Johnson's World: 8 Solid Reasons Why You Should Attend GRAPH EXPO 14

If a trip to Germany for the drupa 2016 trade show is too rich for your blood, consider GRAPH EXPO in Chicago later this month instead.

September 1, 2014
Steve Johnson11276927

Twenty months from now, executives from companies like RR Donnelley and Quad Graphics will journey to the drupa 16 show in far off Dusseldorf Germany. They’ll bring their spouses, stay in ritzy hotels, drink much good beer, dance bad polkas, and stay an extra week or two to sightsee central Europe.

If such an excursion sounds a bit rich for your tastes or your wallet, make the trip to GRAPH EXPO later this month instead.

The price is certainly right. Basic admission is free. Airfare to Chicago is about as cheap as it gets. In fact, a sizable portion of "Johnson’s World" readers are located within driving distance of the Windy City.

I have long encouraged you to examine your motives for yearly attendance at GRAPH EXPO. Why are you going? Because, well, just because? Not a very good reason. Because everyone else is? Never a good reason, and no longer even accurate.

Fact is, tradeshow attendance is down. Ever the iconoclast, I now ask those of you who are taking a pass to reconsider. The majority of printers don’t ever attend a show. Too bad, for knowledge is power. It isn’t too late to register, and here are seven more very good reasons to do so.

Meet people.  Shows aren’t just attended by experts. You’ll meet printers from all over the city, or all over the country. Or all over the world. Many of them have the same problems you do. Some have solved these problems and are willing to share their answers with you.

By the way, many of the experts will be there as well. The smart ones are walking the show floor, just like you. Approach them. They will be happy to stop and talk.

Learn something. Unless you stay locked up in your hotel room, you can’t help leaving smarter than you arrived. This is a good thing.

Shop discreetly. You’ve probably bought enough equipment in the past at these shows to anchor a small ocean liner. How about anchoring your business instead?

Make sure the iron (and software) you’ve already bought is working properly -- and doing all the great things you intended it to do. Is your equipment not performing up to snuff?  Tradeshows are just the place to meet the corporate middle management types who may be able to help you when your local reps cannot.

Come clean about your motives. If you can instantly name the hottest gentlemen’s clubs in Chicago, Sewickley, and Rochester, your past business travel may have been for the wrong reasons. Resolve to attend, if for only a day or two, but to immerse yourself in show activities.

Temperatures in Chicago in late September range from the high 90s to the high 20s or anywhere in between. Last year we had snow, so save the vacation plans for next summer and just come to learn.

Learn on the cheap. Vendors conduct both educational and entertainment events on site during show hours and at various venues in the evening. They are usually free, and many include food and drink. Not on the guest list? Brazenly ask your sales rep for an invitation. Most vendors are thrilled to have a guest who shows genuine interest.

Meet Johnson. Who is that handsome fellow prowling around GRAPH EXPO? It looks like Steve Johnson! Yes, I’ll be there, attending just like you. You also are hereby invited to visit Copresco, my digital printing facility located 30 miles west of the show (after show hours, of course).

Enjoy with a purpose. Follow Shakespeare’s advice to “do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” You are on neutral ground. Seek out a competitor and make friends. Share ideas. Commiserate over a Chicago-style hot dog (sport peppers, no ketchup) or an Italian beef sandwich (mozzarella, sweet peppers).

The White Sox play their last game Sunday night. They’ll be out of the running for the playoffs, so tickets will be cheap.

Don’t stay out too late, though. You’ve got a show to attend.