It never seems old to visit Graph Expo, but this year's show reinforces significant trends and highlights the difference from "then" to "now." Overall, the show remains highly relevant to business owners who are seeking ideas, insights, and perspective. While technology and production equipment dominate the landscape, in some ways the show has morphed from "product"-orientation to giant peer group, a place for the industry to reflect and reinvigorate.
Size: Graph Expo 2012 is a fraction of the size of its predecessor from five years ago, easily captured on foot with one full day or at most two which makes it enticing for owners who can't get away for big blocks of time. Graph Expo 2000 would dwarf the current incarnation, as it used to take up two buildings and way more floor space.
Noise & Smell: The absence of presses and ink provides for a much more quiet environment. It has become symbolic of the trend toward data and software being king rather than pressroom firepower ruling the day. I vividly recall trying to hold a client meeting a few years ago over the din of Komori presses running next to the NAPL booth; no more, it's all quiet.
Business Intelligence: The watchwords have become "business intelligence" and "strategy" rather than impressions per minute or number of cylinders. A successful show is measured by actionable insights rather than show-special equipment bargains.
Intellectual Capital: The show mirrors the industry's long-term shift from manufacturing prowess to intellectual capital as the driving force behind successful companies. The structural evolution from "blue collar" industry to service business is well documented and continuing.
Legacy Stalwarts: It's no secret that the big iron community has radically downsized or eliminated their presence at Graph Expo, but, in doing so, their large footprint with lots of carpet and not much going on is a stark reminder of how their stars have faded, now replaced by the likes of HP, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Xerox, and others. One could literally feel the vibrancy and relevancy of the new kids on the block, especially HP, whose booth was roaring with activity.
For owners and senior managers seeking validation of their plans or new ideas, Graph Expo 2012 offered extraordinary opportunity.