My idea of going to Florida in January has a whole lot more to do with a little fly-fishing in the Keys and a few rum drinks than it does with trade shows. But there are too many plates to spin and gators to round up, so the upcoming long weekend at Graphics of the Americas (January 24 through 26) will be mostly business. I haven't been to this show before, so it ought to be fun, and I'm hoping it will be a bit different than the usual North American show.

Every time I go to Miami I feel like I should have a Spanish phrase book so I can chat up the locals a bit better. When Xplor was there back in 2000, I remember thinking that I had much less need to speak German at DRUPA or French while playing hooky in Paris afterwards than I did to stammer out a few words of Spanish in Miami Beach. And GOA, being held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, could prove little different. That's a good thing, because it helps us all remember that we live in a world with many different people and cultures. And that in just about every country, printing is still a prime means of communication.

A quick scan of the 350 companies exhibiting in Miami Beach reveals many unfamiliar firms. The usual suspects, the big U.S., Asian and European firms will be there, but they are overwhelmed by the volume of smaller firms focused exclusively on Caribbean and Latin American markets. Since you can often tell what companies do by their names, the list indicates a marked difference from U.S. shows in the types of companies, products and services. Compared to U.S. and European shows that have come showcases for the latest technology, digital printing in particular, GOA appears to be much more oriented toward offset printing. No surprises there. Offset remains the way printing is done in many lands. It's an established technology that works equally well in throbbing Latin American cities and laid-back banana republics. Still, the pressure on profitability, to control costs, increase output, and manage workflows is much the same as anywhere else. Addressing these needs are the same players as in other markets.

- Computer-to-plate and DI printing are gaining ground, so Creo, Mitsubishi and Presstek will be on hand with their technologies.

- Workflow, communications, and production tracking tools, especially involving the Internet, are just as important in nations like Costa Rica or cities like Santiago as they are in Chicago or Seattle. Responding to these needs are leaders like Creo, GMC Software and Printcafé, showing their solutions for these key processes.

- Finishing adds value to every printed page and Baum, Challenge Machine, C.P. Bourg, Duplo, Muller-Martini, and Standard Finishing will promote their broad lines of finishing equipment.

- Digital printing is growing in importance and vendors are expanding support for both black and white and color machines. Delphax, Heidelberg, Hewlett-Packard, MAN-Roland, Scitex Digital, and Xerox are all slated to showcase machines and software attuned to the needs of the Latin American market.

- Offset press manufacturers such as A.B. Dick, MAN-Roland and Heidelberg will be on hand with their ever-more refined machines.

But these are just the ones you expect. It's going to be fun to see how these big players position themselves for Latin America and the Caribbean what are the hot products for these fast developing markets. Then there are all the smaller  companies with just a few offerings, ranging from book publishing to printing supplies to identification systems to advertising specialties.

It promises to be quite a show and we'll keep you informed of the main players and some of the little ones as well. So stay tuned.