Editor David Pittman looks forward to the return of in-person print industry expos.

Cast your mind back to early 2020. What comes to mind? Did you have strategic appointments planned to help drive your business forward? Were hardware investments in the pipeline to take your production to the next level?

Moreover, can you recall what your hopes and aspirations were for that year, before the ‘C’ word entered our collective lexicon?

For I, the big beast on the horizon was drupa 2020. For B2B journalists such gatherings are invaluable as they give us access to a deep and wide variety of businesses, technologies, industry contacts, thought-leaders and influencers (sorry TikTokers, you didn’t invent that title), and reveal leads, foster content creation (sorry YouTubers, you didn’t invent that role) and generally fill our heads with ideas for our publications and the industries we serve.

When drupa was inevitably shelved as an in-person event for that cycle, it felt to me like there was a mad rush to state that the cumbersome and expensive dragon had been slain. If you listened to some quarters, the deed was done and the impression given was that drupa would never be back, so vehement was the sentiment. For the reasons stated above, I was never onboard with this. Granted, drupa of yesteryear it no longer is, but the evolution of such a longstanding part of the industry – she’ll be 73 by the time spring 2024 rolls around – always takes time. If anything, Covid-19 has provided impetus for and accelerated much-needed changes. I for one can’t wait to set foot back in Messe Düsseldorf and see how the next iteration of drupa takes shape.

It wasn’t just drupa that suffered either, as all industry events could no longer take place, from the smallest, most focused end-use events to the larger print vertical specific expos such as Labelexpo, and cross-vertical megashows like Printing United.

Luckily, and in my opinion thankfully, the act of keeping this great industry physically apart for so long hammered home the point that we are all social animals and underlined the value of intangibility. Not all ROI can be assigned to a budget line or included in P&L calculations. Rather, those people you meet and connections you make (sorry LinkedIn, you didn’t invent that act), things you see and hear, and experiences we all share have real and meaningful long-term value.

Fast-forward 30 months to today, and events are back, albeit slowly. We’ve now had a number of in-person expos take place to demonstrate that the appetite and need for them is definitely still there. That’s why I’m delighted to say welcome back Labelexpo, Printing United, et al.

This editor’s comment was first published in the July/August 2022 issue of Digital Labels & Packaging; register here to receive future editions