Hello Sondra and thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. You are a member of my LinkedIn group (Print Production Professionals) and I have always appreciated your participation, especially in response to people needing printing help… so with that being said…

DC: WHO is Sondra Benoudiz and what does she do?

SB: I’m a 25-year association management veteran — 15 of which have been with the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA). I like to say I’m the head cheerleader for specialty imagers, but officially I’m the executive vice president at SGIA. My first love has always been membership because the best part of my job is helping members. This time of year, you can find me most often working with exhibitors to help them maximize their investment in this exciting and ever-changing industry.

DC: What is the SGIA?

SB: SGIA is really the best thing that ever happened to specialty imagers. It’s a 65 year old, non-profit organization dedicated to helping people who print specialty items.  It’s easier to say what our members don’t exclusively print:  books, magazines, documents, flexo or gravure.  Everything else, we cover.  We’ve printed some crazy things.  My personal favorites were water, a rice grain and a Texas longhorn.

SGIA hosts the  industry’s most diverse trade show, we monitor the crazy, over-reaching goings on in Congress (i.e. lead paint and phthalates), we offer the best and most informative workshops and seminars for imagers, and we keep everyone on their toes when it comes to the newest and greatest printing techniques (caviar beads, anyone?). It’s easily the best Association for graphic producers, garment decorators and installers.

Plus, we provide free referrals to print buyers.  So if you need shoe laces or billboards, SGIA will help you locate a member that can help.

DC: The 2010 SGIA Expo is coming up in October – and its HUGE!!!  What does it take to create and manage an event like this?

SB: Engaged attendees, amazing exhibitors and an equally first-rate staff who are dedicated to not only the success of the Expo, but also each members’ business plans. Everyone works hard to make the Expo an event that exhibitors launch new products and showcase the newest R&D, which in turn means the best possible event for attendees. We try really hard to make it one helluva show for everyone.

DC:  Are there any must-sees or must-attends for people who cant get to everything?

SB: The Expert Advice Zones are probably the biggest bang for your buck (even though the Expo is FREE until September 10!). Industry experts will be on-hand in each Zone to discuss all of the most exciting, innovative advancements and where you can find them on the show floor. And of course, it’s absolutely necessary to stop by the SGIA booth 313 to say hello to me, have a cup of coffee, and see how we can help you make your job easier.

DC: Slots? Craps? Blackjack? Roulette? Poker?  Are you a gambling gal?

SB: You know what? After 26 shows as association management, I’ve got all the excitement I can take — but I do enjoy watching my husband win at blackjack. And being a true fan of Vegas, I’m sure to leave all our winnings behind at the fantastic shows, delicious meals and maybe even a massage (if I’m lucky).

DC:  I have to ask… will what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas? Or will you share when you get back?

SB: As we’ve been saying in our ads — what happens at the Expo … is just the beginning. We’ll be live “tweeting” from the show with #SGIAExpo, and keeping up on LinkedIn. And we will definitely share with the imaging community the incredible success the show always brings to its exhibitors and attendees when we return home.

DC: How is the SGIA using Social Media to grow and benefit its members?

SB: We’re using, and surprisingly enjoying, all of the culprits: Twitter, LinkedIn, a little bit of Facebook. Twitter is a great way to keep up with the community on a more personal level (if you can get personal in 140 characters or less). And LinkedIn has been a fantastic tool to “link up” with professionals in the community, answer questions and get answers really fast.

DC:  Lastly, if you were to give the commencement speech at The University of Maryland – College Park – my alma mater as well – what would be your message be regarding the future of print?

SB: Well, I guess I’d have to say that specialty imaging is not for the faint of heart! You really have to love the smell of ink early in the morning — margins are tight, competition is tough and change is definite.

This is absolutely the case when it comes to specialty imaging. Years ago, being a specialty imager was mostly about creating the most amazing print possible, in a decent turn-around time. Today, recent technology advancements are closing the gaps in print quality and speed. It’s more important than ever to have another ace up your sleeve to stay competitive.

So, I guess my advice would be: Stay current and (pardon the cliché) think outside the box. Your creativity shouldn’t only be limited to what you’re printing, but also everything else you need to do to win the job. Consider offering design, print and installation services, and maybe throw in distribution if needed. It’s all about how you can maximize the value of your printing services that will help you stay competitive today.

And no matter what field you choose, your first stop should be the Association, because we have your best interests at heart.  Trade associations like SGIA can offer you all the tools necessary to get your business off the ground.

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