Monday, April 23, 2012

Fifth time's a charm...doing @Drupa2012 successfully

My first Drupa was the last “odd” year, 1995.  I had been with Corbis for about a year and my prepress mentor, the invaluable Anne Taylor (now with Rods and Cones), sold my boss on the point that if we are going to be the leaders in digital still content then we needed to be on the front lines with print.  I remember that the first year of attending the “mother of all trade shows” as being a bit overwhelming but I had the advantage of having a somewhat narrow focus on prepress and printing and was able to avoid the myriad of paper, converting, and post press.

In 2000 I was working as a consultant and made my home base in Köln, spending a lot of my time working on expanding the ideas of grocery product photography into the nascent online shopping industry in Dortmund.  The 100km drive on the autobahn made my days even a bit more fun.

2004 was my first Drupa where I needed to see the full show.  I was working in the emerging books-on-demand marketplace and found every hall had something of interest that I needed to see and for the first time I really realized how big and significant this show is.

In 2008 Blurb was a full-blown phenomena and besides the usual technology research I now had multitudes of meetings with current and prospective print partners as well as doing quite a bit of research into emerging markets.  The days just didn’t seem long enough.

So what is my advice for doing Drupa successfully? I’ve been asked that quite a bit of late and here are a few pointers.

  1. Have fun.  Enjoy the show.  Don’t book yourself so tight that you can’t enjoy the spectacle of this grand event.  I usually keep my first day open for myself.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes.  This is a show where business casual is very acceptable but you won’t be looked at sideways if you wear a suit and tie.  But whatever you wear, it is always acceptable to have good, comfortable shoes.
  3. It’s bigger than you think.  See above and below.
  4. Give yourself at least three days.  There is a reason that Drupa sells 4-day passes.  It really takes two full days just to walk the show (that’s if you never stop and talk to anyone).
  5. Batch your meetings so you can minimize moving between halls.  Do your research before you go.  Drupa has great downloadable tools here,oid,26799/lang,2/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/App_for_Smartphones_and_Tablets.html or just go to  I usually get the print catalog as well to use at the show and for future reference.
  6. See the big iron.  Even if you don’t have any need for big offset presses don’t miss seeing them in action.  The Heidelberg hall is a must if you like ink on paper.
  7. Don’t be afraid to drive. The allure of the autobahn is worth the price of admission and getting to Drupa by car is not difficult.  The Messe is easy to find and frequent shuttle busses will take you right to all of the entrances.  But don’t forget where you parked!
  8. Don’t expect a lot of “conference” stuff.  Drupa is a buying show. Most people go there ready to make a deal.  And don’t be surprised when they are serving beer at the booths by mid-morning.  It’s a German thing.
  9. Weekends are for families.  If you go to the show on the weekend there will be a lot of craftspeople with kids in tow to show what mommy and daddy do for a living.  It’s fun for the kids and it doesn’t cause a lot of problems for those there on business.  Except when it comes to printed swag, which are even hotter items on the weekends.
  10. Prepare to bring stuff home.  Every day you’ll leave with something that is cool or interesting or both.  Plan your bags to leave some space for the stuff you’ll want to drag back to the office.  Shipping from the Messe is available but it can get pricey back to the States.

Bottom line, if you start getting stressed out, just go back to point #1.  See you in Düsseldorf!

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