Why is Ralph Nappi so happy? The reason, other than the fact it’s GRAPH EXPO week in Chicago, is because this 2011 edition of the show is different from the past years. “There is diversity at this show that has never before existed at GRAPH EXPO” says Nappi, President of the Graphic Arts Show Company, which manages GRAPH EXPO. “This has become the place to be for professionals to assemble if you want to know how printing fits in 11 market segments—from digital to package printing, from transactional to in-plants, from workflow to design, from creative pros to newspaper production execs—it’s all here.”
This is evident, Nappi adds, by the increase of co-located meetings and events as well as the broadened educational scope, which brings an extra ‘how-to ’element in 2011. “We have nearly 100 sessions this year, which reflects the changes taking place in this industry. People want help; they want ‘how-to.’ Between these conference sessions, the theaters, and all the special interest pavilions, attendees really can do a deep dive on how to make the transition from being a printer to becoming a marketing services provider,” he explains. “For example, we’re not just talking about QR codes here at GRAPH EXPO—we’re showing people how to implement them and make money from them as a value-added service.”
All the co-located events tied to GRAPH EXPO this week are a particular source of pride for Nappi. “I am very encouraged,” he admits. There were 22 co-located events last year, “and we thought that was a lot.” Now it’s 34—up 50%—including such new additions as the Chicago Chapter of the American Marketing Association, which is the largest AMA chapter. “I think this is an indication of how the show is viewed. Three or four years ago, GRAPH EXPO didn’t even touch many of these segments.”
No economic excuses
Nappi says he was a bit concerned about the show in early August when the Dow did its volatile dance on Wall Street. “Two years ago, that would have scared people away [from the show].” But not now. “In the first quarter of this year, we thought we were well on our way to recovery. Then we had a slowdown in the second quarter. Despite the uncertainty, there’s been enough ‘wait and see’ in our industry,” he believes. “Most printers I speak with know that they need to get on with life.”
Coming into the show, Nappi reports that both exhibit space and attendee preregistration are up (by some 8% overall, with the number of companies up 16%). “Businesses are changing, and I’m not just talking about cycle recovery, but structural changes. For example, one exhibitor did just 5% of his business overseas a few years ago; now it’s up to 50% and that change is also reflected by a nearly 50% increase in the number of international attendees pre-registered for the show!”
“GRAPH EXPO is a great toolbox to help businesses adapt to our changing market. Actually it is the ultimate toolbox because where else can players from 11 different market segments get the tactical and strategic tools that will help them thrive?” No place but right here in Chicago!