AIA 2023: A Surprise Learning Experience

June 22, 2023


We attended the AIA National Convention and Expo in San Francisco earlier this month and it was a surprise learning experience for us. Bet you have not heard this before. We have been attending this event for decades and we usually hear about:

  • The poor attendance of the architects on the Expo floor
  • Architects spending all their time in the education sessions and not with exhibitors
  • The Expo not being a good investment for exhibitors



AIA uses the Expo to finance the convention. You would think they would do their damnedest to make certain the exhibitors are thrilled with their experience and able to fully justify their investments in the show. As long as enough building products manufacturers find connecting with architects a mystery and use the Expo as an easy way to get in front of this audience, the AIA will continue with their current level of energy and priorities for the event.

The architects attend the convention to fulfill the CEU requirements for their licensure. As a result, the architects time on the Expo floor is limited. The onus is on the exhibitors to compel the architects to visit their exhibits. If you are a smaller exhibitor, have a new product, or have a less familiar brand, your odds of having good traffic from architects is dependent on your pre-show outreach. If you listen to our friend Mark Mitchell, you all are wasting your money exhibiting at the AIA Convention and Expo. He may be right or …

A New Insight


We experienced something new at AIA 2023. The technology exhibitors were very busy. The architect attendees were interested in learning about the latest technology serving their profession. ARCAT is a good example of a technology business providing the architects what they are looking for; specifically, a resource for products and the product specifications all in one place. Swatchbox had good traffic in their exhibit. We asked a few attendees why they visited this booth, and they explained samples are a staple in their business and getting them from one resource made it easier. The ARCAT and Swatchbox business sparked an idea.

The Idea


Architects, like most of us, want and need things to be easier. Certainly, they appreciate when a supplier makes their work easier like providing product resources and specification like ARCAT or samples like Swatchbox. With this in mind, we like the idea of the smaller, new brands featuring their products with the product resource companies. It will likely save the manufacturers money while gaining the exposure they are seeking as exhibitors plus all the other benefits the resources companies provide. Taking this idea one step further, ARCAT could increase its exhibit footprint to showcase the products of new, smaller manufacturers for a reasonable fee.



Providing architects with an experience seems to attract them to exhibits. Of Course, this requires a meaningful investment. Armstrong Ceilings is a good example of a manufacturer providing inspiration to the architects through their exhibit experience. DaVinci Roofscapes produced several good meetings with architects talking about specific projects because of a podcast being hosted in their exhibit. One of these contacts was a guest on the podcast “Build Tradition” with Peter Miller, Hon. AIA.

After years of hearing exhibitors complain about architects not visiting their exhibits, we saw a meaningful potential solution – partner with tech resource exhibitors like ARCAT or resource providers like Swatchbox to reach the architects. It does not appear architects are ignoring the manufacturing exhibitors; they are visiting the exhibitors that are fulfilling a need.

For the record, ARCAT, DaVinci Roofscapes, and Armstrong Ceilings are clients of ours. The decisions they are making about how to best reach and connect with architects are good examples of success. Is this a coincidence? We don’t think so.

Drop us a line if you are interested in learning more.



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