April 10, 2003 -- The 14th annual VUE/POINT Conference, held March 31 through April 2 in Washington DC, surprised many industry observers as it posted nearly a 10% year-to-year attendance increase, with 467 graphic arts professionals on hand. Of the printers in attendance, it is estimated that close to half were first-time attendees. Though the difficult economy became a topic of discussion in many of the sessions, printers in attendance clearly left with a roadmap for moving forward, and hopefully growing, in the years ahead.
Though historically VUE/POINT has concentrated on prepress and technology in its content, this year marked a continuation of a trend towards becoming a broader graphic communications event, something that has not been lost on the attendees. According to Joe Metzger, president of Metzgers, Inc., a successful commercial printer based in Holland, OH, this year's event was "by far the best business idea and development conference I've ever attended."
Apart from technical sessions on screening, proofing, and plate technologies, much of VUE/POINT Conference 2003 focused on how printers should be differentiating themselves and avoiding the hazard of selling solely based on price. Throughout the Conference, it became increasingly evident that those companies that are doing well in the current environment have found ways to offer more than just conventional offset printing-embracing digital printing, fulfillment services, asset management, and web-based tools to allow for easy, one-stop shopping.
"VUE/POINT Conference is positioned as a tool for profitability, and offered print communications professionals, through the unique interactive session format, a host of useful, forthright solutions they could put to use immediately to start building their business," noted Regis J. Delmontagne, president of Graphic Arts Show Company, owner of the conference.
All the discussion sessions were well-attended. Conference sponsors were able to gain direct access to decision-makers through a series of hosted breakfasts, that were used to highlight their newest product offerings and show how they can help printers make the most of the advantages technology has to offer.
"Everybody comes away from the conference with something they can really use immediately, and this year that was especially true, in light of the current economic conditions," said Michael Vinocur, Manager of the event. "I'm looking forward to working on a continuing basis with the GASC staff over the next several years to further develop VUE/POINT in a number of areas, and to continue to provide a forum for print professionals to learn and develop," added Vinocur.
John Zarwan, WTT contributing columnist and analyst, attended the conference. We asked him to provide a review.
“VuePoint has always been a unique conference, with its emphasis on "the view from the trenches" and relative lack of "hype" and visible presence from its vendor/sponsors. This year’s was no exception. Panel discussions were lively, and the quality of participants and moderators uniformly high. Yet, while the conference had a familiar feel about it, there were some noticeable changes, reflecting both the current state of the industry and its on-going structural transformation.
“One unmistakable change was the session topics. Although VuePoint’s heritage is high-end prepress, the primary focus had clearly shifted: less than a handful of panels dealt with prepress issues – PDF; screening; color management. The remaining sessions focused on business conditions, finding ways to improve margins and increase sales, or identifying new growth opportunities. Some of the "growth" areas explored included fulfillment, variable data and digital print, packaging, and inkjet output.
“The tone of the conference was set in the opening session, "Prospering in Tough Times". And the current slump was not far from everyone’s mind. Most sessions – regardless of topic – eventually moved to a discussion of the difficult environment and what to do to improve the situation.
“The mood, however, was surprisingly and refreshingly positive. While realistic and subdued, there was little complaining. Attendees were there to share ideas and to learn. Their focus was action-oriented. (1) how to improve operations, with sessions on CIM, how to deal with shrinking run lengths and turnaround times, and business metrics; and (2) how to grow and add services. This forward-looking aspect is reinforced both by the number of attendees – up from last year – but also the fact that many were "first timers" at this annual reunion of industry luminaries.
“One topic that was noticeable by its relative absence was "e-". There was only one session that directly addressed the Internet and e-commerce, "Web Enabling Your Business." And the subject rarely came up in other sessions. Yet it’s clear the the Internet is affecting our business. After all, you’re reading this on the Web.”
John Zarwan is a well known and respected industry analyst. He is currently an independent management consultant. Please offer your feedback by calling 902-892-7272 or by email - [email protected]
Editor’s Note: Tapes from the show can be ordered online at http://www.vue-point.com/tapes.htm or by calling Footprint Communications at 800-962-5650. Also, a full recap will be published this summer in the highly regarded and well-known VUE/POINT: The Hard Copy Magazine. E-mail: [email protected]