Yesterday (May 14th, 2024), I received a newsletter from Deborah Corn - two things caught my attention. The first thing was the headline that repeated drupa’s slogan, “We Create the Future,” which, of course, is nonsense. The second thing that caught my attention was a statement from Corn that the metrics should not be quantity - but quality. But as biased as these statements are - they are also entirely wrong.

By Editor Morten B. Reitoft

Under most circumstances, I agree with Deborah Corn and say yes—quality is always more important than quantity, but the truth is more complex for a tradeshow like drupa. First, drupa themselves market metrics all the time—x number of exhibitors, visitors from y number of countries, and drupa uses these metrics to justify the extremely high cost of exhibiting. Secondly, drupa is an enormous economic driver for Düsseldorf, so it does matter whether you have 100,000 or 200,000 visitors, as the economy delivered by drupa is the reason why drupa exists. When drupa talks about the importance of drupa for the industry, it’s only important as long as it delivers value to the exhibitors first and secondly to the visitors. Third, how is quality measured? Is 30% of exhibitors from China a quality stamp? Are visitors from LATAM, India, and China a quality in itself? Is it true that consolidations in the industry are equal to higher quality among visitors? Well, drupa can’t know, and Deborah Corn can’t know. Nobody can know before the show is over.

From an exhibitor perspective, the number of visitors is less important if the right people attend, as Corn mentions. But who are the right people? The large exhibitors don't expect anybody not familiar with them to walk into their booth and place an order on a printing machine. There will be "sold" signs and "announcements" - but these deals are done WAY before drupa. Most smaller exhibitors acknowledge that they take advantage of the large brands’ ability to draw attention from more potential customers - so they are in the drag stream. Finally, I am almost 1000% certain that there will be exhibitors that don’t get as much as a single order from being at drupa.

Qualified leads are NOT equal to the number of scans at a booth. A qualified lead is a prospect who is not already known and has the intent and capability to buy a product. Think of this when you talk about the metrics. How many visitors are qualified leads or potential buyers, or do they represent quality over quantity?

When Deborah Corn and others find our open talks about customer acquisition cost, number of visitors, cost of exhibiting, etc., as an attack at drupa - it’s simply wrong. The printing industry is based on a fundamental democratic right to discuss the world openly. INKISH is maybe the media that invests most in covering drupa, and we love exhibitions for the same reasons as everybody else. See equipment in motion, network with friends and followers, learn, and do business; focusing on weak spots doesn’t change that. If Heidelberger Druckmaschinen were right in 2020, when they said that the budget for drupa was €50 million, the customer acquisition cost would run above €10,000 per lead - not even qualified leads! So, if biased Americans don’t think this is important to discuss and focus on, you miss the industry perspective and don’t represent the PSPs that eventually are the ones that pay the bills.

When this drupa is over, and we know the visitor profiles - I have a few predictions that I find interesting to compare when the 2024 edition is over:

Fewer North American visitors - last time was 2% of 260,000
Fewer European visitors - last time was 68% of 260,000
More visitors from LATAM and Asia.

The total number of visitors is expected to be between 200,000 and 220,000, according to the latest I heard from drupa. That will be above the average of all German trade shows, as AUMA states that German exhibition visitors are only 65% of the Pre Covid numbers. These are, however, numbers from 2022.

So, dear Deborah Corn, you misunderstand the intentions of talking numbers, and the metrics are correct. When a tradeshow sells booth space based on the expected number of visitors, of course, these numbers have to be in perspective - and yes, quality is the right measure - but not from a tradeshow that serves its owners' interest - a hotel night, a restaurant bill or even the use of the red-light-districts counts - and more is better!

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