• Short of investing in private sales presentations, attending a trade show was once one of the best ways to obtain a comprehensive rundown of hardware and software announcements.
  • Making the time to attend trade shows may be a worthwhile investment because decision-makers can pose their questions to expert presenters with an in-depth understanding of installation processes and compatibility issues.
  • According to InfoTrends’ research, some vendors are overly optimistic about product release dates when making announcements at trade shows.

By Marc Mascara and Colin McMahon


Before the digital transformation began, print service providers (PSPs) enjoyed a steady trickle of news, largely supplied by phone calls to inside sources and monthly updates from market research agencies. This influx of information only expanded with the occurrence of a trade show, when executives and decision-makers would meet others from competing companies and hear a multitude of announcements from vendors and large industry players on the future of the print industry. Leveraging the knowledge gained from these events, decision-makers were better positioned to execute their business strategies for the future. Short of investing in private sales presentations, attending a tradeshow was one of the best ways to obtain a comprehensive rundown of hardware performance and software capabilities. To put it simply, tradeshows were vital for PSPs that hoped to monitor the pulse of the industry and keep themselves up-to-date on the latest and greatest announcements.

Thanks to the proliferation of the Internet, people now have access to an endless supply of information. With all of this knowledge at their fingertips, decision-makers no longer need to travel—or even pick up the phone—to stay informed. The Internet provides complete data rundowns and comprehensive technological specifications for every type of hardware or software solution imaginable. It is now easier than ever for everyone—not just decision-makers—to learn about the internal and external trends that are impacting the printing industry. In today’s digital age, the role of tradeshows has changed. At the same time, however, they remain an important component of modern business planning.

At the Frontlines of Innovation

Even today, there are few things that can compete with the excitement of attending a bustling tradeshow that puts you in the middle of the industry’s action. An online livestream is no match for attending a tradeshow in person, particularly when exhibitors are presenting exclusive hardware or software demonstrations and are prepared to answer specific questions. All of the important product details will certainly be online within a matter of hours, but today’s executives cannot always rely on a standard set of intelligence when it comes to making a purchasing decision. A live attendance at a tradeshow is more fluid than a pre-recorded video stream, and tradeshows are sometimes the best way for decision-makers to obtain answers to all of their unique questions. Today’s tradeshows also focus on seminars and educational sessions that are quite helpful for understanding the industry and guiding business planning decisions.

While it is true that executives can always call or email vendors to obtain additional information, this isn’t always the best approach. The staff members that field these queries might still be learning about the offerings themselves, and they might not have access to all the information that trade show presenters will have. Making the time to attend trade shows may be a worthwhile investment because decision-makers can pose their questions to expert presenters and product managers with an in-depth understanding of installation processes and compatibility issues. Although any answers will no doubt be colored by the vendor’s desire to make a sale, savvy executives will still be able to ask the questions that deliver the information they need.

A Realistic View of Trade Show Technology Announcements

Tradeshows clearly provide the key information needed for business planning, but executives must tread carefully if they are making decisions based on technological demonstrations. The bulk of the information that vendors reveal at trade shows will of course be accurate, but specifications may change and the price will often still need to be set. Vendors, in general, strive to be accurate in their discussions surrounding technology demonstrations…except when it comes to release date. Consider some of the statistics from recent research conducted by Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends that analyzed new product announcements made at tradeshows (in this case, drupa 2008, 2012, and 2016):

  • Over 20% of the products highlighted during technological demonstrations never came to market.
  • Of the products unveiled in this fashion that did come to market, the majority suffered delays of at least a year.
  • New product announcements were more accurate, but even they were not perfect—of the 13 product introductions that InfoTrends studied at drupa, one never made it to market.

In any case, this research uncovers a pattern: some vendors are overly optimistic about product release dates. It should also be noted that different vendors have different track records. According to InfoTrends’ research, vendors like HP and Xerox are more likely to deliver on their promises. Nevertheless, today’s decision-makers are facing real challenges that need to be solved in the short term, so relying on unreleased technologies that are announced during a trade show can be a business plan risk. A missed launch window can greatly impact a PSP, especially if they are looking to increase print volume or have current equipment that is coming off lease. Vendors expect to close deals at trade shows and many attendees have plans to make purchases, but it’s important to remember that the goals of these two parties are not always aligned. Some vendors will not have imminent software or hardware announcements, so they will instead focus on technological demonstrations to recoup the trade show investment. Although these presentations are often entertaining and enlightening, they should not convince an executive to alter his or her business plan.

The Bottom Line

Even with the Internet pumping out new information every second, tradeshows remain quite important in today’s business world. By attending these events, decision-makers can monitor the pulse of the industry and also obtain a firsthand look at attendees’ reactions to new hardware and software announcements. At the same time, however, InfoTrends’ research shows that blindly making investments based on tradeshow announcements can be risky—some of these products may not be released on time, and a few might never come to market. Tradeshows still have their place in today’s digital age, but it’s very important for PSPs to do their homework and ensure that they’re dealing with tradeshow vendors who have a track record for making good on their promises.

Marc Mascara is the Director of Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Customer Communications Advisory Service. In this role, he supports customers with strategic go-to-market advice related to customer communications. His responsibilities include conducting market research and analysis, consulting engagements, forecasting market growth, client care, and providing coverage of industry events. Marc has been involved in the graphic arts and publishing industries since 1980. Prior to joining InfoTrends, he worked at Eastman Kodak Company, where he served as Director of Marketing US/Asia for the Enterprise Inkjet Systems Division, managing regional marketing and operations for Kodak’s high-speed inkjet portfolio.

Colin McMahon is a Research Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends. He primarily supports the Business Development Strategies and Customer Communications services. In this role, he creates and refines much of InfoTrends’ written content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. He also assists with the editing and formatting processes for many types of deliverables.