I don’t usually make these columns about me, but permit me to start by saying that I’ve been involved in over a hundred virtual events since the middle of February 2020. I have been on as an attendee, speaker, and moderator, giving me the opportunity to experience platforms from all sides. Across the board, the platforms that allow speakers to be seen while presenting – whether that is live or recorded – afford the best experience. Platforms that make it easy to engage with the speakers, and hosts who insist that speakers be available for that engagement, win my heart.
Above all, however, virtual conferences should be curated with dedication to building the best mix of information for the target audience. By curated, I mean that the program should be developed with an eye to education mixed with respecting the time of the audience. Building an online program with no breaks or natural exit points is not a best practice. Virtual event offerings continue to multiply so organizers should be mindful of how much time they ask for and what is being delivered in return.
It goes beyond the basics to be successful. A previous article looked at the virtual Inkjet Summit and the virtual Canon thINK conference and the lessons learned from those events. Platforms make a difference, as does having a backup plan!
The two newest relevant events for inkjet owners were the Ricoh Interact and Xplor International events in September and October. Coming up are the Future Print virtual conference, Comparting, and DSCOOP, among others.
Looking back at the Ricoh and Xplor events, it’s clear that content holds attendees.
Ricoh used Interact to announce their RICOH Pro Scanner Options for the continuous feed devices. It leverages on-going work in both Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help automate some tasks. They also announced a new subscription model for RICOH Process Director and a slate of new professional services. The sessions focused on working with RICOH products, mostly focusing on RICOH presenters, RICOH partner presenters and some analysts, with multipole sessions in most of the slots. Taking a page from the virtual best practice book, they ran for three days, but in four one-hour blocks. While customer success stories and panels are always ideal, Interact provided valuable information for attendees.
The Xplor International conference is vendor-agnostic and may not be on the radar of those new to digital printing. Begun as a Xerox User Group, it transitioned into the most prominent independent forum for everyone doing digital printing in the 90s. Hardware and software vendors partnered with their clients to create some of the best education available. Over time, and with the challenges of market changes, Xplor has worked to rebuild that momentum. While there is still an element of technical AFP and PDF data stream education, and many of the software vendors spoke about their workflow and other solutions for inkjet and other channels, Xplor is still looking for a solid education story. Many of the panels were excellent, as were some of the Ask the Expert sessions, but using four days over two weeks made it harder to build an audience.
So, what did we learn from the virtual conferences to date? Content is king, audience time must be respected, and the platform matters. Everyone needs to remember that Zoom and Teams are the default customer experience expectations. If you adopt one of the emerging platforms for your event, test it with people from your audience cohort. Xeikon and FujiFilm have both done excellent events that included product demonstrations from their development centers and offering attendees the ability to interact with the demonstrators. What it takes is planning.
The FuturePrint team found a new platform called Remo that has been in test for several months with the speakers and panel moderators in advance of the conference. It has some great features for chatting, an option to sit at a virtual table with a subject matter expert, and the ability to see the presenter. Their October event melded recorded content with live interaction with speakers, as they did in their last event.
Whether you are looking for information on your next inkjet solution or software to support your workflow, virtual conferences can be valuable source of information, but do your homework. Look at the agenda. Consider the platform. Look for an education environment that will help you learn the most. And don’t be afraid to reach out to the hardware and software vendors to ask for private virtual demonstrations!
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have a question for Pat? Get in touch.