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unPACKed podcast: A Sneak Peek at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2023

Hear Laura Thompson, PMMI’s Vice President, Trade Shows, provide an insider's look at what's in store for attendees and exhibitors at the upcoming PACK EXPO Las Vegas.

With mere weeks to go, excitement is building for the largest PACK EXPO Las Vegas in the show's history. In this episode of unPACKed with PMMI, Laura Thompson, PMMI’s Vice President, Trade Shows, gives an insider's look at what's in store for attendees and exhibitors at the upcoming PACK EXPO Las Vegas. Thompson walks attendees and exhibitors alike through the latest innovations, must-see attractions, and timeless favorites that make PACK EXPO Las Vegas the ultimate industry showcase.

From cutting-edge technologies to hands-on demonstrations, she unveils the dynamic experiences awaiting visitors at the show. Tune in to discover the future of packaging and processing and get ready to be amazed by new exhibits that push the boundaries of innovation. Whether you're a packaging pro or new to the scene, this episode is your guide to all things PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2023. Join us as we count down to the big event and explore the world of innovation, inspiration, and endless possibilities.

To subscribe, rate, review, and find more unPACKED podcast episodes, visit pmmi.org/podcast or find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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Transcript

Sean Riley:

So with all the fancy introductions out of the way, welcome to the podcast, Laura.

Laura Thompson:

Thanks, Sean.

Sean Riley:

You are our all things PACK EXPO Las Vegas, our guru. For those out there that aren't familiar with Laura, I know a stat that I hear kind of every year when we're talking about PACK EXPOs, that there's a good percentage are first time attendees, correct?

Laura Thompson:

About half-

Sean Riley:

Yes.

Laura Thompson:

Are new to the show.

Sean Riley:

Good. So around 50% are new. So with that in mind, we're talking about PACK EXPO Las Vegas. We're talking about how wonderful it is. If I haven't signed up, I know about it, you know about it. But for those listening that don't, why do I have to attend PACK EXPO Las Vegas?

Laura Thompson:

I would say the biggest selling point for our show is truly the depth and breadth of the show. It covers from processing the beginning of your operation, packaging, the type of package you're putting it in, all the way to sending it out the door to your customers. It is everything throughout the entire process, and it's huge this year, Sean, it's the biggest show that we've ever had. We're approaching a million square feet, 2000 exhibitors, and the solutions there cover every industry. Solutions for over 40 vertical markets. And one thing we hear a lot from the new attendees is the surprise at kind of the effect of, "Oh, I found something I didn't even know I needed." Or, "I saw something then that I always thought was for another industry, but I found out that would work for me and apply for my particular needs."

So it is a great opportunity to truly see what's out there. There's a ton of operating machinery on the shelf floor so you can really see it. You can talk to the exhibitors, have detailed conversations to really find exactly what you need for wherever you are in your packaging or processing operation.

Sean Riley:

And I know the theme this year is expect innovation. And I guess that really ties into one thing that I know we like to tout about the show is that you really get the opportunity to see technology in action, see machinery that's actually running on the show floor.

Laura Thompson:

It's the reason why the attendees come to the show. Every year we ask, give us the top three reasons. And it's number one, it's the opportunity to see the machinery and to compare and also learn about new solutions. There's a ton of new solutions, especially with automation out there that people like I said, may not have been aware of and a great opportunity to really familiarize yourself with that and learn about what's out there.

Sean Riley:

Which goes back to what you said where people stumble upon things that they didn't even necessarily know would solve their problem just because it is such a massive, massive endeavor.

Laura Thompson:

Correct. But we do have a lot of resources available to help.

Sean Riley:

Yes. And we're going to touch on them in a second, but what I wanted to see if we could hit first was what's something new for those that have attended previously? What are some new features that we can look forward to seeing this year?

Laura Thompson:

We have some exciting new show floor destinations. One of the highlights will be Sustainability Central. As you know, sustainability is huge and the good part of this is it covers sustainability again from every part of the operation. We also have the new Logistics Pavilion for Las Vegas, and our Processing Pavilion is twice the size as it was in 2021.

Sean Riley:

Wow.

Laura Thompson:

So as I mentioned you say, yes, it is a large show, but we do have some targeted places to help assist people with finding what they need. We have targeted pavilions, we have the Processing Zone, we have the Logistics Pavilion, we have the Healthcare Pavilion, Reusable Packaging. I mean, there's several of these focused show floor areas, which are a great way to get people started.

Sean Riley:

We did a previous podcast with Brent from Fuseneo. With that in mind, I know we kind of dove into Sustainability Central with him, but are there other things sustainability wise on the show floor that people should be aware of because it is, it's the number one topic. It's what everybody talks about. It's what all the magazines are covering. So what else can people expect?

Laura Thompson:

Well, we have our PACK EXPO Green Program where any exhibitor who is providing a sustainable solution, whether it's a new material, energy savings, they are designated with a PACK EXPO green icon. So you can look for that. They'll have a placard in their booth. Also, if you're searching online or in the mobile app, they'll have a little green icon next to their exhibitor listing. We also have a sustainability track. We have over 100 show floor education sessions going on. And if you're looking in particular to learn about sustainability, you can search and search for that icon and that'll show you the track.

And then we even have a more in-depth sustainability finder that the PMMI Media Group has put together, and that really helps kind of hone in on any specific type of sustainable solutions that attendees may be looking for. We also have Dow as our sustainability partner and they are sponsoring all of the recycle bins on the show floor. We're trying to step up our recycle program both during the show. As show management we recycle any leftover carpet post show and we also have a program where we're working with exhibitors where anything reusable left behind after the show we're donating to local organizations.

Sean Riley:

Oh, that's really neat. Is that something we've done previously or is this brand new?

Laura Thompson:

The direct donations to the local organizations is new this year.

Sean Riley:

That's awesome.

Laura Thompson:

And we're really excited about it. I remember seeing an entire shelving unit one year leaving the show, and I was trying so hard to get somebody to take it because I didn't want to throw it away. And so now we have a system in place that we're able to collect that and provide some assistance to the community.

Sean Riley:

And that sort of ties in with the Reusable Packaging Pavilion where they're very big on reuse of things.

Laura Thompson:

Yes. The Reusable Packaging Pavilion. And they also, they have their pavilion where their members are exhibiting and they also have education sessions in their booth as well that are specifically focused on the reuse aspect of especially the reusable pallets.

Sean Riley:

Very cool. So we talked about education, we touched on it a bunch of times. Is there other trends and topics that you know of that are going to be discussed in there beyond... We hit sustainability, but are there other things that you can think of for the innovation stage or for the forum that are going to be discussed?

Laura Thompson:

Obviously sustainability. We know a lot of companies are facing workforce challenges, so it's looking at how you can improve current workforce, how you can take advantage of automation, AI, cybersecurity. If you look at the key industry topics right now, there's a session that addresses it. So I do recommend anybody who is planning to attend the show, you can search on our website, you can download the mobile app, you can put in a keyword, you can make a plan. And the good thing about the education, Sean, is it's right on the show floor. We understand that people's time is very valuable and there's also 2000 exhibitors that you're trying to go and see. So they're quick sessions. You can pop in, you can get quick information. And another thing is if you attend and you miss a couple sessions that you are particularly interested in, the majority of them will be available online.

Sean Riley:

Awesome.

Laura Thompson:

Like the Innovation Stages, so attendees can access that information after the show as well.

Sean Riley:

What kind of things can we do from a networking perspective? Is there networking opportunities that are available on the show floor? It can't just be all booth visits and things like that, is there?

Laura Thompson:

We have a ton of opportunities. One thing I'm really excited about is our PACK Gives Back Event is returning this year and it's a new format. It's an exclusive performance of the Cirque du Soleil O show and it's taking place the night before the show. It's sponsored by Rockwell and the proceeds benefit PMMI Education and Training Foundation. We typically give away about six scholarships as a result of this event. We also have the Packaging and Processing Women's Leadership Network breakfast returning. That'll take place Tuesday morning during the show. And that is always a wonderful event, very well attended and a great opportunity to network. As we talked about the first timers, Sean, we have a first timers lounge available. If you're first time attendee, you can stop by the lounge and there is a networking reception there as well. So it's a great place to come. You can meet other first timers and talk amongst yourselves. Also in that lounge, there's education. We have a Packaging 101 taking place that I believe you will be presenting, Sean.

Sean Riley:

I do present that every morning. And the interesting thing with the first timers, lounges, a lot of people are kind of in the same boat and may have already solved the problem that somebody else is looking for because they're kind of newer to the industry. So it is a great networking opportunity for first timers. So I would urge people to take advantage of that. Plus you get to see a presentation by me telling you about all the wonderful show futures. Yeah, I mean that's worth the price of admission alone.

Laura Thompson:

Obviously, that's the main driver.

Sean Riley:

Yeah it is.

Laura Thompson:

But it's a great chance to help connect with other people who are new. And we do try to provide resources in there as well. Like I said, we have the sessions, we have a networking reception to really help people plan their show experience. We also have a young professionals networking event. The Candy Bar Lounge hosts an event. There's a ton of opportunities for you to meet with others and engage during the show depending on your needs and what you're looking to accomplish.

Sean Riley:

Is there anything we can provide them ahead of time that can sort of help them navigate the show even easier?

Laura Thompson:

I didn't mention our PACK Match program. It's another resource that we have available for new attendees or for someone who's looking for a particular solution and needs a little bit of guidance. So it's a one-on-one consultation and people can sign up now, they can go to the website, a registered attendee can submit a form and we will connect you with one of our consultants. They will schedule a call with you and talk through what you're looking for and recommend exhibitors for you to visit during the show. So if you are new, need some guidance, I highly recommend doing that. The show's big. It is 2000 exhibitors, it's a million square feet. Our goal is to provide the resources to the attendees to make it more manageable and help plan in advance or provide assistance onsite to help make the most of their experience and make sure they're finding what they need.

Sean Riley:

So we've hit on a ton of different things that are happening at the show, all the reasons to attend the show. Are there other unique or fun things that you can think of in particular this year that you want to highlight?

Laura Thompson:

Of course. We have the Technology Excellence Awards are returning this year, which is always fun. We encourage people to go and visit the finalists. We announced the finalists, and then during the show, attendees can vote and then those finalists are announced during the show. There's some great new technologies and packages that are the finalists and that is available now on the website, Packexpolasvegas.com.

Sean Riley:

Very cool.

Laura Thompson:

There's also a lot of fun student programs. It's honestly one of my favorite part of the show. We have the Future Innovators Robotics Showcase. If you have not visited that booth before, stop by and talk to these kids. They are so amazing to talk to and to hear the passion and them talk about their projects. And it's a great opportunity too, to introduce them to the industry. We make sure we give them a tour of the show so they can understand a little bit more about the packaging side. There's the amazing packaging race as well that happens the last day of the show. And there are teams and it's really fun. It's essentially a scavenger hunt throughout the show halls and it's really fun to see.

Sean Riley:

Yeah, and it's cool to see the exhibitors interacting with the students, the exhibitors who have been at this, some of them for decades, it's been in their families. And to see how excited they are to be interacting with the next generation is really cool to see. And I know we're creeping up on showtime, which is the busiest time of the year for you. So I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to do this for us and yeah, thanks a lot.

Laura Thompson:

Absolutely. Thank you.

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