It’s Official: A New Format for PRINTING United, and a New Opportunity for Exhibitors
As the industry now knows, PRINTING United won’t go on this year as a conventional trade show. But, a month-long, online edition with a series of topically-based “Insight Days” is coming in the fall, and the event will be back in all of its physical glory in Orlando, Fla., in 2021.
This was the essence of the news broken to PRINTING United exhibitors in a webinar hosted for them on June 24 by Ford Bowers, president and CEO of PRINTING United Alliance; and Mark J. Subers, president of PRINTING United. They explained the rationale for the cancellation of the show and described the plan for turning it into a comprehensive online experience that will deliver the same kind of value for its sponsors as a live event.
Until very recently, said Bowers, there was no reason to think that PRINTING United – originally set to take place in Atlanta in October – would not happen as planned. Despite apprehensions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, enthusiasm for the show remained high as its 600 exhibitors looked to it as their principal face-to-face marketing opportunity in 2020.
Sympathetic to exhibitors’ concerns about pandemic-related pressures on their cash flows, PRINTING United Alliance responded with accommodations made for exhibitors to alleviate any financial challenges that companies may be facing given the pandemic. The result, according to Bowers, has been a net increase in exhibitors and floor space since March, with an additional 7,000 square feet booked just a few weeks ago.
Bowers noted that throughout the year, PRINTING United Alliance has been in continuous touch with Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center, the city of Atlanta, and experts in mass gatherings at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to reconfirm the feasibility of holding the event. It also surveyed prospective attendees to determine how willing they would be to travel to events in general, and PRINTING United specifically, in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Initially, said Bowers, the feedback was encouraging, with nearly two-thirds of respondents indicating a willingness to travel. But when that response later dropped to less than half, and as reports of newly rising rates of infection in many states began to spread, the negative implications for PRINTING United became clear.
“The one thing we really can’t control is public sentiment about travel,” Bowers said, adding that under these circumstances, it wasn’t possible to assure exhibitors the level of attendance they had a right to expect at an in-person event.
Acknowledging that this was a “painful” call for PRINTING United Alliance to make, Bowers said the association would create an alternative “engagement opportunity” for exhibitors in the fourth quarter. Subers then picked up the narrative with an outline of the plan, which he said was aimed at exposing exhibitors “to a very large community of buyers” in lieu of an on-site event.
It will take the form of a series of online programs called “PRINTING United Insight Days,” to be presented over multiple days in October (now dubbed “PRINTING United Month,” according to Subers). Addressing six print market segments – apparel, textile, commercial, packaging, graphics, and in-plant – the programs will be delivered in a professionally hosted news magazine format that Subers likened to a “60 Minutes for the printing industry.”
The result, Subers said, will be “a unique and highly engaging experience that will deliver an exceptional level of value to the full printing community,” including the kind of lead-generating activity that exhibitors normally look forward to at trade shows.
“We believe this will deliver on the business development activities that we’ll be missing from the live event in Atlanta,” Subers declared, thanking exhibitors for their continuing support. He added that he and his teams will reach out to all exhibitors over the next few weeks with options for transitioning their investments into the Insight Days platform and subsequent PRINTING United Expo events.
“As your partner, we ask for your patience as we compress what is generally a year-long process into a couple of months over a time when access to a normal business environment is severely limited,” Subers said.
Anticipating better times ahead, PRINTING United Alliance invites exhibitors and attendees to mark their calendars for PRINTING United’s return to a physical venue: the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where the show will take place Oct. 6-8, 2021. Updates and FAQs about all PRINTING United events are available at printingunited.com.