22nd of April is Earth Day – and it is virtual drupa day three 2021. Still there were 57 vendor or conference presentations to choose from. Again, I listened in into about a dozen, with a few more briefly looked at.
As Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection it is no surprise that one of the drupa main conference topics today was sustainability – or in the words of drupa “circular economy”. The other theme of the “connected consumer” was less visible – I guess since all attendees were connected this counts as well.
Virtual drupa just finished its day two. The stream of webinars and company presentations did not ease. 61 were listed for the 21st of April and obviously there is no way to cover them all. I managed about a dozen and glimpsed into a few others. Here are my impressions and conclusions.
The 20th of April 2021 marked the first day of virtual drupa. After live trade shows garnered a lot of criticism lately – besides Covid-19 making live events impossible currently – virtual drupa should be a good benchmark on how virtual events can replace the live version. Drupa has an invaluable head start on many other virtual activities due to their strong brand name and almost guaranteed media coverage.
The good news first: the website technology mostly worked well. The live streams had some small interruptions. Occasional screen sharing and presentation issues were on a level we are used to. Navigation on the site remains a bit challenging, however – like navigating their 18 halls without an exhibitor guide.
During the first day visitors of virtual drupa are torn between a multitude of offerings. To be honest, I did not make it into the exhibition and matchmaking areas yet. There were 59 web session listed for the first day, accordingly many sessions running in parallel. The sessions fall roughly into two groups: vendor presentations (mostly on products) and more educational sessions in the conference area.
I do feel that drupa is an important event for the printing industry, likely the most important one. Sadly, there have been many exhibitors pulling out of drupa 2021 – which is understandable in the face of rising Covid numbers all over Europe currently and increasing travel restrictions. Still I – and many others – want to hear about the latest products and technologies.
With a great number of vendors resorting to virtual events in the meantime I believed it to be a smart move of the drupa organizers to have a virtual platform for news and announcements as well as recently posted. Drupa is still THE brand for exhibitions around print, gets worldwide attention and has immediately a large reach.
Today was supposed to be the day for the platform to go live with several panels and supplier presentations. I was prepared to cover it. Admittedly the registration process was lengthy, and I did not get any notification e-mails for sessions booked. I also missed any promotion on social media like LinkedIn to prep for the day. I must be in the wrong groups then and/or use the wrong hashtags – but if I missed it, I wonder who else missed it?
Trying to login today I have never seen so many forms for cookies and privacy notes to click through. I also failed to login into the live stream. More logins, more popups, more dead ends but no stream. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I have not been in enough webinars yet …
I spent some time to make it work. The site looks sleek, but I constantly got lost and for every action a new tab pops up. Since my income depends on covering printing industry events, I was prepared to make an effort. Compared to webinars I have listened or presented in previously, this was by a factor more complicated that rivals the Düsseldorf hotel price multipliers during drupa. I wonder what customers whose main line of business is to keep machines running or designing and producing these machines did.
On the website there is a replay of the opening session announced. I might be able to report eventually on drupa or the pain of going virtual.
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.