I attended the largest global print trade show for 11 days by way of Twitter and the #drupa2016 hashtag.

By attending virtually, almost everything I “saw” at the show was a result of a tweet, a photo or an article that was linked to a tweet. From a stay-at-home attendee’s perspective, here are the takeaways:

Everything’s getting inkjettier:

Printers love the idea of inkjet. It’s going to get increasingly more affordable and right-sized to mid-sized printers. Inkjet is the perfect marriage of science and print.

Drupa attendees wanted to see inkjet’s quality and sought out samples on various substrates.


Everything’s getting faster:

Technology interfaces and mechanics of machinery allow for faster prep and running times. For roll-to-roll and roll-to-sheet, this can make a million dollar difference to printers who do, let’s say, transactional printing. If you can shave off a second per piece or a penny per piece to produce a million-piece run, you’ve saved 277 hours and 10,000 dollars. These incremental improvements may seem mundane to those looking for sexy news from trade shows, but this is where the money is made.

Drupa attendees said “prove it” and asked via social media for appointments for personal demos.


Everything’s getting bigger:

Can you believe the flatbed printers that take up as much space as the main floor of a house? They’re huge! And printers want them. A few years ago I would not have believed there was a market for extreme graphics, but a I drive around my own town, I see humongous imagery on the sides of multi-story buildings, massive wall coverings in professional buildings, vast textile store displays, and edge-to-edge floor graphics everywhere I look.

Drupa attendees loved having their photos taken next to these monstrous machines.


Everything’s getting boxier:

Tactile, dimensional print is a differentiator. Brands are spending big money to encase their products in dramatic, memorable packaging. For high end products, look for more die cuts,  embossing, amazing ink colors, translucency, texture and “keepability” — where the package is intended as a keepsake or storage place for the item.

Drupa attendees wanted to see how packages can be created from unusual substrates and embellished, especially using digital presses and workflows.


Everything’s variable:

From labels to mail to personalized products, print continues to be tied strategically to data. Printers are helping marketers gain new ways to achieve personalization from the insights marketers are finding in data. Those who produce CRMs and MIS tools have made it even easier for data to flow securely to devices that can achieve extreme personalization through text, imagery, colors, texture and more.

Drupa attendees wanted to understand what’s next in transforming labels, including inkjet, laser, flexo and direct to object.


Everything’s getting modular:

I love this aspect of printing. It allows small printers to add equipment in stages. It allows printers who are diversifying to add new equipment that will talk to their existing line. It allows printers to move equipment around to create new custom workflows. It’s so smart.

Drupa attendees favored manufacturers who offered modular presses and systems with open integration.


Everything’s getting partner-y:

The large digital press manufacturers know that they need complementary products to help their customers be successful. Rather than letting customers flounder to find the right fit, these manufacturers find ideal products and form relationships to market their systems together.

Drupa attendees visited their favorite press manufacturers and then stuck around learn about associated products and services from the press maker’s strategic partners.


As far as my own personal experience on Twitter, these are the things I think exhibitors need to do a better job of in 2020:

  1. Check your social media platforms for comments. This was a missed opportunity. Many exhibitors seemed to have pre-programmed tweets broadcasting through the show with no one monitoring engagement.
  2. Follow people who clearly are interested in your products. Why be snooty? Exhibitors would talk to me in the Twitter stream but never follow. This leaves a worse impression than not interacting at all.
  3. Talk to other exhibitors in the social media channels. It was so fun to see competitors interacting. These are the things that draw in social media visitors.
  4. Tweet at all hours. Germany is 6 hours ahead of New York. Unless virtual followers sought out the #drupa2016 hashtag during show hours, there weren’t many tweets in the stream during U.S. hours. Exhibitors should think about hiring a U.S. company to keep their tweets in the stream during non-show hours and interact with U.S. virtual “visitors.”
  5. Follow up after the show. I interacted via Twitter with many exhibitors during the show, but only heard from two companies after the fact. Another missed opportunity. Simply asking me on social media what I thought of the show would be a step in the right direction.
  6. Pay more attention to influencers. There are well-known people in printing circles who also attended virtually. Someone on the exhibitor end should be looking at those people and reaching out. By getting them into the social media stream and talking, it would draw more attention to the event and to the exhibitor.
  7. Curate show content and present on their own website. Some of the larger brands did a good job of this, with ongoing show coverage and analysis. For most other exhibitors, if they did cover the show at large, they did not push it to their social media audience.
  8. Use more photos. I was enthralled with the Facebook photos from Print Media Centr. If you want to have your virtual audience understand what it’s like to attend an event, you have to SHOW them. Photos in this post are courtesy of Messe Dusseldorf, copyright 2016.

I was happy to have attended #drupa2016 virtually, and I look forward to the next show, which will be in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2020. Let me know what you saw as the most interesting takeaways from #drupa2016.

sandy_hubbard_printmediacentrSandy Hubbard is a marketing strategist for printing companies. She builds marketing programs that can be sustained over the long haul, with affordable tools and your own people…and without stress! Find Sandy on Twitter at @sandyhubbard each Wednesday at 4 PM ET, assisting #PrintChat host Deborah Corn@PrintMediaCentr with a lively online discussion for printers and those who love print.

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