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Graph Expo 2014 ... If I could walk 500 miles

Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2014 by Jules VanSant.

alt textI just spent the past 4 days in Chicago putting miles on (just check my FitBit) at the annual Print Industry trade show #GraphExpo14. My visit was full of adventures in discovering new technologies, meeting new people, checking in with trends and pastimes, as well as seeing what was new in the Windy City. 80% of each 24 hour day was spent catching up with many, many, many people! And yes, 5-6 hours of sleep is the norm :).

Who did I see? First, many of the great people who own/work at our with member firms as well as others in the industry who didn’t know what PPI has to offer but took the time to share and learn more. These connections were by appointment, by circumstance or by luck either on the show floor, on the street or at vendor events. We were thrilled to host a “Constructive Cocktails - Chicago-Style” with EFI at the Michael Jordan Steak House, with a stellar attendance for a first time event!

Many of my PIA affiliate peers were in attendance - always a great opportunity to share ideas on how to continue to be relevant to the ever evolving business we serve. I also rubbed elbows with national & international Benny award winners at the Premier Print Awards Gala, honoring the best in the world. From our 2013 PrintROCKS winners emerged our own McCallum Print Group as a recipient! We are looking for yet more big winners from our PrintROCKS 2014 entries to be submitted next Spring into the 2015 Bennys.

Vendors were out in force this year - although some just in attendance and no booth or smaller and no equipment. Digital presses, large format, finishing and mailing dominated the real estate. Offset is obviously an ongoing interest and shops are busy, yet with one new press seeming to replace what 2 or 3 might have once done, sales are slowing and competition is tough. The usual suspects have pulled back on the big dollars it takes to bring equipment to the show and instead create a space to host customers and chat about future technology. Ancillary products and services to offset were also noticeably light in booth space.

alt textI also connected with many industry thought leaders who you might see in industry rags, blogs, social media and involved with PPI at live events, online trainings or peer groups. This included hanging out with the women of the #Printerverse , #Printchat and #GirlsWhoPrint (click the hashtag to learn more) . Oh - I also had the privilege of speaking on a panel about how to effectively Market your firm (printing, market services, soup to nuts…) which streamed live on Twitter for all the print world to see ;) A whirlwind week for sure!

Bottom line - the energy for those who were exhibiting and attending was good, sales were happening and the future for print communications seemed bright… especially where inkjet, software, mailing and large format are concerned. But attendance was visually down ( I don’t have the numbers) and the show floor was significantly smaller than ever before. The registration area was inside the single hall, the back wall wasn’t as far to walk to and empty spaces went unsold – or maybe exhibitors didn’t make their flight because someone didn’t want to be transferred to Hawaii?!

What’s the future? Do you plan to attend Graph Expo in 2015, or maybe it’s a more niched show like SGIA, EFI Connect or Conference training like you can get at the Color Management Conference? This is a conversation I did have with many people, and like with our evolving commercial print space, we all want something to remain, but obviously something has to change. What would you suggest? In the end, it can’t be about legacy – it’s all about serving YOU.

Did Graph Expo Deliver ROI? Read another thought from Barb Pellow with Infotrends as posted 10/2/14 on