Virtual drupa 2021 – four days on your screen

Drupa 2020 is history – that never happened. Drupa 2021 fell victim to the pandemic as well. But there is still virtual drupa in 2021 and we are all curious on how this experiment is going to work out. After all, a virtual event is almost the opposite to the live, meet and touch drupa we all know. Virtual drupa 2021 is going to take place next week on four days on your screen, from the 20th of April to the 23rd.

Virtual drupa will have several elements:

  • An exhibition space
  • A networking plaza
  • A conference area

Some inkjet events to watch out for

Printing is not all about inkjet, but this is the most dynamic type of technology, with the potential to drive new applications and markets. Therefore, some inkjet events to watch out for are lining up.

Inkjet Insight is having an Innovation Week. This is series of webinars to educate the industry on the latest inkjet technology coming to the market, across document, labels, packaging and industrial segments. Technology coverage includes presses, press components, software and finishing. Different experts will share their knowledge and are available for Q&A. The webinars will run from June 14th to 18th.

Also, at Inkjet Insight a monthly overview on the latest inkjet production press installations gives readers an overview on which company installed which device into which company. It will be interesting to see how markets and demand develop. We started this series in January 2021 and will have a monthly update. January was a strong month with 16 installs, followed by 11 in February. You would need to become a member, but this is definitely worth it. Naturally we will miss some installations, as there was no press release or other public mention. If you know of any installs, please let me know.

There will be some more inkjet events to watch out for this year. A lot will still be virtual, but I hope on-site events will resume. I certainly have marked my calendar for the Hunkeler Innovationdays 2022, starting on the 21st of February 2022. Hopefully there will be opportunities to see the latest launches even before that.

Putting (some) Excitement into virtual events

Yes, we know drupa 2020 has been moved and Covid restrictions mean that there will be no trade shows for 2020 at least. Still vendors want to launch new products and since even open houses are out of question for now the last resort is virtual events. There have been a few in the last couple of months.

There are pundits that extol the virtue of virtual, but I find them somewhat unsatisfying – and I know that I am not alone. There are big differences in the quality of the virtual events as well, in terms of content, presentation and getting the attendants enthusiastic. But the main point is that marketing anything around print, which distinguishes itself as something multi-sensory and tactile, only virtually is a bit dicey.

Heidelberg to cancel drupa 2021

Heidelberg today announced that the company is to cancel its participation in drupa 2021. After Bobst and Xerox the third printing industry heavyweight dropped out now. Industry experts will feel a déjà vu with the last days of IPEX in 2014, with almost all major exhibitors dropping out before the show – one after another. This sealed the fate of IPEX, the second largest print trade show at its time.

Heidelberg to cancel drupa 2021 participation

Heidelberg justifies the decision of not exhibiting at drupa with the shortening innovation cycles and emerging digital business models. Heidelberg plans to customize its activities in regional markets and segments as well. Plans are to replace trade shows with events at their Print Media Centers (5 globally) and virtual events. Heidelberg pulled out of trade shows in developed countries many years ago, citing they know all customers already and rather invite them to the open house event. As the only exception drupa remained, as “the trade show you need to exhibit to be taken seriously in the graphic arts industry” and as the show that sets the mark for trends and technology developments.

Can virtual events replace trade shows? – The Bobst June 2020 press conference

Trade fairs have been under pressure in recent years. Cancelling most events in 2020 is making vendors considering their stance towards trade shows once more. So far drupa has been beyond discussion as the one trade show in which a vendor needs to exhibit to be taken seriously in the printing industry. Product and technology development plans have been timed for this show to maximise impact. Now drupa being moved to 2021 wreaks havoc to many plans and a good share of vendors decided to hold virtual launch events instead.

Two major vendors bailed out of drupa 2021 recently and opted for virtual events. Xerox cited insecurity around large events during a pandemic. Bobst announced that it was cancelling its participation at most trade shows, including Drupa, citing several reasons: A change in strategy to forego trade shows (except selected few in Far East) in favour of virtual events and experience centers, environmental reasons and that 2021 is already “full” for Bobst.

Virtual press conferences

As the first of the major vendors which cancelled their drupa participation for 2021 Bobst held an international press conference on the 9th of June. Several articles have been written on the launches presented, but I would like to focus on the underlaying question: how well does a virtual event as a substitute for a trade show participation.

First kudos to the event organisers. According to Bobst more than 100 journalists and analysts joined. The virtual press conference was well organized. The stream contained a mix of CEO Jean-Pascal Bobst talking, mixed with slides and him drawing on a flip chart (you still remember what this is?) to explain some workflow details. There was ample time for questions, also expertly moderated by Francois Martin.

Still – getting technology developments explained via a couple of slides always gives me the feel that I want to walk over and kick the tires of the new product at the booth or demo site. Given the wide range of listeners to a call it is impossible to give enough detail for the exports while not to overextend the ones that dabble in this field of expertise (or in the print industry as a whole). Crucially, as an analyst I want to learn about the important points that are not on polished vendor presentation slides, like pricing, availability, tech details, pros and cons and more. I find being able to stand in front of a piece of technology and talking to product managers, sales guys and technicians incredibly helpful. This is usually the opportunity to examine print samples as well. And you have a bit of time to let the first information settle and recall the points you want clarified.