From 12:00 – 6:00 pm yesterday, print communications professionals gathered at McCormick Place to experience EXECUTIVE OUTLOOK, the annual technology update briefing which provides economic and marketing information, technological reports, and print trends and forecasts designed to help attendees gain the greatest benefit from their time at the show.

The day opened with NPES President Ralph Nappi’s introduction to the event and acknowledgement of sponsors EFI, Xerox, and OutputLinks Communications Group. Next on stage was Alan Beaulieu, President & CEO of The Institute for Trend Research who shared a forecast of how structural changes will affect the size and strength of the printing industry in 2014 and beyond. Wayne Peterson, President of Black Canyon Consulting, then spoke about “The Importance of ‘Brand’ to Your Printing Company”. He told attendees it is vital to create and sustain a competitive advantage by distilling your competitive strategy into an identifiable brand.

In an eye-opening reality check, Joseph Truncale, President of NAPL, presented examples of four major types of mergers and discussed the underlying reasons why mergers fail. In “M&A: What Works and What Doesn’t”, he also offered strategies to help avoid the pitfalls and ensure success with M&A-based growth.

Hal Hinderliter, President of Hal Hinderliter Consulting, presented “Engaging Print”, in which he explained how print providers can avoid market share erosion with the use of special inks, substrates, and finishing techniques along with emerging technologies such as printed electronics, augmented reality, and near field communication.

After a networking and coffee break, the afternoon took a technical turn. Chris Bondy, Professor Administrative Chair at RIT, kicked off the second half of the day with “Rounding the Wheel—Getting Your Technology Right”. Bondy outlined how the right technology can help your company identify and meet the needs that open doors in your marketplace.

Steven Schnoll of Schnoll Media Consulting suggested “Rethinking Technology” to help companies translate technologies into revenue-generating customer benefits that provide measurable results. And Jim Hamilton of InfoTrends delved into the hot topic of “Functional Printing—What is It and Why Should I Care?” He explained using the digital deposition of materials to create functional products that include items such as electronic components, sensors, and three-dimensional prototypes.

The name of Henry Freedman’s session summed up his subject. The Technology Watch editor spoke about “Constructing a Census of Production Color—If Your Press Went to School, What Grade Would It Get?” Then Brad Taylor of Sun Dance Marketing Solutions closed out the sessions with “Beating the Odds: Finding New Opportunities in the Printing Industry”. Taylor shared the process, struggles, and rewards his company experienced in its transition from a traditional printer to a full service marketing services provider.

The event culminated in award presentations, beginning with the “Best Of Category” 2013 MUST SEE ’EMS Awards, recognizing the most compelling and innovative products at PRINT 13. The Epson Stylus Pro inkjet printer was selected for the 2013 Legacy Award, as having a significant and continuing influence on the industry.

Nappi closed out the day with the presentation of the 2013 Positively Print Award. The award was bestowed upon Sappi Fine Paper’s “PRINT &” book. The Positively Print award is a print advocacy program designed to promote the power of print in today’s media mix.