Just a few years ago I went from producing client materials for trade shows, to attending many of them myself. That is quite a leap for a Print Buyer since we are pretty low down on the list of who gets to go to such things in the Advertising world. I definitely consider myself very fortunate for the opportunity PrintMediaCentr creates for me to cover and work directly with many of the industry organizations and event producers as well.
I’m not exactly sure how Skip Henk, president and CEO of Xplor, found me. Something tells me my Print Guardian Angel, Pat McGrew, had something to do with it, but he was the first to reach out and invite me to come to an event as a media sponsor. Xplor is the “worldwide association of users and suppliers that create, modify, and deliver customized information using document technologies.” If you are saying “HUH?” you are not alone!
By far the “document people” are the furthest from my print experience/knowledge wheelhouse. Despite my own research into document technologies, and having things like “transpromo” explained to me numerous times, I just didn’t get it. This group was as far left-brain print as you could get considering I grew up on Madison Avenue working on consumer advertising. To me, they were human Excel Sheets in my InDesign world, and although I was terrified that I would die of boredom at some point during the conference, I packed a suitcase and headed off to St. Pete Beach, FL to honor my commitment.
The event was held at the Trade Winds Resort situated on a stretch of private beach and just a few hundred feet from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was literally a living postcard, only better because there was Starbucks coffee available. I grabbed a Venti with a few extra shots to keep me awake, and headed off to take in some seminars I thought I had a chance of understanding. After the morning sessions we all gathered in the vendor exhibitor area and had lunch. This is where the real learning began.
The Xplor community welcomed me with open arms and every person I spoke with took the time to patiently explain what they did. The pieces of the puzzle started falling into place and by that afternoon I realized two things: first, this strange segment of the print industry was actually inventing and powering much of the automation software and technology the rest of us are using to get our projects done, and second, at some point this group has been involved in some manner with every single statement, document, form, letter, postcard, bill, policy and such that we touch during our lives. In essence, they are running the world!
I have learned more about direct mail, variable data, and personalization from the Xplorers than any other group or event I have attended to date. What I once believed had nothing to do with me is now one of my favorite gatherings of the year, and this April will not only be my third time back but I am also on the Xplor Education Committee under the social media/marketing umbrella. This year’s event
offers 60+ sessions presented by a literal "who’s who" of the industry. It’s also some of the best networking I do all year.
There are many events out there to choose from if you are lucky enough to be able to attend them. Whether you are an industry veteran or a newcomer, I would encourage you to look into all of them and especially the one’s you think have nothing to do with you. Like me, you might end up very surprised and part of a new print community!