The printing industry abhors a vacuum as much as nature itself. Which means that with the postponement of the Drupa trade show there has been an explosion of online activity, culminating in pseudo exhibitions in cyber space.
Some are little more than directory listings masquerading as an exhibition scarcely animated by characters from early versions of the Sims computer game series. At least one is aiming at something far more realistic with graphics rendered from engineering drawings to have the realism of the Counterstrike of Overwatch games – minus people trying to wipe out your avatar.
And into this space comes Drupa itself, announcing that in October it will introduce an online version of the trade show including a networking plaza, conference area and exhibition space. The conference area aims to replicate the sessions that would have taken place inside the Drupa Cube and in the Touchpoints around the Messe. The networking plaza aims to put interested printers or dealers in touch with suppliers. The conference area will be the main focus and allows Drupa exhibitors to host videos, webinars and to show off products with images, brochures and presentations.
There is more than an eye to maintaining Drupa’s visibility as travel becomes more difficult and people become more wary of committing themselves to intercontinental journeys. Many suppliers will be reluctant to put their staff at risk.
“With the hybrid Drupa we also give those visitors unable to travel the chance to take part in the industry get together. At the same time, we are fulfilling exhibitors’ needs to reach out to the international community personally,” says Sabine Geldermann, director Drupa and print technologies.
Messe Dusseldorf first announced plans for a Digital Drupa in June. At the time this was billed as a preview for the show taking place six months later. However, the lack of a vaccine and actions by governments to contain the spread of infection continue to cast a shadow over the event itself.
The shift towards calling this a hybrid event marks an attempt to add value to the physical event and to deliver it in the virtual world.
Content is free for visitors that have registered and can be accessed at any time. A separate registration will be required to participate in live events. The first of these have been announced: Michael Gale, author of The Digital Helix – transforming your organisation’s DNA to thrive in the digital age and James Sommerville, CEO of agency Known_Unknown, though timings are not yet known.
The drawback in terms of visitor appeal is that participation in Digital Drupa is restricted to those companies participating in the show itself. This means no Heidelberg, Komori, Manroland, Bobst or Screen, among others.
This is not a problem that the organisers of Printing-expo-online face. It is open to all industry suppliers and has so far attracted a list that is currently headed by Muller Martini and an as yet unidentified major where sign off is expected imminently.
Wayne Beckett, show director, whose trade show CV includes Ipex, says that the event will replicate the conventional trade show in almost every aspect. There will be registration on entry, details of stand visitors available to exhibitors and stands rendered to much a real life design. It will be impossible for a company taking a 3x3 metre stand to show a 12-colour press for example, says Beckett.
And these presses will be rendered down to precise placement of logos and the ability to walk around and peer into the equipment. A conference area will include space for coffee, double doors and theatre style seating to reflect the real world as closely as possible.
“We have built a full showroom including all equipment, reception area, upper deck meeting area reached by elevator for them,” he says. “For us it’s about the entirety of the experience. This is not like wandering into a Zoom call.”
The sales process, he says, has been delayed by lockdowns and furloughs leaving prospective exhibitors without keep staff. Now there is much greater activity, with smaller customers signing up last week. “It is the same process as signing people up to live events. This is not about online seminars, it’s about giving exhibitors real leads and real value.”