Paradigm Shift: Showroom vs Floorspace

By Andreas Weber & Morten B. Reitoft

The very first trade show INKISH ever covered was in Dubai. The trade show was mostly addressing a regional audience, and looking back six-seven years, we still wonder why INKISH was covering it. It was a three-day show in one hall, and the most prominent international exhibitor was Xerox. The show was probably like you would expect—with local distributors or representatives, a few international exhibitors, and then, I would say about thirty percent, Chinese exhibitors. 

After the first day, we were about to give up. What stories could possibly be told from that show of interest? Passing the hallways with Chinese exhibitors, you see what you always see at Chinese booths, one person sitting with the head glued to a phone, others are sleeping at the booth, another with Chinese 'delicacies' consumed as only Chinese people can. The few Chinese booths that had any activities, I would say, had quite limited English language skills, so we spoke about what to do.

Years after, in 2019, INKISH went to Kyoto to cover the 'Think Smart Factory' event. One hall – and, oh, that was the only thing the two events had in common. 

It isn't, of course, fair to compare a local trade show with an event like the' Think Smart Factory', but then again, why not? Suppose vendors are spending thousands of euros on exhibitions, and the only value these exhibitions create is the venue. Why shouldn't vendors consider developing their own events rather than spending the money on middlemen like Tarsus and drupa in particular? When we say "in particular," is it because Tarsus and drupa have a few things in common. Both are professional exhibition organizers. Both develop shows for the printing industry, and both have no relation to the printing industry what so ever. Both will probably claim they have, but FESPA and PRINTING United, i.e., are member-driven organizations, and at least this should bring them closer to their member's need. Maybe!

The number of corporate events has grown over the past years – and the question is, of course, why? The obvious answer is because vendors need deliveries that are impossible to get from traditional events, and you never question that after your first visit to Hunkeler Innovationdays, Spicytalks, Think Smart Factory, and the other amazing events. WAY better organized and WAY more aligned with what printers, customers, and prospects need. 

You may ask, why do vendors then keep coming back to the traditional shows? We believe there are a few reasons, like broad marketing/branding/benchmarking, legacy, loyalty, and the fact that the big exhibitors also create opportunities for upcoming companies, smaller exhibitors, sub-contractors, etc., and, of course, prospects.

What vendors don't like about the conventional trade shows is, besides the price, how rigid most organizers are. Today vendors work together to bring end-to-end solutions to the market, and of course, vendors need to be placed near each other. When you look at HP having an entire hall at drupa 2016, this is not only to show off as the number one drupa exhibitor but more about influencing where all their partners exhibit. If you have been at drupa, you see pallets of papers being transported from one end of the hall to another end of the hall so partners can show the entire printing process. The vendors we have talked to are annoyed with drupa that sometimes the only possible way to get the space you require is by threatening to cancel.

At INKISH, we LOVE trade shows, and if it wasn't because of the Graph Expo's, The Print shows, The LabelExpo's, The drupa's, etc., we wouldn't exist. We have built our entire network by delivering stories from the shows year after year. When you get the invites to cover the private events, you experience the difference for the first time. End-to-end solutions are by far the most educating setups you can possibly think of. Partners- and often even competitors, showcase technology applications that bring SO much value to a printer. 

As visitor to a corporate event, you are considered a guest. You get food, you get drinks, you even get social activities, factory visits, sight-seeing, and more – of course, with an eager salesperson awaiting even the weakest buying-signal. But with a great show, all your defense mechanisms are lowered, so it is an optimum vendor situation.

Tradeshows like drupa see their size as an advantage, and yes, you do get a mental kick the first time you enter the gates of drupa. And yes, you can experience almost every technology or even very specific topics you can possibly imagine, including all the consumables, accessories, the software, the opportunists, and of course, the learning. You can also see visitors who are totally confused because they get lost and overwhelmed by the overloading offers and options in 17 halls…

Struggling with the price tag:Flights or trains to and from Düsseldorf

Think about:- High entrance fee attending drupa as a visitor + you pay for the catalog.- Quite expensive food and drinks during your entire stay- Hotels in the range of € 200-€500 per night (or even more by last-minute bookings)So even short trips will gross you € 1,000~€ 1,500 for a few days trip to Düsseldorf – and damn it's great – and damn you are tired when days are over, and damn you look forward to getting home again.

Some of the speculations over drupa are about the alternatives. As drupa is the global lead event, you really can't substitute it with anything, but you can ask yourself whether this is what you want?

Rainer Hundsdörfer from Heidelberg said that the cost of one drupa could be replaced with 50 local events. If you have ever been to one of Heidelberg's experience centers, you will get a premium treat for both your mind and body. You will most likely get more knowledge from attending more dense shows, and well – you will have to travel more if you want to experience multiple vendors. BUT.

It is more or less a fairy tale to think that drupa visitors would go on a discovery tour at drupa and discover new products they would spontaneously buy. In this perspective: drupa is no longer a marketplace, but a B2B shopping mall, perfectly designed and perfected in marketing, with 90% of the sales already concluded before the start of the show. At drupa, all you have to do is sign the contract (including the tradeshow discount!).

Another aspect: Among the mega-trends widely discussed in the industry is how the relationship between vendors and printers are developing. Maybe the way you choose your preferred partner in the future is less related to the booth's size at a trade show and the equipment presented. Maybe the future is more about understanding each other's business objectives – and well – that you don't get from drupa or any of the other tradeshows.

We believe that the mega-shows' future like drupa offers limited value for the new generation of printing companies. We believe it's almost impossible to see how drupa and other large organizers can change this at all from a long-term perspective. 

People are more environmentally responsible – hint – flies less, lower carbon footprint. People think globally but act locally, and people have WAY less time, and we believe we will be focusing more on in-out events, where there is a dedicated focus on delivering what you need - NOW.

Local trade shows - maybe. Virtual events - for sure, but have to become much better than now. Corporate events like Hunkeler Innovation-days - for sure. Large mega-events - well - judge for yourself and decide if you are willing to take the risk - not only of the COVID-19 pandemic but also to be bored to death since all the major exhibitors have already left the show - at least for 2021. If you attended the Print19 show in Chicago, you know what we are referring to.

See you in a showroom soon. INKISH will cover whatever event you choose to use. Our concern is not the drupa's but you. What is crucial for us is to find the most suitable communication solution for you - and there will be casualties on the way!