Trade Shows: Go With a Purpose (and PRINTING United Is Next Week)
Like many of you who are reading this column, I am headed to PRINTING United next week. PRINTING United is a brand-new trade show built on the strong foundation of the SGIA Expo. This newly relaunched event is designed to provide access to the latest solutions for apparel, graphics/wide-format and functional printing applications, while also extending into the commercial, packaging, and in-plant printing segments.
While some organizations balk at the costs associated with travel and registration (although you can often get a complimentary show pass), the value of what you gain in knowledge, exposure to new products, business contacts, and ideas to enhance your own business typically far outweighs the costs. My advice to attendees heading to Dallas to maximize their experience is to attend PRINTING United with a sense of purpose and a plan.
- Do your homework. PRINTING United’s over 720,000-sq.-ft. show floor will provide access to 600+ exhibitors featuring the latest technologies and solutions. Given the breadth of printing technologies on display, it is easy to get distracted from your mission and start “oohing” and “aahing” at all of the cool products instead of focusing on the technology evaluations that justified your trip to Dallas in the first place. One way to stay on track is to map out in advance which specific products and vendors you want to visit when you’re at the show. Define those vendors and products based on your business strategy. Set up appointments in advance with the suppliers that have solutions that will help your business drive volume, and improve profitability and margins. Use the event as an opportunity to quickly and efficiently compare and contrast vendors and solutions in a single location.
- Education, education, education. While the show floor is a flurry of activity, the event will host many valuable educational sessions. The event’s conference program offers a unique opportunity to develop employees and learn about strategies to take advantage of emerging new technologies. The educational sessions feature industry leaders, printing experts, and business gurus. Session topics include workflow, selling strategies, and technology. Educational sessions are free to registered SGIA members with a PRINTING United Expo + Education Pass; non-members pay $115. The conference session schedule is available online, but the big benefits for you and your business are:
- Ability to learn firsthand from industry experts and peers that have successfully implemented technology solutions
- Keep up-to-date on new and emerging technologies
- Create talking points to communicate more effectively with your customers
- Obtain immediate answers and solutions to issues within your organizations
- Discover new products that can decrease expenses and increase revenues
- Networking galore. In a world where people often need to work together in loose partnerships to achieve their goals quickly, knowing the right people is more important than ever. As a result, the ability to develop and maintain a broad network of business friendships is a critical skill for every career professional. People with strong networks get more things done more effectively, they learn from others with different knowledge or experience, and they are able to use their network as they seek to move on in their careers (whether in a planned way or because a crisis looms).
Conferences and trade shows like PRINTING United offer prime opportunities for networking. There is an opening night party on Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 7 p.m. — 9 p.m. at Gilley’s in Dallas for the first 2,000 people that get there. Vendors are also scheduling events and dinners, and this is more than networking — it is purposeful relationship building. Stepping away from the intensity of the trade show floor provides time for a meaningful dialogue about products, services, and solutions, while also strengthening relationships and trust. Relationships blossom in lower-stress situations like dinner parties and social settings. These environments allow everyone to act natural. There is a more genuine and authentic discussion, and this is when ideas start to flow.
The Bottom Line
While attending a trade show is great for gaining industry knowledge, comparing products, and making contacts, it can also be a daunting experience if you’re not proactive and prepared. To get the most out of PRINTING United, make vendor appointments, evaluate educational sessions to enhance knowledge and skills, and network, network, network. See you in Dallas!
A digital printing and publishing pioneer and marketing expert, Barbara Pellow helps companies develop multi-media strategies that ride the information wave whether it is developing a strategy to launch a new product, building a strategic marketing plan or educating your sales force on how to deliver an effective value proposition. She brings the knowledge and skills to help companies expand and grow business opportunity. Barb has had a number of high-profile marketing and sales positions including Chief Marketing Officer for the Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Corporate Vice President of Marketing for IKON Office Solutions, and Vice President and General Manager for the Xerox Document Production Systems Group. She also served as the Gannett chair in integrated publishing sciences in Rochester Institute of Technology's (RIT) School of Printing Management and Sciences (SPMS). Most recently, Barb was the Group Director for Business Development at InfoTrends. She is currently the Manager of Pellow and Partners, LLC.
Barb can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org (Mobile, 585-734-2228)