Dscoop8, which was held last week in Nashville TN and attended by more than 2,000 people, was the launching pad for two important new programs designed to help Dscoop members grow their businesses.  In addition, the conference itself featured almost 100 Dscoop solutions partners on the exhibit floor, 120 educational sessions with 200 speakers, and the high energy level attendees have come to expect for this event. Howard Owen of Stafford Printing was this year’s Conference Chair.

But according to Eric Hawkinson, Dscoop’s Executive Director, “Dscoop is much more than an annual conference. While our conferences are certainly a key highlight, our objective is to bring value to our members throughout the year.  The Dscoop Print Directory and Dscoop University are examples of specific programs we are implementing to achieve that objective.”

Both services Hawkinson mentions were launched at Dscoop8.  The Dscoop Print Directory allows members to enter complete profiles, including the equipment they have, specialties they feature and other information about their businesses.  Mark Sarpa of Progressive Solutions, a Dscoop board member who was involved in setting up the online directory, said, “I might be looking for a printer in Malaysia for work a client needs delivered there.  By reviewing member profiles in Malaysia, I can quickly find a member that meets the necessary requirements and feel comfortable that the customer will be happy with the results.”

The Directory will actually have two faces: one for printers seeking other printers, and one for buyers of print (especially marketers, brand owners and creative) seeking printers. Dscoop, as a global organization which now has nearly 8,000 members, offers buyers of print a wide range of choices if they are seeking a printer.  In addition, customers will be able to rate their experience with printers listed in the directory.  One board member described it as the Yelp! or Angie’s List of the printing industry. Dscoop will leverage HP’s enterprise presence and outreach efforts to the creative community to get the directory in the hands of these potential buyers. Hawkinson admits that Dscoop had made an earlier effort to build a directory which was not as successful as they would have liked, but believes that the current initiative takes a much better approach and will be a lot more useful. “We are working hard to get as many members as possible to register their profiles,” he added. Dscoop attendees were already entering their profiles from the event, and the directory appears to be off to a good start. The directory will be translated into 9 languages.

Dscoop University is a much more challenging initiative.  Dscoop will be seeking a full-time Dean of Education for the University that will manage the initiative, including vetting content to ensure that it is of the highest quality, and gets at the educational needs members need.  Content will be delivered online and in-person. In addition to content which might be created by Dscoop, content will come from HP and its partners, as well as Dscoop members.

Dscoop has already invested in an online learning management system and has a certification plan in place.  Both users and their employers will be able to track progress toward certification in specific disciplines, which will include both management and operational topics. Participants will be able to add certifications to their Print Directory profiles to make partner selection even more targeted.

The print directory, Dscoop University and a new quarterly newsletter program, among other membership enhancements announced during the conference, will all be available to Dscoop members as part of their membership, thanks to the organization’s overall financial success and continued support from HP.

In other Dscoop news, Larry Vaughn of Seebridge Media was recognized with the Jack Glacken award, an award that goes to someone who has made significant contributions to the organization.  Among other things, Vaughn was the chairman of the first Dscoop, which had about 350 attendees, and he now serves on the organization’s global board, chaired by Chris Petro of Globalsoft Digital.

An event like Dscoop is hard to characterize if you have never attended it.  It is quite different from most other industry events in that it is highly focused. One thing that has always impressed me is the level of dedication and passion shown by both general members and Dscoop boards.  More than 200 volunteers put the conference together, and volunteers make possible a number of ongoing programs throughout the year.  These are busy people who are running their own businesses, but give selflessly of their time to make the organization and its activities a success.

I spoke with a label printer from the Midwest who is considering purchasing an HP Indigo and came to Dscoop to assist with the decision process.  He told me, “I really underestimated the value of this event.  I wish I had brought more people with me.  I will certainly do so next year.”

While I wasn’t able to get specific data, Dscoop officials estimate that attendee companies bring an average of three to four people with them to the event.  I spoke with some business owners who brought six or more—members of their staff from across the plant—to take advantage of both the learning and the networking opportunities, as well as the opportunity to talk to the nearly 100 partners on the exhibit floor.

Partners are also thrilled with the event. One partner told me, “Everyone who is here is a potential customer for us. This event delivers results.”

For WhatTheyThink, Dscoop gives us an opportunity to speak with successful digital printers and those who are just getting in to digital, and it helps us keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry.  We were also able to capture interesting and informative video interviews with printing executives that will be aired over the coming weeks, and which we believe deliver valuable insight for our readers/viewers who are working to transform their businesses in the crazy, disruptive market in which we are all operating. Attendees include digital and commercial printers, packaging and label converters, sign and display printers, book manufacturers … and the list goes on.

Dscoop 9 goes back to Orlando, exact dates TBD.