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Event Spotlight

Print 17

This September, Graph Expo morphs into Print 17, heading north to within a few miles of Canada. Harry Mottram looks at the show promising to be the most innovative exhibition in America

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The show is located in an exhibition centre on the banks of Lake Michigan

On the banks of Lake Michigan

It may be in the United States of America and some 3,949 miles from London, and a seven and three-quarter hour flight from Heathrow, but Chicago’s Print 17 show expects some 20,000 people to attend. In 2015, the same event attracted more than 1,000 people from Britain and Ireland, and several thousand more from Germany, France, and mainland Europe.

So why go? After all, is it not just another print and graphics exhibition but geared up for the USA markets? Well, yes and no. North America is a massive market and features some of the biggest names in the industry. Many new ideas and applications begin in the caldron of the freewheeling USA economy before being imported to Europe.

Since 2012, the annual show has grown to become one of the best places to observe industry trends, innovative ideas, and to meet thousands of buyers. Last year when the show was held in Florida, more than 6,000 buyers attended generating millions of pounds worth of sales. This autumn, the show is expected to exceed that figure.

More than 6,000 buyers attended generating millions of pounds worth of sales

Trio of trade associations

Located at a junction of two major roads in a massive business centre complex on a rail line next to Lake Michigan, Print 17 is staged in the McCormick Place in the USA’s third largest city.

The event is organised by three industry associations in the information graphics, printing, signage, and imaging sectors, coming together as the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) founded back in 1983. It is an agreement between a trio of industry associations: the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL), The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing, and Converting Technologies (NPES), and the Printing Industries of America (PIA). Their plan was and is to promote associated industries via the annual show, training, and education. Print 17 is a brand created by GASC to promote print focused exhibitions run by Graph Expo itself part of GASC.

US trade organisations got together as the Graphic Arts Show Company to set up Graph Expo with the event in Chicago branded as Print 17

GASC describes its September show as: “the most comprehensive ‘selling’ trade show for digital, inkjet, offset, flexo, gravure and hybrid technologies, products and services for the commercial, transactional, converting and package printing, publishing, mailing, in-plant, photo imaging, marketing and industrial printing industries in the Americas this year.”

So what can you expect if you decide to take a transatlantic flight from Heathrow’s Terminal three for around £1,000 if you include the hotel two or three nights in the windy city, plus a few quid on expenses? Seasoned visitors say their best tip is to wear a good pair of comfortable shoes as there are thousands of square feet of exhibition space to cover with hundreds of trade stands to visit, plus lecture halls, special events, and demonstrations as well as a chance to socialise and network at dinners and parties.

O Factoid: In 2015, the same event attracted more than 1,000 people from Britain and Ireland. O

There are 50 educational sessions that will shed light on topics ranging from design/creative process, packaging, marketing, growth strategies, and emerging technologies. If your managing director asks whether it is worth you going off for the five day event, you can point to the educational sections that concentrate on maximising ROI (return on investment). These sessions include seminars and hands-on workshops, panel discussions, expert speakers, and presentations on sales and marketing.

There will be a big education programme with seminars and presentations

So in terms of ROI think this: if you go out to the show and bring back £1,000 worth of business you are about square. But let us be real: if you have already targeted a potential client or three, and one of them makes an order of £5K, it has all been worthwhile. The operative word of course is ‘if’.

What to expect?

Like trade shows in the UK there will be working printing presses, demonstrations of new products and ideas, as well as new gadgets, fixing and display solutions, and above all a few bargains to be had. Trade shows are often the place a deal can be struck as exhibitors are always under pressure to sell and will often drop their price on a particular machine in order to notch up good sales figures to justify their own ROI. It is not just hardware that is on offer with plenty of software for prepress and workflow computerised management systems, direct mail production, and the latest computer related labour saving devices.

Entertainment is built into the event with nightly parties, shows, and receptions at the conference complex in Chicago

The Outlook 17 conference held on the first day on Sunday is a chance to get a catch-up on technology and a trends update which promises to explore the newest technologies and business trends on the forefront of print’s emerging future. Last year’s visitors were pretty enthusiastic about the event if you believe their comments are genuine rather than those that are coaxed out of them by the show’s marketing department. However, they do ring true although social media can be slightly more accurate as Twitter and industry forums will often include negative comments. But these look kosher.

Bobby Curtis from Konica Minolta seems genuine as he reflects on the 2015 event, which took place at the opposite end of the country in Florida: “I’ve been to the show for many years and I don’t remember it being as busy as it’s been this year. Starting at noon on Sunday, it’s just been non-stop. We signed several orders, so it’s not only been busy, but it’s been the right people.”

With around 20,000 visitors and exhibitors, a good deal of networking takes place

Hiroyuki Imamura of Canon in the USA gives his verdict: “The show has been fantastic. On day one, we saw a 70 percent increase over Chicago. Day two topped the amount of leads we have had in Chicago.”

Next up is Brandtjen and Kluge, which if you did not know is a family firm set up in the early years of the 20th century in the midwest of the USA. Michael Aumann of the company says: “We closed business at the show, exceeded our target for interactions with customers and prospective customers, and had the opportunity to meet with several companies who have not attended Graph Expo in Chicago.”

Then there is this neo-religious toned endorsement from Deborah Corn of Print Media Centre who attended the last show. She says: “Graph Expo is not a location, a venue, a city, or a state—it is an industry community. This show continues to attract quality attendees who are focused on finding the products and services to help them generate success, while learning from industry experts and, also each other. Throughout the show, our amazing exhibitor Alliance Partners, educational panels, special events, and the engaged attendees who came to Orlando, kept The Printerverse overflowing into the aisles, making it the 4th most visited booth at Graph Expo 16. Of course, we will be back for Print 17.”

There are 450 or so trade stands with numerous products being demonstrated

If that evangelist-style testimonial did not convince you then Summer Gould of Eye/Comm sounds rather more down to earth. She says: “I was able to find out about new software options, get information on new products from current vendors, and take away good ideas from the seminars to use in my business now.”

Testimonials are notoriously upbeat, but it does seem that Print 2017 is worthwhile if you plan ahead, decide what you are selling or what you are researching, and keep within your accepted budget for expenses. An outlay of around £1,500 with a target of £3,000 minimum return for a three day visit seems a reasonable punt—and of course that is the absolute baseline. Pull in a new client or three and increase turnover by a few thousand in the brave new world of post Brexit and let us face it—it is a pretty good gig for the outward looking firm with a disciplined sales professional.

Er… the visa thing

Back to the show and where to stay and how to plan your visit. Well, first of all getting there is fairly straight forward, although you will need a visa to enter the USA. Getting a visa is vital so apply now for a Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) which allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the USA for up to 90 days. The types of journey allowed under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit, and transit to another country.

You will generally qualify to enter the USA using the VWP if your British passport describes your nationality as a ‘British Citizen’ and is an ePassport with that EU symbol on the front.

You can fly to Chicago from Inverness, Birmingham, and London amongst other airports—and if you do not like flying you can take a passenger ship from Southampton to New York and then take a train—allow a month to be safe which may not be viable although it sounds great fun in an Around the World in 80 Days sort of way.

On a flight to Chicago, you have a choice of two major airline terminals that service the city, Midway and O’Hare International, which should mean you should get into the centre of town on Saturday allowing you to have good night’s sleep ahead of the show on Sunday. Now chief executive officers and finance directors are not keen on you going off grid, but you can claim it as creating contacts by taking a trip to the Navy Pier near the show, taking a spin on the ferris wheel, and making an early start on the Chicago-themed miniature golf course. We can also recommend any of the city’s attractions such as the Water Tower, Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, Michigan Avenue Bridge, Palmolive Building, and the Field Museum of Natural History.

Industry associations often co-locate their business networking events in tandem with the show

The venue is next to one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes in Lake Michigan with spectacular views across the waters to Canada. The show runs from Sunday, September 10th to Thursday September 14th with a pre-show conference on Sunday morning at 8am. Doors to the exhibition open at noon and close at 5pm, and then each day it is 10am to 5pm, except on Thursday when everyone packs up early. There are more than 450 exhibitors and 50 education sessions, some of which you have to pay extra for, and you need to pay $55 (£43) to attend the show although there is a discount if you book before August 11th. For more information and to book visit print2017.com.

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