By Andy & Julie Plata, co-CEOs, the OuputLinks Communications Group
Xploration 2014 in Orlando last week drew about 350 exhibitors, consultants and users to its three-day annual conference. We had not attended the annual conference for about five years, so it was interesting to return.
For those unfamiliar with Xplor, it began 30+ years ago as an education platform for people who needed to make the technology work, and this year’s conference seemed to return to those roots. Xplor launched its first conference in 1980, in support of the pioneer users of the brand new Xerox 9700 laser printer. Hence, 34 years ago, Xplor was the first user group dedicated to variable, transaction printing. And it still survives today!
Xplor has a very strong core group of user members, many of who have been members for decades. Most of the users at this year’s conference were from corporate in-house operations. The attendees were primarily corporate in-house professionals with 10-15% of the attendees print service providers which is fewer than we remember seeing when we last attended five years before. The high number of legacy attendees is an asset, but at the same it does tend to create more of a rear-view mirror approach to the newer communications technologies. By that we mean that many of the sessions on social media, digital mail and cloud technologies were characterized by audience members referencing ‘how it used to be done’ or the ‘good old days.’ This seemed to dampen the discussion around how best to implement these newer technologies.
This year, Xplor launched a university-based initiative to attract graphic arts students and university faculty as Xplor members. Ryerson University in Toronto is the initial school in the program. As this NextGen (next generation) program develops, the Xplor membership should see new ideas and viewpoints coming from new, younger members.
We spoke to each of the 38 exhibitors about their impression of the conference and the feedback was overall very good. Although the user attendance was considerably smaller than most of the conferences we attend, we were told by a number of the exhibitors that the quality of the attendees was what made it worth their time and money to be there. Exhibitors like Canon, Compart, GMC, Bell and Howell and CrawfordTech were included as session presenters, which provided them exposure to the user attendees.
Xploration 2014 was not about the latest and greatest, fastest and shiniest. There were no new software or hardware announcements. There were conference sessions on sales, regulatory compliance, the cloud, social media, augmented reality and digital mail, but most of the sessions we attended were primarily about how to make a company’s existing software and hardware work more effectively and efficiently to achieve its true potential.
Xplor has always been about recognition and awards. This year’s conference recognized a large number of various level new and recertified EDP professionals. Crawford Technologies had six of their employees certified. David Geleyn of Inventive Group even traveled from Belgium to be recognized as a new EDP. Stephen Wowelko and Don Maxwell were awarded Master Electronic Document Professionals (M-EDP), which only 15 people in the world have qualified for.
Some other key Xplor Awardees:
- ---Mal Baboyian: Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award
- ---Harry Lewis: Brian Platte Lifetime Achievement Award
- ---Acadami: Xplorer of the Year Award
- ---Lloyds Banking Group: President’s award
- ---Symcor: President’s award
- ---Ryerson University: Chairman’s award
- ---Cathedral Corporation: Application of the Year Award
- ---Crawford Technologies: Technology Application Award
“Communicating with Interactive Print!” was a highly informative and enjoyable keynote by Beck Besecker, who spoke about and demonstrated augmented reality applications his company, Marxent, has created for major brands around the world. Augmented Reality is a great way to add value to the printed page. Click here to view a sizzling AR preview >>>.
“MountainVision: Lessons Beyond the Summit” – This session had nothing to do with print but had everything to do with print people. This was Jeff Evans’ presentation of his Mt. Everest climbing experience, in support of his blind friend. Jeff also started the Soldiers to Summit program, to help disabled veterans shatter personal barriers and reclaim lives by using mountaineering as the learning tool for setting ambitious goals. Jeff modeled stewardship and a partnering attitude as a key success force. This is a longer video so wait to see it until you have a bit of time but is well worth viewing. To experience this highly inspirational video, click here >>>.
Xploration 2014 was a comfortable, casual conference that provided attendees a chance to network and learn in a smaller trade show/ educational environment. Xplor’s 30+ year history is a key component of its success to this point. As the organization initiates planned activities and programs to attract new, innovative members the organization will continue to serve a strong niche of the market space.
Thank you for reading our thoughts and observations of Xploration 2014. Feel free to share your opinions on our article or any related topic in the Comment Section below.
To a great industry,
Andy & Julie Plata
OutputLinks Communications Group