Recap of 6th Annual Print & Media Conference
September 13 – 14, 2011
By Margie Dana
Producing an annual conference is like planning a wedding weekend every year. You need the right venue and date, not to mention a guest list of people you care about most and who want to be invited. You need to arrange for good food (and drink) and plan a host of enjoyable activities that will have guests buzzing with compliments for months afterwards. You pray that no member of the wedding gets sick…or cold feet.
Thank God I don’t have to get all dolled up in a white gown every year.
Our recent PBI conference was a ‘first’ on many levels. It was the first time we held it outside of New England, the first time we held it in conjunction with Graph Expo in Chicago, the first time I produced the conference with my new PBI team, and the first time we pulled it all together in nine months. (Hey, maybe I should be comparing the conference with having a baby.)
Were we nervous? You betcha. Attracting the right audience (professionals who source print, design for print or market with print) in a shaky economy in an industry that’s shrinking is not for the novice – or the meek.
Now that I’m on the Other Side of our show, I can breathe easily and share the highlights of what may be our most successful conference yet.
The Terrific Attendees
We attracted 100 attendees from 25 states and 2 countries. The typical attendee had over 9 years of professional experience. The group was a mix of print production managers, creatives, and marketing communications pros. It was exactly who we targeted. They came from a broad range of industries, like colleges/universities, retail, pharmaceuticals, publishing, nonprofits, manufacturing, insurance and other financial services, professional associations, restaurant chains, agencies, and automotive parts manufacturers. What connected them all? Print.
The Glorious Sponsors
We couldn’t pull this off without the financial and professional support of PBI conference sponsors, and this year’s Super 16 were magnificent. They were: PBI Patron Sponsors Xerox, Solo Printing, 48hourprint, and Graphia Alliance; as well as Domtar, DS Graphics, FUJIFILM North America Corporation, Japs-Olson Company, Lindenmeyr Munroe, McAdams Graphics, Remote Director, Ripon Printers, Sappi Fine Paper, Team Services, Vision Integrated Graphics Group, and Trend Offset Printing (Education Sponsor of Print Buyer Boot Camp 9/12).
16 Sensational Sessions
The conference ran for two days, with many concurrent sessions interspersed with Brainstorming sessions, meals, energy breaks, and time in the PBI Sponsor Center. This year’s theme was “Beyond Print Buying,” because anyone who works in this business knows the times they are a-changing. Speakers covered career issues (Where are buyers headed? What does the future look like for print buyers, specifically?), the latest advances in digital printing technologies, how to become a leader in sustainability, G7 and what it means for this audience, as well as mobile marketing, content marketing, multi-channel solutions, color management, QR and AR codes, innovative substrate options & applications, and navigating today’s wild & crazy media landscape.
For details on our fantastic speakers and their sessions, please cast your eyes on this site page. We’ll be posting most speaker presentations as well.
The two Brainstorming sessions I led were eye openers. I basically toss out questions or statements to engage the crowd in a discussion, and invite questions from the audience as well as sponsors. Personally, these are my favorite sessions – and no, not because I have the mic in hand. I love hearing comments from the attendees. They talk about what’s going on in their careers and jobs and share resources with the rest of us. It helps me (and our sponsors) help them, going forward.
Ten Hut, It’s Boot Camp
We held a full-day Print Buyer Boot Camp the day before the conference ‘proper.’ Nearly 30 attended this intensive educational workshop and took away the 100-page Boot Camp Handbook. Instructors were Frank Romano, Steve Suffoletto and myself. We covered the basics of printing processes, paper, proofing, how to buy printing, printing & buying trends, digital printing, and print buyer resources. The event ran from 9 to 5 that day. A scrumptious hot luncheon was served, courtesy of Boot Camp Education Sponsor Trend Offset Printing.
Icing on the Cake: Graph Expo
Our attendees got a special gift this year: free admission to the humongous show floor of GRAPH EXPO. I warned them all to wear comfy shoes and to plan their booth visits. From the feedback we heard on site as well as from the survey we distributed after our event, PBI attendees loved the opportunity to visit Graph Expo 2011. According to our survey, 100% of those who have responded to date visited the expo show floor at McCormick. What great synergy!
As I write this, we continue to receive kind words from sponsors and attendees. Here’s a sampling:
“Just wanted to say the event was a great educational, and fun, opportunity to learn more about motivations, issues, challenges and concerns for Print Buyers, marketers, printers and the bunch! Thank you for putting together a wonderful event. It was a huge success and I’ll look forward to the next one.”
“You and the PBI staff were awesome! Thanks so much for your hospitality. I appreciated your attention to details. See you next year!”
“What a great show!! As I said to you at McCormick Place, this (and the one in May) are truly the best shows that I have attended in years. The audience is dead on for what we do, and the speakers are phenomenal – and Frank Romano could be his own show.* Your brainstorming session is one of the highlights to me, as it really brings about topics that we should all be aware of and gives all of us differing viewpoints.”
*tell me about it, Tom.
“Thanks you for another great event! We made some great contacts and are very impressed with the quality and caliber of your events. It is a real pleasure to work with you.
Vision Integrated Graphics
That, in a nutshell, is a recap of our show in Chicago. I wish I’d had more time to visit colleagues and friends in the business. Next time I’ll tack on an extra day at the beginning – if I’m not stressing over “wedding” details.
Well Wishers in the Biz
You know what’s great about this business we’re in? The people. I was truly touched by folks who came by to wish me well this year at McCormick Place. They included Deborah Corn (who captured a video of me in my statement dress) and Nigel Cliffe of PrintMediaCentr, as well as Grow Socially’s John Foley and Jason Pinto, Whattheythink’s Dr. Joe Webb, PINE’s Jim Tepper, Bizucate’s Peter Muir, IDEAlliance’s Joe Fazzi, Media Ink’s Mark Bonacorso, and SEMPER’s Brian Regan. I must let them all know how much it meant to me to have their fingers crossed on my behalf.
We had a very successful show, based on comments from attendees, sponsors and speakers. I learned more about print customer needs, challenges, trends and “wish lists” than I thought possible. My focus for the next few weeks is to document the key “take-aways” so that they guide us for future events.
Once the dust settles, we’ll begin planning events for next year. Our 7th annual conference will likely be another 2-day affair, and we also want to host at least one additional 1-day conference, with one right here in Boston.
Just call me the Wedding Planner.