Let's Face It: Face-to-Face Interaction Buoys Buying Power at GRAPH EXPO

The Official Show Daily publication annually interviews the president of the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC), which produces GRAPH EXPO.

Show Daily: With all of the industry changes over the past few years, are trade shows still relevant?

Ralph Nappi: There is little doubt that our industry has seen substantive changes over past few years. But just as print’s relevance stands among the onslaught of new media, so too does the relevance of face-to-face interaction that trade shows provide. While the numbers may change due to industry downsizing, the need for and value of GRAPH EXPO actually increases. There are a number of indications of the show’s growing importance.

Let’s start with the number of organizations that have decided to co-locate their events at the show. In 2010 we hosted 22 events ranging from annual meetings, award ceremonies, user groups, board meetings and advisory councils in six different segment areas. In 2011 that number increased to 34 co-located events. This year we are hosting 48 events in 12 different segments of our industry.

Another indicator of the relevance of trade shows, and specifically GRAPH EXPO, is the increase we continue to see in attendance. Last year GRAPH EXPO verified customer attendance, grew by 7%. The number of companies these buyers represented grew by 12% from 2010. This year, based upon pre-registered attendees, we are anticipating continued growth of 4% and 2%, respectively.

Also, we recently started tracking the dollar amount that attendee companies represent and learned that, last year, customers attending GRAPH EXPO accounted for nearly 70% of the print market. There are not too many places you can have access to that amount of buying power in four days!

SD: What were the reasons behind the increased emphasis on in-plants this year?

RN: It is a huge market that we needed to more fully embrace at GRAPH EXPO. We have always had a substantial presence of in-plants at the show. This segment represented the third highest among the 12 segments to which we cater, so we felt like we needed to formalize the programs and events for them. This why we created an InPlant education track to respond with sessions on not only maximizing productivity but also to provide guidance on business-building strategies, such as how to build multi-channel offerings.

It is obviously working because this year we have six in-plant co-located events: IPMA, Xplor, the Imaging Network Group, ACUP, In-Plant Graphics Conference, Rochester Software Associates WebCRD User Group, and GMC User Group Conference.

SD: The GRAPH EXPO MUST SEE ’EMS awards feature the latest technologies for our industry. What new technologies has GASC implemented for this year’s expo?

RN: We do try hard to practice what we preach. Years ago we started doing target marketing to our various industry segments through variable data and specific messaging for them. As far back as PRINT 09 we were heavily vested, and still are, in social media for networking, advertising, and programming as seen this year with the launch of The GASC Channel (www.gasc.org). In 2010 we did a virtual trade show leading up to GRAPH EXPO and also a follow-up virtual event.

This year our leading-edge technology for GRAPH EXPO is RFID name tags. We are doing a beta for this show that allows show staff and a small number of exhibitors to learn far more about visitor patterns, such as in which areas of the show floor they congregate, how long they stay on the floor, what pavilions they spend the most time in, and which exhibitors gain the most attention from visitors.

SD: Noting several new features to this year’s show floor, including The CPP Zone, what do we have to look forward to at PRINT 13 next September?

RN: There is no surprise that packaging is one of the strongest segments of our industry, and while GRAPH EXPO and PRINT have always had a component of packaging and converting as part of our show, we felt like we needed to beef it up even more. So, we decided to partner with CPP to co-locate their show with us next year. This year they have a small pavilion at GRAPH EXPO but next year they will fully co-locate their event with us.

Also for PRINT 13, we are trying hard to push our industry into newer, albeit, distant related technologies. Our Future Print pavilion is featuring vendors and sessions that address the potential of printed electronics, organic printing, and 3D printing or stereo lithography. We believe, while not an easy transition and not for all, our industry must embrace the technologies that provide opportunities for future growth.