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.
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 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.