Three to get ready, four to go

August 1, 2009

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

This magazine is filled with Print 09 coverage. Not familiar with my opinion of print industry trade shows? Read “One for the money, two for the show,” American Printer, June 2008. Find it online at money_two_for_the_show.html.

I have a few new observations just for Print 09, to make certain your trek to Chicago next month is a memorable yet useful event.

The first printing show I ever attended was Print 80, so Print occupies a soft spot in my heart. Or is the soft spot in my head?

Here is the who, what, where and why of Print 09.

Why this show?

Print-related trade shows and conferences take place every year. What is special about Print?

It only takes place every four years, so it must be something, right? After all, this is the biggest print show in North America, and the biggest print show on Earth, at least this year.

There is a print show every year in the same location as Print. It is called Graph Expo, and it is owned and managed by exactly the same people who run Print. Like baseball's National and American Leagues, Graph Expo and Print once were competitors. That was long ago. Now Print doesn't even have a differentiator like the designated hitter rule to distinguish it from Graph Expo.

What is unique about this show?

Historically, Print has been significantly larger than Graph Expo, with more exhibitors and larger exhibit spaces. For this reason, those printers who do not religiously attend print shows and conferences year after year are more likely to be at Print. Is this a good reason to attend? Emphatically, yes.

Networking with your peers is an excellent reason to attend any event. Allow time for it. Be sure to sign up for some of the seminars, where you are more likely to meet and interact with new acquaintances who share your business concerns and interests. This is golden opportunity to learn how your peers in other parts of the country and the world are handling this year's economic challenges.

Where am I going?

In Johnson's World there is always a lesson. Print 09 is at Chicago's McCormick Place, whose enormous western annex now dominates its South Side neighborhood, just RR Donnelley's Lakeside Press once dominated the neighborhood.

As you walk the floor of Print, notice some traditional exhibitors have greatly reduced their presence, or are missing altogether. Some will be back; some will not. The lesson: ignore change at your own peril.

Who stars in this show?

Experts and pundits and gurus, O my! By all means learn from the experts at the show, both in scheduled seminars and in exhibits on the show floor. Learn much, but take what you hear with a grain of salt.

Raise an eyebrow if the industry expert whom you paid significant bucks to hear pontificate in a conference room is also helping to peddle iron on the show floor.

Can a presenter be paid by vendors to serve at a sales function, yet remain impartial in making predictions and providing advice during a seminar? Perhaps, but caveat emptor.

This year you won't find any seminars by names like Johnson or Gorelick, but you will find us prowling the show floor, just like you. Please say hello, and share your thoughts with us. We aren't employed by any vendors, so feel free to buy us lunch.

Eat well

After a day at the show, visit Giordano's. It is not necessarily the best, but it does a good job of representing Chicago-style pizza. Allow plenty of time — they take forever to make a pizza.

For the more adventurous among you, skip the food vendors on the show floor for lunch. Make your way to the west hall of McCormick Place, step out the west doors onto Martin Luther King Drive, and walk a few blocks west on Cermak Road to one of the most vibrant Chinatowns in America. No, the areas you walk past don't look like the Magnificent Mile. Welcome to the real Chicago.