Johnson's World: If It Is Windy, This Must Be Graph Expo

If you haven't booked your travel yet, reconsider...there are cookies!

October 1, 2012

Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Did you know that the moniker “Windy City” originally referred, not to Chicago’s lakefront breezes, but to the hamlet’s blustering windbag politicians?

Chicago is a fitting place, then, to hold what the late Dick Gorelick dubbed “overcapacity fest”; otherwise known as Graph Expo.

Vendors and pundits alike encourage us in frantic tones to attend, to vend, and to spend. They’ll all be there October 7-10 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Will you? Well…how about it? Have you made plans to attend, or not?

Responses such as, “I’m going because I’ve always gone,” or “I never go,” won’t cut the mustard in Johnson’s World. No matter which side of the fence you are on, we want to understand the logic behind your decision, and we want to be sure you understand it too.

So You are Going. Why?

Because you always have? Because your Dad went? C’mon, you can come up with a better reason than that. You aren’t using your father’s presses, your father’s marketing, or your father’s delivery truck. And you aren’t paying six-cents for a stamp anymore either. Your father (or former boss, or previous owner) had many good reasons to attend Graph Expo, but today’s reasons aren’t the same.

Perhaps you need to buy something. The traditional purpose of the trade show was to allow you to visit competing vendors, examine equipment up close and running, make side-by-side comparisons, then, hopefully, execute an informed purchase at a significant discount known as a “show special”.

Show specials are practically year ‘round now. You don’t even need to go. You’ll find all the specs you need to make informed decisions on the Internet.

By the way, do you really, really need to buy something? In case you haven’t heard, times are tough out there. Keep your business up to date with wisely planned capital expenditures, but know that impulse buying has no place in your business plan.

Just need a vacation? There are other regional shows, albeit not as many as there used to be. More than ever, they are all the same. In October the temperature in Chicago could be 85º or 25º. Spend those travel dollars wisely.

You aren’t going. Why not?

It used to be that quick printers felt slighted by Graph Expo, which many perceived to be aimed only at the big boys. Now, I challenge you to tell me the difference between a quick printer and everyone else.

I further challenge you to explain the difference between a quick print show, an on-demand show, a regional show, and good ol’ Graph Expo. Technology, bless its heart, has leveled the playing field.

Even as quick printers have transformed into commercial printers, so have the bigger players adopted quick print and on-demand tools to stay competitive. Get out there and see what the big guys are using nowadays. It might fit very nicely into a corner of your shop.

Are you a franchisee? I especially worry about insularity that sometimes creeps up among members of quick printing franchise organizations. Do you faithfully attend franchise events, but only franchise events? This year, see what the rest of the world is up to. Please remember that you aren’t in the AlphaGraphics business or the Minuteman business. You are a proud member of the greater graphic arts community. Mingle with your brethren!

If you still aren’t convinced, I’ll be there. What more could you want?

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco in Carol Stream, IL; a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him at

Just for You.

If you insist on an event of your own, the NAQP Owners conference is October 4-6, back-to-back with Graph Expo. Some will appreciate the convenience and cost savings of consecutive events. For others, this combination is just too much, too long all at once. At least it is at a Doubletree. They have cookies.