The Print4All online conference last week drew a worldwide audience of 1,200, a third of the delegates from outside Italy. This is far in excess of the numbers that would have attended an IRL conference had it taken place in May as planned, where an audience of 100-300, almost exclusively Italian, might have been expected.
The number exceeded also the number of attendees that organisers had set as a target for its digital venture. This, says the organiser “confirmed to us that our choice was the right one and we are now encouraged to continue being there and reflecting together on the issues and the means we experienced”.
There will be another Print4All conference in May next year, followed the following year by a second edition of the exhibition and conference. This had been due to take place in 2021, but scheduled for just a few weeks after Drupa, it was not a hard decision to slip the dates to May the following year.
This year’s event was streamed live to participants who viewed a combination of studio interviews where speakers were based in Milan and remote presentations from those in Australia, India, France, the US and UK as well as Italy itself.
The change in how the content was presented reflected aspects of the content, eg three rapid sessions on the impact of Covid-19 on print in the US, UK and India, with Intergraf general secretary Beatrice Klose delivering a broader perspective through her position at the head of the organisation for printing federations across Europe.
“Across Europe companies have delayed planned advertising campaigns by three to six months. The commercial print sector is down 17%, packaging down 3%,” she said. The lockdown period had changed consumer behaviour. They were now prepared to pay for health benefits and for sustainability. “Print is extremely well placed to be part of this trend,” she said.
Sustainability was already a key theme for the event even before the pandemic. It will gain an extra impetus, according to a number of speakers, as consumers become more aware of the place in the world and brands move aware from single use plastics. In packaging this means developing products that are designed for ease of recycling, though this can have unexpected side effects – the trends towards the lightweighting of packaging has caused a reduction in the amount of fibre available for recycling.
This period has helped move economies towards the UN goals on sustainability: air quality improvements, reduction in CO2 emissions, but has exacerbated others: increase in inequality, loss of opportunities in education and worsened health and well being achievements.
The other focus for the event was Industry 4.0, supported by the Italian government and the progress of a project to understand Industry 4.0 workflows across the print and packaging industry.
Andrea Briganti, general manager of Acimga (Italian equivalent of Picon) and of the Federazione Carte e Grafica, says: “The Print4All Conference marks a turning point, looking at the future towards an increasingly sustainable supply chain more and more integrated into the 4.0 paradigm.”