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Commentary & Analysis

Attention Graph Expo Exhibitors: Please, Not More of the Same!

Coming off of a press conference extravaganza at drupa, WhatTheyThink’s Senior Editor Cary Sherburne challenges Graph Expo exhibitors to change the press conference game. (And feature more customers in their booths!)

By Cary Sherburne
Published: June 1, 2012

Only four months till Graph Expo 2012, which is hard to even think about after 12 days at drupa 2012. But it is coming at us fast. At this drupa, I heard more than normal griping from my fellow members of the press corps about exhibitor press conferences. There’s a message here, and I wanted to take the time to reinforce it, with plenty of lead time for exhibitors to respond. Some of the comments about drupa press conferences can be found here, here, here and here.

Here’s the Challenge


  • No more “death by PowerPoint”
  • Please don’t drown us in speeds and feeds; we can read as well as you can, maybe better
  • Easy on the paper … if you can’t or don’t want to invest in flash drives, give us a download site for a digital press pack. None of us wants to carry home 50 pounds of paper, and too much of it ends up in the trash or left on hotel room floors for the poor staff to clean up. Not a good use of your money or our time. European PR firm duomedia did a great post-drupa job of consolidating all press materials from all of its clients in one place online. Love it!
  • Every executive on your staff doesn’t need to speak. Really.
  • Bring in some new faces. Kudos to Delphax for having Len Lauer, CEO of Memjet, at its press conference, and not just as window dressing, either; Mr. Lauer announced that Memjet had settled all of its legal issues … important information considering how many Memjet OEMs there were at the show. And Esko brought in parent company Danaher EVP Dan Daniel to speak not only about its organization and strategy for its acquisitions, but also to comment on its intent to acquire X-Rite Pantone. Nice to get some “face time” with a company that is gaining a larger footprint in our industry and one many of us didn’t know enough about.
  • Of course, the Landa Nanographic extravaganza has gotten more than its share of coverage. But beyond that, Mr. Landa took the time to schedule a number of hour-long small-group “board room style” meetings with members of the press that were relaxed conversations where we were able to have a meaningful conversation and get to know the company on a more personal level. There were only five of us in the group I attended. I, personally, would do more of those if they are made available. And I think it is a good use of the executive’s time.
  • Where are the customers? Without them, let’s face it, you are nothing! Let us hear from them. At drupa, Highcon and EFI were two examples where customers played a leading role.
  • Do you have a vision for the future? Let us hear about it. Show some leadership. Our industry needs it.
  • Don’t have anything new to share? Then don’t hold a press conference. Too many of those, and we just might not be back next time, when there really is something new to share.

And Speaking of Customers …

For many of you, your booth could use some customer touches. If you can’t get them to spend time in your booth speaking to customers, at least invest some time in making sure they are prominently feature in your booth, collateral ad signage. HP did a fabulous job of this at drupa, with huge signage all over the place featuring real customers with real quotes about how HP helped them grow their businesses. Not only was it great customer recognition, think about how excited (and increasingly loyal) those customers were when they saw themselves bigger than life. Here’s an example:


At drupa, HP and Xerox featured real customer examples and awards, as did EFI in its press conference. Canon/Océ had lots of customers featured throughout its stand. Xeikon had a “Customer Walk of Fame,” featuring different customers each day. These are just a few examples and I hope we see many, many more at Graph Expo.

Oh, and you equipment manufacturers, why not offer to do real production for customers like HP did at drupa instead of having machines producing stuff that will mostly end up in the landfill?

Four months, lots of time. You can do it! I have faith in you! Maybe we can pull together as media attendees to vote on the best press conference(s) and the most customer-focused booth(s). Hey, GASC, there’s a challenge for you … let’s see some voting in the Press Center!

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



By Noel Ward on Jun 01, 2012

Absolutely correct, Cary! And you wrote this just before I did, but I'll echo this in my next blog.

The typical press con in this industry is a waste of time and room space. At drupa, they are even worse. I wonder sometimes why people bother attending them.

And the small meetings at Landa were great. There were 7 people in the one I was in.


By Pat McGrew on Jun 01, 2012


I think you are right on the money. Having spent time on both sides the Press release fence, I completely agree!

A funny thing about the HP big images.. many of them also came to life if you knew to download Aurasma and point your smart phone or tablet at them. Sadly, I'm not sure that tidbit made it into the press conferences. I spent a lot of time showing Burt Scherman of SCI doing an amazing job of telling the SCI story.

Maybe press conferences should be more like speed dating... you get three minutes to make your case to the nice press person in front of you and then they move on!


By Jack Kenny on Jun 01, 2012

Amen, Cary, Amen.

Among the reasons the press attends trade shows is to learn, to explore and compare – on our own – so that we can write insightful articles. Spoon-feeding by vendors is informative, sometimes, but rarely educational.

Thank you.


By Andrew Gordon on Jun 01, 2012

Sage advice! Too often, vendors either issue a press release or hold a press conference that offer little to no substance. They think that their news is important and anticipate that the journalists and analysts will cover it verbatim.

A well executives AR/PR (analyst relations and public relations) strategy takes into account the relationship between the vendor and the AR/PR community. This includes multiple touch points over many years and must be based on providing useful information and building trust.

I have seen vendors launch a product internationally then launch it in every region, and re-launch when traction is not gained in the market. Rewind and repeat when throughput is changed or a new feature added. This is confusing and crazy and all of the press and analysts know it.

I have also seen vendors fly a group of press and analysts across the country or overseas and host a press conference or event with little to no substance. The press and analysts are a close knit community. Don't you think they talk to each other and discuss which events are a waste of time?

Cary is right on and I applaud her for raising this and issuing her challenge. Our industry is undergoing a transformation and our vendors have an important role to play. Best practices in AR/PR can help them get their message out, serve to act as both a catalyst for industry change and of course business success for the vendor.


By Cary Sherburne on Jun 01, 2012

Looks like this struck a chord with my colleagues. Vendors, take note! I especially like the "speed dating" suggestion from Pat and the heads up about the Aurasma link in the photos. Too bad HP didn't make more noise about that :-)


By Cary Sherburne on Jun 01, 2012

P.S.: In Europe, PR firm duomedia has conducted "speed conferences" for its smaller clients for the past two drupas. This is a great idea. Not quite speed dating, but combines several vendors into one session and gives each presenter about 15 minutes to share their story. This can offer a good use of time to journalist attendees, especially if vendors strive to make their "15 minutes of fame" memorable.


By Frank Tueckmantel on Jun 01, 2012

Thanks Cary, we at EFI appreciate the feedback and we will continue to work hard to provide meaningful information in an interesting way to our media partners. Our current and future customers are the center of everything we do and highlighting their amazing creativity is something we focus upon. We read your articles carefully and got the message loud and clear. Our goal is to always get it right and I know we will hear from you if we will miss it. Again, we appreciate the input.


By Cary Sherburne on Jun 01, 2012

Great expectations for innovative Graph Expo press conferences from EFI and others. Looking forward to it, Frank!


By Margie Dana on Jun 01, 2012

Great post, Cary - a "must-read" for industry executives to be sure.


By Mark Wendling on Jun 01, 2012

Heidelberg USA hears you Cary. We'll do our best to follow your guidance at Graph Expo.


By Cary Sherburne on Jun 01, 2012

Thanks, Mark!


By Nancy Carr on Jun 01, 2012

Hi Cary, The Kodak team completely agrees with your view. Our press conference with Antonio Perez had zero slides and after a 12 minute overview of our business, he opened up to 45 minutes of very frank Q&As with the 200 members of the press packed into our room. Our press kit was preloaded to jump drives with images too. For customers, we pre-produced 20 videos of our Lighthouse customers--those who are leading change for their clients in the publishing, packaging and print markets using Kodak solutons. And those same customers were featured live at the Kodak stand in the K-Zone theatre, telling their stories and receiving a Lighthouse Award from our Kodak executives, including Antonio Perez, Phil Faraci and Doug Edwards. All of these videos are now posted on www.kodak.com/go/drupa and on YouTube.

We value the time and attention the press pays to Kodak and we try to continually improve our relationship with all of you. Thanks, Nancy


By Cary Sherburne on Jun 01, 2012

Thanks, Nancy. I was remiss in not mentioning the Lighthouse customer program.


By patti quinn on Jun 06, 2012

Cary, always appreciate your candor and insight. At Xerox, our focus is to be focused on what matters most to our key audiences so we will continue to make engagements with press and analysts worthwhile, relevant and newsworthy; with ample time for Q&A! Glad to hear customer stories are resonating with you -we welcome the opportunity to share their successes.


By Mike Chiricuzio on Jun 07, 2012

Ah, Cary. Right as always :)


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