Day four concludes virtual drupa 2021. With 56 conference and vendor sessions the number of events slipped only slightly. My stamina slipped as well with only 11 session covered.
Drupa conference themes for the last day were (again) AI and platform business, although it felt that most conference presentation were not adhering too much to the theme.
No product news to mention on day four. I was hoping to get at least some snippets, but day four is probably not the day for great launches anyway. My highlight of the day was the fmp panel (German media production association) on the mind shift required in the printing industry. Unfortunately, this was squeezed into 20 minutes only.
For me the matchmaking function did not work out. Contacts I tried to connect did not get back me, while with attendees showing interest in contacting me it too often felt like another form of cold calling. It might help to state in a few words why a person wants to network, before confirming a contact. Basically, it is a good idea but there should be other measures to get attendees together. For example, FM Future had some good networking in their events, so there is room for improvement. The contact to other attendees is definitely missed compared to a live trade show – exchanging views, tips on news, the additional information complementing the vendor presentations.
The nice thing about trade shows is that you stumble across new companies and unexpected solutions. This is much tougher in a virtual trade show. With probably 240 presentations in 4 days you tend to focus on the suppliers and people you know. When dialling on chance into a webinar from a company you do not know, all too often you realise that there is some reason you are not familiar with that company. There are nuggets, finding them by trialling is very time consuming, however. At a live trade show, you can wonder the aisle in a spare minute or on the way to another booth, which seems far easier to me than browsing a digital directory. Having a look at a booth tells a lot more in less time than a web directory. At virtual drupa there were a few chance encounters through the exhibitor list (Korean company Valloy with a Xerox toner-based label printer) or matchmaking (Lithuanian company Veika and the Dimense system, a printer and substrate that gives a dimensional effect to wide format print), although less than I would have liked.
From a technical standpoint virtual drupa was well enough organised by Messe Düsseldorf. With more trial and feedback from outside experts it surely could have been improved further. Matchmaking and exhibit area had limited value in this format, the web presentations took the centre stage. I have seen some professional and helpful presentations. Still I am sometimes surprised that there are companies that saved millions of Euro by not having a live exhibit putting so little effort into their presentations. This applies to both: form and content. I wrote a blog about better virtual events for a start. There would be more to add now. Ask me if you want to get more comments.
Wrapping up I am not sure whether virtual trade shows are the future of trade shows or are able to take a central role of supplier – customer communications. I feel that small vendors have little to gain, while the bigger ones rather focus on their own events: live or virtual.
There might be a few benefits of digital trade shows:
- Print is getting more global, so virtual events make more sense for attendees from remote regions
- Reducing the carbon footprint
- Lower cost for exhibitors
- Good access to seminars and conference programs (if well made)
For me as an analyst and writer the value of virtual events is limited: No opportunity of seeing and touching machines and output to get a feeling for the new device. Little chance for background information after the presentation. The dicier questions skipped in the online Q&A, if that option is offered at all. I hope that suppliers will realise that without a lively and independent coverage the whole industry will suffer. Prospects still want that vendor independent view, comparisons and sometimes the excitement on a new product from a non-vendor source.
See you in 2024 in Düsseldorf.