The Show Must Go (On)
Like many of you, I winced in horror when it was initially announced that the drupa extravaganza would be held every three years instead of four. Show organizer Messe Düsseldorf polled the electorate and decided that, well, maybe every four years is a better choice. Exit polls should be taken seriously, unless you're Bernie Sanders. Then they're tools of a biased media.
Four years is ample time to develop greatness. Look at all the great events that take place on a quadrennial basis. The Olympics, for one. Don't ask me for another example. I had to look up quadrennial just to make sure I used the meaning correctly.
After all, if a genius like Benny Landa can intro his technology at drupa 2012 and still not be able to deliver the product commercially at drupa 2016, then it stands to reason that four years is necessary to develop disruptive technologies. Sure, that's twice as long as it used to take for Def Leppard to record an album, but we digress.
My beef isn't with drupa or GRAPH EXPO per se. It's the whole event culture that has sprung up in our industry. We've reached an age of specialization. It won't be long before a glut of specialized shows and conferences nudge out the broader-scoped events.
Or will they?
Mega-shows just aren't what they used to be, mainly because manufacturers discovered (primarily in the last 10 years) that they can get more bang for their buck with a captive audience at open houses, inviting a group of customers/prospects to view their technology in action at a printer based in a major city or in their demo centers. Some manufacturers have gone a step farther by holding their events, coincidentally and conveniently, in Chicago during GRAPH EXPO/PRINT. They deserve 500 bonus moocher points for that move.
It's great how honest printers and vendors can be when you lower the notepad. About seven years ago, during a particularly ineffective opening Sunday at GRAPH EXPO, one vendor confided, "You know, if someone had the guts to say, 'I'm not setting up this year,' then more would follow. But companies are afraid what message that would send to customers." Heidelberg was the first to ignore the image police and stay home, and the vendor shaming that followed (including by yours truly) made little difference in the end. Sure, most of the major manufacturers attend each year, but now when they don't exhibit, it's not the OMG moment or eyebrow raiser it would have been 10 years ago.
Know what? GRAPH EXPO survived. No amount of journo whining and vendor eye rolling will dictate the existence, or frequency, of trade exhibitions. The market will bear what it will bear. As long as there is a buck to be had, the show will go on.
Do we really need GRAPH EXPO every year? Apparently, we do, for it's still a money maker. Your airline ticket, hotel reservation and dinner reservation at Ditka's is as good as a vote cast for GRAPH EXPO.
Wait ... we're not in Chicago this fall. It's Orlando. Any chance drupa 2020 will move to Budapest?