Monday, November 19, 2012

A First Timer’s View of Pack Expo: 6 Tips for Las Vegas 2013

Rob Kaszubowski, CPP

Recently Chainalytics' packaging engineering team attended the PACK EXPO trade show in Chicago.  This year's show featured more than 1,000 exhibitors and had a record number of attendees. Unfortunately, the show also happened to coincide with Hurricane Sandy.  Not only were some east coast registrants prohibited from attending, but Hurricane Sandy also created a logistics nightmare for exhibitors and attendees who had arrived days earlier to set up their exhibits and network with fellow industry cohorts. Many of them had to rent a car to drive home, or bunker down in Chicago for a few extra days.

This was actually my first year attending the packaging industry’s primary show.  As a true packaging geek, I was excited to get a firsthand look at some of the latest innovations I had previously only seen in magazines and email blasts.  I was energized to meet up with past clients and discuss our projects and their current challenges; I looked forward to networking and rubbing elbows with fellow industry associates – people who truly spoke our language.

From a first timer’s point of view, I was definitely overwhelmed with the number of exhibitors, and amount of space to cover at McCormick Place.  I had been to other trade shows at different locations, but never anything of this magnitude. I had even heeded advice and warnings from co-workers about the size, but ignorantly shrugged them off.  Luckily, I had a purpose for the show, as I was researching specific equipment and materials for current clients. Without this focus, I could have easily gotten overwhelmed and just spun my tires.

Looking back on my first Pack Expo experience, I was able to drum up a few helpful tips for myself, and others, for next year’s show:
  • Have a Purpose:  If you are just attending to peruse through exhibits and search for cool designs and innovations you will be greatly overwhelmed by size, volume, number of people, and exhibits. 
  • Map Out a Plan: The facility site is enormous, with multiple levels, rooms inside of rooms, split aisles and conference rooms. The PACK EXPO site ( offers some good planning tools, and they even have an App for your Smartphone. Map out the exhibitors you want to check out and follow the path to get around to save steps and time. Work smarter, not harder! 
  • Talk to the Exhibitors:  I passed by a lot of booths and just grabbed literature or a business card, but I had greater traction with the exhibitors where I stopped and talked shop for a couple of minutes to see we had any mutual benefits to work together. 
  • Eat Early:  There are many food booths and carts, but with the large number of attendees the lines always seem long and out the door. Get in line early, or plan for a long wait to get your Chicago style dog! Same goes for coffee at a Starbucks! 
  • Save Room in Your Carry-on:  There are lots of product samples and trade show giveaway goodies. This year’s show was right before Halloween, so there was extra candy available. Save a little room in your bag to stash all your trade show gems. 
  • Wear Comfy Shoes: As previously mentioned, this place is huge! Plan to walk a lot. 
Even though I was a little overwhelmed at this year’s show, I still chalk it up as a success. I was able to garner some additional insight into my projects and made some key contacts. Plus, the knowledge I gained for next year’s show is priceless.  Follow my tips above and you’ll be well on your way to a great PACK EXPO experience next year in Las Vegas. See you there!

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