The upcoming PRINTING United Digital Experience will test the virtual conference and exhibition waters.
Can PRINTING United pull off a successful virtual conference? After a successful inaugural event in 2019, event organizers had high hopes for this year’s conference.
On April 30, PRINTING United had merged with Printing Industries of America, setting up the conference for an even more successful 2020, according to Ford Bowers, president & CEO of PRINTING United, during an Oct. 8 virtual press briefing.
“We were positioned to equip every market segment with the best resources, product launches, demonstrations, and industry experts live and in person,” he said.
Exhibit space sales were through the roof, then the pandemic hit. Then the pivot.
“Early on thought we would be able to escape this unscathed,” recalled Bowers. “Most exhibitors and attendees were planning to travel to Atlanta. By June it became clear that live events of this magnitude were an impossibility for the foreseeable future.”
Rather than cancel the event, the organization was committed to supporting its exhibitors and the printers attending the event. According to Bowers, the goal was to create an online experience like nothing this industry has ever seen.
“We’re not just talking about one or two webinars, we’re talking about a comprehensive experience where each market segment is highlighted. Research, education, expert panels, white papers, product demonstrations, product launches. It will be a stage for OEMs that worked all year to bring new products to market and now only need a curtain and a spotlight.”
Starting October 26 and running through November 12, the PRINTING United Digital Experience will offer over 100 educational sessions and more than 40 product launches to attendees for free. Attendees will have access to panel discussions about market trends, hear how companies have navigated the pandemic and their plans for the future, and learn how manufacturers and suppliers have successfully made the leap across market segments to expand their capabilities. A daily online show guide will include trend articles and programming details for each day.
Mark Subers, president events and PRINTING added that the intention is to create something unique with programming specific to individual segments of the printing industry.
The event will run for three to four hours each day and be broadcast live. Each day will have a keynote, panel discussions, and product demonstrations. Each day’s programming will also be available for on-demand viewing at the end of each day. The entire 14 days of programming can be accessed until January 31, 2020. PRINTING United is hoping to have at least as much engagement if not more as in 2019 when it had 30,000 registrants for its Dallas event.
There are no barriers to entry for this year’s event, according to Subers since it is free and an organization’s complete team, not just the C-level team can participate.
“We have something here for everyone and it’s an ability to educate the full end-to-end of the printing organization,” said Subers.
Click here to register for free. A single sign-up allows for complete access to the entire schedule of daily events. The calendar of events for each day is as follows:
- October 26 | Graphics/Wide-Format – Hardware and Consumables Day
- October 27 | Apparel – Screen/Decorating Day
- October 28 | Commercial – Digital Inkjet Day
- October 29 | Packaging – Label and Flexible Day
- October 30 | Graphics/Wide-Format – Finishing and Workflow Day
- November 2 | In-Plant Forum
- November 3 | Commercial – Offset Day
- November 4 | Packaging – Folding Carton and Corrugated Day
- November 5 | Mailing and Fulfillment Day
- November 6 | Workflow and Software Day
- November 9 | Apparel – Direct-to-Garment/Direct-to-Substrate Day
- November 10 | Commercial – Dry and Liquid Toner Day
- November 11 | Industrial Day
- November 12 | Digital Textile Day
Subers revealed that PRINTING United is planning to keep this type of hybrid model in support of the live event going forward.
This is an ambitious undertaking and I suggest that not only dealers who are involved in production and industrial print tune in for the obvious reasons, but to see if a virtual event of this magnitude is possible. I suggest the same for vendors, and services and solutions providers outside of the production and industrial print industry as well.
What I like about this concept is that you have the option of attending live on each day, but there’s also the option to view the day’s proceedings on demand. And from what I understand, you can fast forward through each day’s content to find what you are most interested in as you would on your TV’s DVR.
The most difficult live experience to emulate virtually is the networking opportunities, which often occur on the show floor, hotel bars, and area restaurants after the exhibit hall doors close for the day. Breakout rooms and the like are not the best substitutes as they are often dominated by the most vocal individuals in the room. It will be interesting to see how this aspect of the conference is handled.
If the virtual event works, it will serve as a model for others to emulate. drupa, rescheduled from June 2020 to April 2021 is another event that may have to take a virtual turn. Many exhibitors have already announced that they will not participate in the April event out of concern for the safety of their employees. Could that event follow the PRINTING United model? It might be more difficult considering the global nature of drupa unless it could figure out a way to include translation services. But that’s a story for next year. In the meantime, see you at PRINTING United.
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