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Ready, Set, GOA! Graphics of the Americas turns 31

Press release from the issuing company

By Noel Ward, WTT Managing Editor, Trade Show Coverage With February just a week away it's time to head back down to Miami for another dose of Cuban coffee, South Beach sun, cafés, restaurants, and Graphics of the Americas. The show turns 31 this year and all indications are that this is going to be a landmark event for GOA and the Printing Association of Florida. The show has grown annually over the past few years, with attendance reaching 23,000 in 2005. This year it is expected to go higher, due to PAF's new alliance with Xplor International. At Xplor's 2004 convention in Dallas, Texas it was announced that the event originally planned for DisneyWorld in 2005 would co-locate with Graphics of the Americas from February 1-5, 2006. An assortment of critics, pundits, skeptics, naysayers, and other blowhards said this would never happen and basically wrote Xplor off. But now, only a few days from the opening of the Xplor conference at the Miami Beach Convention Center, things look very promising for both organizations. Rooms in the conference hotels are as scare as snowmen on South Beach and floor space in the convention center has been selling at a rapid pace. Chris Price, GOA vice president and general manager, says over 500 vendors will occupy the convention center, a big increase over the 400-odd firms last year. Key vendors, such as Adobe, HP and Xerox have increased their footprint in Miami and Price says many companies that wouldn't have come to a primarily print-oriented show like GOA will be on hand because of the Xplor conference. "There's convergence in the industry and it's beautiful to actually see it happen in the show as well," says Price. "We've added small, medium and large companies that include Barr Systems, Bowe Bell & Howell, Emtex, Elixir, IBM, ISI, Kern, Lake Image, Rochester Software, and many more. This shows off new software, hardware, and mailing, as well as all kinds of document creation, archiving and other processes." Distinct Audiences Away from the show floor, the challenge for GOA and Xplor has been pulling together a conference that has value to the distinct audiences of the two organizations. The strength --and the promise-- comes from the convergence that is increasingly pitting commercial printers against service bureaus for transactional and direct mail printing and has commercial shops vying with in-plant printshops and data centers for work that was once done internally. Placing a strong Xplor conference track with an active GOA show floor may well be the juice both organizations need. Document industry watchers have long said that Xplor was a great conference in search of a trade show, while others felt GOA was in need of a strong conference to help attendees keep pace with the technology they were seeing on the show floor. "As the Printing Association of Florida we have our hands on the pulse of the industry," says Price. "We have tremendous leadership with Mike Streibig plus an innovative trade show team who are constantly anticipating what attendees' needs are and will be. We worked with our conference partners at Xplor to better understand the enterprise community that is the strength of the Xplor membership so we could understand and address their needs as well." The Xplor conference has more than 130 sessions (many presented in both English and Spanish) over nine different tracks covering all aspects of document creation, prepress, production, distribution, HR, and more. Added to that are five other topic-specific conferences on PDF, XML, CIP4, Adobe Creative Suite, and Photoshop. There's going to be a tremendous sharing of knowledge this first week of February in Miami. Skip Henk, president of Xplor International, and PAF share a vision of and evolving combination of events that gel, says Price. " All these conferences are 'powered by Xplor' to ensure the information, solutions and education give attendees the ability to discover the new opportunities created at this convergence of traditional and digital printing." Convergence of documents is one thing. But at conferences it's new territory. According it Henk, "Some people are having a hard time with the concept of holding multiple conferences with the cooperation of other groups--who could in some ways be considered competitors. And the 'buy one pass, attend five different conferences' is difficult for some to get their arms around. But from a curriculum standpoint this is the finest printing industry educational event ever offered in terms of content and value. It is the future of education in our industry. It is the future of Xplor." Tuned to the Industry I've been going to GOA for four years now and even in that short time it has changed dramatically. In 2002 it was a pleasant, low-key show with many printers still primarily focused on offset print. Price agrees. "Even just two years ago printers were asking themselves, 'do we really have to get involved in digital printing?' Today they see the light and are asking, 'what area(s) of digital printing should I get involved in?' " Price believes 2006 is going to be a very interesting year for printers and suppliers alike. "PAF members have been indicating unusually high plans for upgrading their traditional (offset) equipment. Many companies that invested in new presses in the mid- to late '90s and now are ready to upgrade. Based on the advancements in today’s offset and DI presses, for example, the time to upgrade is now and it is happening." Offset and DI presses are appealing to Latin American printers because they use familiar printing technologies, but digital printing is gaining ground. HP, IBM, Xerox and others are all offering some of their latest products to the Latin American markets--and printers are buying. "Whether it uses ink or toner, it's all printing!" says Price. According to Price, Latin American printers in general have waited and watched the quick evolution of digital printing devices and avoided the high-priced introductions, waiting to see how the competitive and fast-advancing technologies would shake out. "Now, they are ready, willing and poised to expand into this market. Watch Latin American commercial and package printing companies expand into digital in a big way at GOA 2006." "There are other areas that deserve attention here, too" Price continues. "Mailing continues to be an area that more printers are offering to their customers" This is certainly evident at other shows, and both Pitney Bowes and Bowe Bell&Howell will have a very visible presence at GOA. Then there's wide format printing which continues to be hot in Latin America for many applications. "One of these is proofing because they see larger margins in this area and they are expanding their capabilities to reach vertical markets they had not sold to in the past," notes Price. But are the vendors happy? Conferences live and die by vendor support as much as by that of attendees. GOA is typically very attentive to the needs of vendors, providing tools that can generate leads before the show, maximize the traffic on the show floor, and boost the post-show leads and sales. In addition, GOA has been successful in reducing expenses that exhibitors have relative to show participation. "These things have created growing relationships and the faith that we see the big picture," says Price. "It shows we care and are working to attract a large group of qualified industry buyers, reduce exhibitor expenses and boost their ROI for participating in Graphics of the Americas." Of course, exhibitors see the convergence in the industry, too. Price says they have applauded the partnership between GOA and Xplor and believe it is a smart, effective move. And they look beyond the show floor, because it is the conference that really attracts attendees. Price believes the conference tracks at GOA/Xplor have helped attract vendors because they target the needs of the enterprise companies as well as the specific challenges, questions and solutions of printers who have expanded into or are considering expanding into digital printing. How it all turns out in Miami Beach is what everyone is waiting to see. I'll keep you posted on WTT and let you know what is going on under the Florida sun. Stay tuned.