Wayne Beckett is joint managing director at Resolve Business Management (RBM), and event sales director for Printing Expo. He discusses this new virtual exhibition platform for the printing industry, and how it can help connect suppliers and printers at a time when the supply chain is seeking new and innovative ways to engage.

How well do you know the industry, and digital printing?

I have worked in print virtually all my working career. I started in publishing back in the day when you used to receive copy via Telex and motorbike couriers used to deliver board artwork from advertising agencies.

This was a time when the only digital thing in the office was the boss’ Casio watch. Jump forward to now and the industry is unrecognisable and very exciting. I spent several years as sales director for Ipex and was amazed by the advances in digital printing by all the major manufactures in such a relatively short time.

What is your current role?

I am joint managing director at RBM, which was set up two years ago to promote Cloud-based automation for the print sector.

As my background has always been sales and marketing, I am responsible for all top line revenue as well as guiding the company’s marketing activity globally.

How has this evolved into the launch of Printing Expo online?

When my business partner, Chris Watson, and I first heard about the V-Ex platform we were immediately excited about the prospect of hosting a virtual print industry exhibition. It provided the possibility of combining what RBM had been working on for the last two years – quality Cloud-based software to an international market – and providing marketing and advertising for the print industry.

The more we learnt about the possibilities that the virtual exhibition could offer as an experience to both exhibitors and visitors, the more impressed we became with the concept.

In fact, we signed up to it after only our first visit to the creators of the V-Ex platform.

For an ‘exhibitor’, how does a virtual exhibition work?

Exhibitors can ‘build’ their own stands by either supplying us with CAD files for existing stands or for stands that they had plans to build for any up and coming shows. We also offer a stand design and build service as well as standard size shell schemes.

This virtual event will give exhibitors a regular stream of enquiries throughout the year, and their stand URLs can be used for advertising and marketing opportunities outside of the exhibition. We have already had enquiries from potential exhibitors requiring a location to launch new products and services which they had planned to do over the next few weeks and months, but now don’t have that physical option.

What further benefits does a ‘virtual exhibition’ offer to exhibitors?

The in-built statistics package is available to all exhibitors to monitor stand traffic and track sales leads created; this can also be linked directly to their own CRM via the platform’s API.

An intuitive search interface and an interactive floor plan ensures that the show is easy to navigate, and the best content is always found first. For exhibitors that want to promote their latest innovations or display their current range of products to a worldwide audience, the exhibition allows them to do this without the expense of hotels flights, etc, as well as providing an enhancement to their current sales and marketing strategy.

And how will it work for ‘visitors’?

Exhibitors can populate their stands with a range of interactive content that visitors can explore and download. The visitor experience is of a true ‘online exhibition’, in the sense that it has been designed at real world scale, so the physical aspects of it look real. It allows visitors to explore a complete virtual exhibition hall and discover companies and products using a unique, visual browsing interface.

Additional navigation methods, including a search function, products list and company profiles, will further ensure that visitors can easily find their way to relevant stands and hot spots. It’s actually quite a fun experience too which is part of the draw, for example, if you visit the right stands you may find a free goody bag that you can have delivered to your address.

We will also be running a monthly conference programme where exhibitors can create their own seminars and demonstrations to a global market. We will be working with various print associations around the world to produce country driven content that will make sure visitors keep returning. So, with exhibitors able to update their own stands with new content and our monthly programme delivering new subject matter, we are hoping that visitors will regularly ‘visit’ the exhibition to keep themselves up to date with the latest that the print industry has to offer. It also allows them to explore areas of the industry that they may not necessarily have visited the event for in the first place, just like you would at a physical show.

What has response been to the launch of Printing Expo?

We’ve had a lot of interest, globally, in a short space of time. It’s something new and different and gives businesses and brands an outlet for the work they’ve been doing over the last few weeks and months in readiness for up and coming shows. I think exhibitors ‘get it’ straight away, especially in the current conditions where online and Cloud-based services have suddenly become essential and part of our everyday lives. It gives them benefits and opportunities to market themselves in a different format and in a way that they may not have done so before.

Where does digital printing fit into the show floor?

The digital printing industry will form a large part of the show and floor plan. The industry and the show themselves are innovative.

As processes and technology changes and adapts to an evolving market and demand, it’s important for the digital print industry to inform their client base of how they are meeting these needs. Any show will allow them to do this, but our virtual exhibition allows them to do this, 24/7, 365 days a year.

How do you see the exhibition industry evolving in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic?

Who knows what’s going to happen in the next few months?

We’re not looking to replace a physical show but to offer something different that has a lot of the benefits, and some additional ones to a physical show for both the exhibitor and the visitor. I have probably walked a few hundred miles around shows in my past and will probably do so again but, Printing Expo gives me something new and exciting that I can return to whenever I like and, see something different each time.

Visitor registration is now open for Printing Expo, and can be completed here.

This interview features in the March/April 2020 issue of Digital Labels & Packaging; register here to receive the magazine for free