Endless walking and endless talking: those are the abiding memories of my first Drupa.
The 18 halls of the Messe Düsseldorf are like Canberra’s streets. You always seem to be going in circles. Even when you know where you’re going, it’s easy to get lost. The fairground spans 30 hectares. It is filled with so many people and so much machinery that everything ends up looking the same.
I spent a week in Germany writing stories for ProPrint and the daily trade show newspaper, the Drupa Report Daily. The days were long but exciting, and involved a non-stop round of writing and interviewing.
Hitting the interview trail is an exhausting business. As you pound the halls, you’re simultaneously checking your map, dodging the hordes, admiring the displays and taking calls. No wonder it’s easy to get lost.
I remember madly dashing to an 11am appointment. My contact was sympathetic when I arrived covered in sweat. He showed me his pedometer: he had already covered 10km. He told me had done 19km the day before.
Interviews are show time for vendors. They talk up their groundbreaking new software, point out the key features of their unique new press and maybe throw in a demo. Take some notes, snap some photos, exchange cards and then the mad rush to the next appointment begins.
I ran out of cards after three days – my own cards that is. My pile of other people’s cards grew exponentially. Drupa brings out all the bigwigs – chairmen, directors, executives. And they all want to exchange cards. That's got to be good for print.
Sometimes, one of the bigwigs puts his foot in it. Scodix’s vice-president of business development and sales Dror Danai did just that during a press conference. He was rhapsodising about the power of print, explaining that humans are tactile creatures who would much prefer to touch something than look at it on a sterile electronic screen. To prove his point, he told the audience: "When I get home I will kiss my wife... and I hope you do too." It took him a few seconds to get his own joke.
The great mass of people and products forces companies to be innovative if they want to stand out. My favourite gimmick came from GUK. The German vendor decided that the best way to show off its folding technology would be to pay a lithe blonde to slip into a red, skin-tight suit and twist her body into an array of improbable positions. Her thrice-daily shows drew big crowds You can see her for yourself on the video on our Facebook page, while listening to the Lady Gaga-inspired Drupa song.
You never know who you’re going to bump into at Drupa. While on my rounds, I decided to interview a shy Indian I saw sitting on his own. He told me his name was AP Selvarajan and he owned a company called Sri Kaliswari Fireworks. I asked him how many employees he had, expecting the answer to be 10 or 20. He nonchalantly replied: “Oh, 8,000.” It turned out he owned the Indian printing industry’s second largest company.
Another time, I bumped into a journalist from Tehran. Hossain told me the Western economic boycott of Iran makes things difficult for printers, because they are no longer allowed to import spare parts. And you think you've got it tough...
I’m already looking forward to my next Drupa. My plan is to wear comfortable shoes, bring at least 500 cards and steal a kiss from Dror Danai’s wife.
Nick Bendel is a journalist at ProPrint