spending, and other important details. Educate your fellow team members on your clients’ focus, and collaborate with your team during the show to find products and ideas. Travel light and skip heavy backpacks, totes, or computers. Your back and feet will thank you!”

How will your experience at PPAI Expo help you in 2024?

“Team Collaboration! Having the opportunity to spend several days with TK team members, walking the Expo floor, team meals, conversations, and bonding in a way that does not happen in our day-to-day work.”

Dan Clark browsing products at PPAI Expo

Dan Clark, Sales Executive

What was your favorite part about PPAI Expo?

“Speaking with our current suppliers in a different setting and building a deeper connection with them! I also enjoyed seeing new products and suppliers that I otherwise wouldn’t have met and or seen.”

What advice would you give someone coming to PPAI Expo for the first time?

“Be ready and have a game plan! Utilize your colleagues who have attended before and use the walking map in the Sage Mobile app! Have clients and projects in mind while walking the floor and HAVE FUN!”

What education session was your favorite? What did you learn from it?

“I loved them all and had plenty of takeaways. On self-promotional products, consider going beyond just using your distributor logo as the focal point. Focus on a design that your client could visualize with their own branding, so they have more inspiration.”

“Also, hearing ‘no’ is sometimes a good thing. It means you are having the conversations!”

“Lastly, a quote that I loved, ‘Operate in your unique area of genius!’ Be who you are and own it!”

How will your experience at PPAI Expo help you in 2024?

“Building relationships with clients! I was able to find things and suggest new options that were different from what we normally see. Providing specifically curated ideas to clients shows that you always think of them and care about their brand!”

Attending PPAI Expo is a valuable experience that can set the stage for your future success in the promotional products industry. By embracing the size of the show, connecting with suppliers, taking plenty of notes, and reflecting on your experience, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate with confidence and make the most of new opportunities. Enjoy the journey!

To learn more about TK Promotions and our team, check us out here or contact us!