One for the money, two for the show

June 1, 2008

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

Many of AMERICAN PRINTER's recent articles have been about Drupa. To read this magazine and the other trade magazines, you would think that everyone is attending Drupa.

Statistics tell us otherwise. I'm not attending, and neither are the majority of AMERICAN PRINTER's 70,000+ readers. Why not? After all, this is the biggest graphic arts show on the planet.

On the bulletin board behind my desk hang badges from the last few shows and conferences I've attended, to remind me to stay involved and informed. The best way I know to do this is to meet with my peers at shows, conferences and seminars.

It is also good for me to get away from my office for a few days. I return refreshed, rejuvenated and re-energized.

In the left bottom drawer of my desk are my printing company's current financial statements. These remind me not to avoid problems in my shop by attending too many out-of-town shows and conferences. I need to actually be in the plant, on the job, to put all these great things I've learned into practice.

I can't attend every show and conference that takes place. I can't even appear at all the shows to which I am invited to speak. Why not? I have a business to run!

How many print-related shows, conferences, seminars or other events have you attended in the past year?

If your answer was “one” or “none,” here are some reasons to consider stepping up your event participation.

Tradeshow pros…

Be one of the few

I noted in the opening paragraph that most printers aren't at Drupa. The majority of printers don't ever attend a show. Too bad, for knowledge is power.

Meet people

Shows aren't just attended by experts. You'll meet printers from all over the city, the country or the world. Many of them have the same problems you do. Some have solved these problems and are willing to share their answers with you.

See me

I'm on the program at many shows. So come and see me. You don't even have to come to my seminar or panel session. Just attend a bunch of sessions, and odds are I'll be in the audience with you. If Steve Johnson is not on the speaker list, ask the show promoters why not.

Learn something

Unless you stay locked up in your hotel room, you can't help leaving smarter than you arrived. This is a good thing.

…and cons

On the other hand, if you answered that you've attended 10 or more printing industry events in the past year, you just might be running away from the shop. Here are some reasons to cut back.

Anchors aweigh

You've probably bought enough equipment at these shows to anchor a small ocean liner. How about anchoring your business, instead? Make sure the iron you've already bought is running properly, being billed properly and doing all the great things you intended it to do.

Come clean about your motives

If you can name instantly the hottest gentlemen's clubs in Düsseldorf, Chicago, Sewickley and Rochester, you might not be attending events for the right reasons. The same is true if you have the name badges but can't remember attending the events.

Save some money

Travel costs. Don't eliminate it, but do make sure you are getting sufficient bang for your buck. You'll see much duplication if you attend several shows in quick succession.

Learn anyway

Vendors now put their tradeshow presentations on podcasts and webinars. Trade show “special pricing” often extends for months before and after the show. It isn't practical to make every show, but this need not keep you out of the loop.

Spread the joy

As I said, I'm not attending Drupa, but I will be at GraphExpo, Oct. 2629 in Chicago. Sure, Germany is nice in the spring. But I'm attending a number of diverse, smaller industry events this spring covering a wide range of topics that apply specifically to my business. Sometimes the big show isn't the best show…for you.

A parting thought

Drupa's purpose is to sell equipment and services to printers, so of course all the journalists and vendors are there.

Why not follow their example? Instead of going to a tradeshow to buy, how about going to sell?

Who are your largest customers? Consider attending their trade shows or spring conferences.

Learn what your big customers' needs and challenges are. Find out how print can help solve their problems. Meet more prospects in same line of work as the clients you are already serving so well. Maybe you will even come home with orders to run on your equipment, instead of ordering more equipment.