Virtual Versus Real Time

As I reflect a bit on the events of the last few days here in St Pete Beach I sigh a bit of relief that the 2012 Conference and Vendor Forum is over, but at the same time feel a sense of loss.

Over the last several years I have seen diminishing “face to face” interactions, with trends favoring webinars for education, web meetings, tweets, SMS and other “non-personal” forms of communications.

Facebook is great, particularly connecting with people you have not heard from in years, but when is the last time you picked up a phone and called one of these so called “friends”.

Spending the last three days at the conference has re-enforced my belief that there is absolutely no substitute for personal interactions and networking. While here I was able to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and particularly I was afforded the luxury of really spending quality time getting to know people from both a business and personal perspective.

You can’t get that in an email (and if you do it is either too long or you are disconnected), SMS, tweet, facebook, etc. There is no voice inflection, no locking eyes, no handshakes and no hugs.

So, what is the answer? Technology advances will continue. People will adapt and embrace new means of communications. But long lasting and enduring relationships will be that delicate balance between virtual and real time interactions.

Come to the 2013 Xplor conference in St. Pete Beach, April 16-18, 2013 and connect “real time”.

21 Days to Showtime

It’s hard to believe the Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum is just 3 weeks away. The weather in Florida is great, the speakers have been confirmed and the final touches for the networking events have been made.

Out of all of the tasks that I am personally involved in I enjoy providing input to the keynote and networking events. (Although everyone knows Lynn Robbins does the heavy lifting)

This year’s event is once again jammed packed. When we “re-invented” the conference four years ago our goal was to make it the perfect combination of education and networking. That is what makes this event unique.

The conference and track chairs have put together the curriculum, which continues to just get better every year. There are lots of unique sessions and tracks this year, which I have written about in previous blog postings.

There are seven networking events during the three days:

  1. Tues Opening Session and Networking Lunch – Sponsored by Xplor partner 48HourPrint
  2. Tues Evening – Reception and Vendor Forum Opening – entertainment, food and beverage (sponsored by FIS)
  3. Wed Networking Lunch – sponsored by Kodak
  4. Wednesday Evening Beach Party – entertainment, food and beverage. (Rumor has it an American Idol Contestant may make an appearance …. Yes, she has been on TV) – Sponsored by Crawford Technologies and ProofPlus
  5. Thursday –  Walk, Crawl, Run – After the Wednesday night event clear your head and join us for a run (walking and crawling is also permitted)
  6. Thursday – Awards Luncheon/Keynote – Great food and keynote speaker Patrick Welch sponsored by Graph Expo and Print 13
  7. Thursday Farewell Reception – Enjoy a parting beverage with your new contacts and friends

The lucky 77 …. Seventy educational sessions plus seven networking …. I love when a plan comes together.

There is still time to register at http://bit.ly/xKp5wV and win a FULL 2013 Conference Pass AND a one night stay for the 2012 event paid by Xplor – Registration deadline for this offer is March 11th!

Tasty Presentations?

Xplor events have always been known for networking and specifically “breaking bread” over lunches and evening networking events. This year however, food is actually creeping into the conference content.

Two very interesting presentations evolve around food and how they relate to our industry. These sessions are destined to be a hit, knowing most people’s appreciation for culinary delights.

The Celebrity Presenter

Check our Erik’s Lobster Mac and Cheese 

The first, presented by Erik Holdo, Senior Vice President, Production Print Solutions, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, will actually feature cooking during the presentation. (assuming the hotel allows it, which we are working on)  The main dish recipe, is sealed in a vault and you have to attend to partake.

What makes this special is that Erik is a culinary celebrity, co-host of the Chef and the Fatman Radio Show – reported to be the only live cooking radio show in the world.

His presentation is Marketing: The Secret Ingredient  (Wednesday, March 28 from 3-3:50 PM) and will go beyond the “basic recipe” of a personalized name and tailored message to create the biggest impact.

Erik will Xplor the five essential ingredients for effective one-to-one marketing, including new concepts behind the utilization of color, images and social media to enhance your “dish” and increase response rates. This presentation will be unique, as we will be cooking up both new concepts and great food! Enjoy as Erik ties new concepts to the familiar concepts of eating!

The Whole Enchilada

Not to be outdone, Beth Allen, Computer Systems Analyst, Barr Systems will be presenting Create Your Own Enchilada… Using Multi-Channel Communications  (Tuesday, March 27 4 – 4:50 PM)

Beth will talk about multi-channel communication and the best way to communicate with people inside and outside your company from printers, portals, websites, databases, mobile devices, email addresses, and more.

Do you need the Whole Enchilada?  Attend this session and find out if you need the Whole Enchilada, or just a couple of bites.  In addition to a great presentation, Beth will be sharing her Enchilada recipe. If history holds true, there may even be some incentive for you making the dish.

But Is This Healthy?

The presentations are definitely healthy for your top and bottom line. The food, that one is up to you.

Anyway, I am headed for lunch. Might go Mexican today.

For more information about the culinary correct Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum click here or copy and paste www.tinyurl.com/844lau3

Hope to see you in St. Pete Beach!

QR Codes dead already?

At the upcoming Xplor conference I will be the moderator for a panel entitled “Are QR Codes Dead?”

Whether you believe they are or not, it is interesting to me that it is even the topic at a conference. Seems a bit soon, or maybe not.

A bit of history …

2D barcodes have been around forever. The first use of barcodes was to label railroad cars, but they were not commercially successful until they were used to automate supermarket checkout systems, (UPC) a task for which they have become almost universal.

The very first scanning of the now ubiquitous Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode was on a pack of Wrigley Company chewing gum in June 1974. For more check out Wikipedia

The issue in the use and adoption of barcodes was not the applicability but the need and commercial availability of the reader. So why is there such a sudden surge in popularity?  Look no further than your smart phone, which provides free QR code reader applications.

So now that scanners are available to the masses what is the problem?  QR codes are everywhere but like any technology some people do a great job optimizing and others don’t.

  • This morning I read in the Digital Nirvana of a QR code application for finding Girl Scout Cookies, and it works!  Great application, a couple suggestions were made by author Heidi Tolliver-Walker. After reading, I give the GS an A+ for the application and a B- for implementation.
  • Another example. I ate at a Denver airport restaurant which had a survey card that had a QR code. Since I had a pleasant experience I decided to do the survey while I enjoyed the rest of my wine. I scanned, commented and then went back to my glass of wine.

The barmaid asked me what I was doing. I explained that I scanned the QR code gave her a good review on her service and the restaurant. Her comment “I was wondering what that square was.” She asked the other bartender if he knew what it was for, the answer “no”. We called over the manager and heard the same answer.

A for the concept and an F for implementation. It was a great program, but worth very little, due to poor implementation. Note: I did receive a nice email from the VP of Marketing thanking me for participating. I shared my experience with him. Will see what happens when I go back.

There are great examples of very successful QR applications. But it is all in the presentation.

Every technology has a shelf life. Do you think QR codes are reaching the end of theirs?

Be part of the debate at the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum

Why Xplor is more than just a name

Two of the most difficult questions as President and CEO of Xplor:  What is Xplor and why should I become a part of it?

Seems odd as one would think that as the President/CEO of the association for the last seven years the words would just roll off the tip of my tongue. Many times they don’t.

I belong to several associations, mainly to get information, education and to keep abreast of what others are doing. One association in fact is “an associations for associations” but anyone can belong to an association.

What makes Xplor different?  It is a community, not just an association to belong to. It is a place where someone can get the information and support they need to excel at their jobs. Where end users can their share experiences with each other, interface with vendors and find the solutions that drives their business success and makes their life easier.

For newcomers, it is a place to learn and be mentored. For seasoned professionals, a place to expand their knowledge and professional network. Xplor is more than a name, it is a feeling, a level of comfort that you have because you know you are part of a community.

So, don’t take it from me, listen to what others say…

Why I Keep Coming Back to Xplor! – by Pat McGrew, M-edp, CMP

When I mention Xplor to industry colleagues I generally get one of two reactions. The first is “I’ll see you at the next Global!” The other is “You mean Xplor is still around?” I want to talk about both reactions for a moment. I’ve been an Xplor member for more than 25 years, earned my edp certification in 1992 and my Master edp certification in 2011. I’ve presented at most of the Xplor global meetings for the last two decades, and co-chaired the conference with Scott Baker in 2011. You might look at that last sentence and think – “Well, sure Pat stays involved because she is an Xplor groupie!”

You wouldn’t be far wrong, but let me tell you why.

Every year since I have been involved with Xplor I have learned. I have gained information that I use almost immediately. I have met people who have become life-long resources. If I have a tough AFP question I have a network of people that I can reach out to who are always happy to help. If I hit a wall on a workflow problem, need a recommendation of a print stream viewer, or need an introduction to an organization I haven’t work with, there is always an Xplor member ready to extend their hand and walk me to the door.

Over the years we’ve massaged our emphasis and grown beyond just the bills and statements we originally discussed. We’ve stretched to include electronic document delivery and direct mail. We’ve grown to include market trends and management issues. We have sought out the best presenters from the user community and the vendor community.

Xplor, as an association, has done all of this in the face of dramatic changes in our industry. In the 1980s and 1990s as the association was growing we hosted an exhibition that was well supported by industry vendors and THE place to introduce new products and services. As times changed and big show floors were harder to support Xplor partnered with some of the best shows in the industry, but in the end came back to a dedicated education conference format. Through all of the changes the core education mission has not changed, and is stronger today than it has ever been.

If you haven’t been to an Xplor conference in a while, this is a good year to come back. It’s a strong agenda with strong presenters and dedicated track chairs making sure that you will get a high return on your investment to attend. If you have never been to an Xplor conference, you owe it to your professional development to come to the best place to take in the smorgasbord of offerings that cover technical, marketing, design and management topics from people who are daily practitioners.

Come home to Xplor. We’ll make it worth your time!

Pat is the Production Mail Evangelist for HP IHPS. 
Follow Pat on Twitter 

For information on the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum click here

Disrupt: A Track Overview

One of the most difficult aspects of putting on a conference program in making sure your content is relevant and appeals to your audience.

Not only is the Xplor audience broad, but expanding in scope due to new technologies, methodologies and changes in the way we communicate.

As such we took the document life cycle, have broken in down and added a few “buckets” to create the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum.

The 2012 event has seven tracks: Relevant Thought, Design, Execution, Results, Executives, CCM and Disrupt Technologies.

My next few blogs are going to highlight the individual tracks as they do contain sessions that you will not see or hear anywhere else, presented by the best industry experts, analysts and thought leaders.

Disrupt:

This track actually was suggested by some of the “younger” members of the Xplor community, known as . (Stayed tuned as a special gathering at the 2012 event is being planned for our members.)

After listening I could do nothing but agree, that this was a good addition to the conference program.

Abstract:

Change is inevitable and it is required for survival. Rapid advancement in technology demands that we change how we do business. Whether the need is obvious or not, it is the hardest thing for people and organizations to achieve. Even if you are committed to change, where do you start and how would you get it done? Disrupt is a track about fresh ideas, new approaches, and new technologies that force change — as well as how people and organizations are able to move mountains and impact change in their organizations.

Sessions include:

  • Disrupting the Physical Mailstream: The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services
  • Cloud Coverage: How the Cloud has Changed the Way Enterprises Look at Documents and e-Delivery
  • The ADD Desktop-Generation Zed
  • What Not to Say: Social Media for Xplorers
  • 10 Things That May Take Your Job in 2012
  • The Mail Truck vs. The Cloud: The Digital Postal Mail

The disrupt track is being held Wednesday, March 28 from 8:30 am – 3:50 pm.

For more information regarding the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum please visit: www.tinyurl.com/844lau3

The disrupt track is one of seven being offered at the conference. There is relevant content, information and networking opportunities for everyone. I hope to see you in beautiful St. Pete Beach.

Next up:  Relevant Executive Track

Understanding CCM

Every couple of years a new buzz word, phrase or three letter acronym sneaks into the vernacular of our industry.  In most cases the terms are broad and ill defined.

Such is the case with CCM (Customer Communications Management).

It is one those things, where everybody thinks it is a great idea, but most people are not sure what it really represents of how to get started.

What is CCM?

According to Wikipedia, Customer Communications Management is a term highlighted by research companies such as Gartner Group, Forrester Research and Madison Advisors* to define a convergent set of Information Technology solutions that together provide marketing communication professionals the ability to advance the way that they communicate with their customers.

The definition certainly encompassing, but not finite.  How do you get started?

CCM 101

Based on the input we have received from conference attendees, members and the industry in general, I am pleased to announce that we will have a (6) session CCM Track, sponsored by Pitney Bowes Software at the upcoming 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum.

This track offers thought-provoking, educational sessions on planning and implementing an effective Customer Communications Management (CCM) Strategy.

The six session track will take you through improving your customer acquisition strategy, present best practices for communication across new media channels, improving customer care with more robust communications management, using data and analytics to drive better communications, moving from transpromo to trans-relevance to improve loyalty and revenue, and present best practices in communication governance.

Sessions include:

  • Improving Customer Care with More Robust Communication Management
  • Moving from “Transpromo” to “Trans-relevance” for Greater Loyalty and Revenue
  • Best Practices in Communication Governance
  • Making Room for Relevance: Improve Acquisition Using the Customer’s Point of View
  • Using Data and Analytics to Drive Better Communications
  • Best Practices for Communicating More Consistently Across New Media Channels

The track is being held on Tuesday March 27th from 9 am to 4:50 pm. For more information and descriptions on the CCM track visit: http://tinyurl.com/82n95ar

You can also check it out in the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum digital brochure: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/1de11be2#/1de11be2/1

The Roadmap

Whether you are looking at CCM, have a CCM strategy in place, are in various stages of    implementation the CCM Track at the 2012 Xplor Conference will benefit you and your company.

See  you in St. Pete Beach, March 27-29, 2012.

The Keynote ….

One of the “funnist” (as my daughter would say) and most challenging tasks in putting on a conference is selecting a keynote speaker. If you have unlimited funds, the choice is endless as almost any famous person that you ever heard of is willing to speak for 45-60 minutes for a price. Even Donald Trump Jr. is listed with speaker bureaus at over $40,000. What is that about?

The second challenge is finding someone who can deliver a message to a broad audience of people that perform a wide range of functions within the company.

So, with a limited budget and a good understanding of the Xplor audience I ventured out looking for a keynote speaker.  I spent hours looking for the right person, at the right price. (Certainly supports our theme this year “making it relevant”.

The Xplor community is unique, it is a close knit group of professionals who love to share and continually support the association. It is from within our community that fate took over and I found the right person.

I received a call from Ken Leslie, an Xplor member, President of E-DocTalent, former chair of the association, formerly homeless and founder of 1Matters.org.

I had not heard from Ken for a while as he has been spending most of his time supporting 1Matters.org.  To read more about this incredible member of the Xplor community visit http://1matters.org/?page_id=6

Anyway, he said “Skip, I have this incredible person you need to meet. You need him as a keynote.”  To make a long story short, I drove over to Celebration, Florida to meet him for breakfast. He had 45 minutes as he was taking a client into Disney to try and close some business.

After I spent 20 minutes with Patrick I knew he was a fit, especially after hearing his story on how he got to meet the pope. (Come to St. Pete Beach and I am sure he will share it.)

I am pleased to present, our keynote for 2012:

Patrick Welch, Chief Simplicity Officer, Making Sales Simple

Our keynote is a noted motivational speaker, sales and marketing trainer, author and business turn-around specialist who has appeared on the Today Show, among others. Patrick is the ultimate “door opener.”

Patrick will present: The 9 Skills You Need To Be The Best At Anything You Try — In Business Or Life!

Patrick’s promise? If you master his 9 critical skills and then go back to the office, boardroom, or home, you’ll be more successful than ever before in all aspects of your work and personal life.

Patrick is also doing an exclusive session for our Vendor Forum participants and event sponsors.

Getting You In Any Door (Vendor Forum Exhibitors Only, Please) This session is a bonus for our Vendor Forum Exhibitors and will take a look at the following:

  • Five aspects of a company that potential clients look for when selecting a new supplier-company
  • The most important part of any sales call — and the part most often not done
  • Concrete tips for connecting more quickly in order to make more sales

The question I know you want to ask. Can you afford him?  Probably not, but when I asked him what his fee was he simply said, “You are a friend of Ken’s, don’t worry we will work it out.”  And we did.

Come to the 2012 Xplor conference and Vendor Forum to listen and meet Patrick Welch. Also, I am pleased that Ken Leslie will also be in St. Pete Beach. After you read about him, you will certainly want to meet him also.

Talk about a dynamic duo!!!

The Kodak Bankruptcy … a commentary from Xplor’s President

Everyone knows Kodak filed for Chapter 11 re-organization.  Based on the number of emails and calls I received, I surmise some people think I live under a rock. Why was anyone surprised, as hints of the action have been in the media for months?

As a former Kodak employee, (Kodak Versamark) I am certainly saddened, but I think people need to step back and understand what happened.

Many companies that find themselves in similar situations file for bankruptcy.  Chapter 11 bankruptcy is designed to allow individuals or, corporations to re-organize their debts in an attempt to repay them and get back on their feet.  Simply to provide some breathing room.

The banter about how Kodak got into the position they are in, is irrelevant. What is relevant is how they move forward, and I have confidence they will be successful.

Let’s not forget this 132 year old company has a lot going for it. In addition to their consumer products division, they have a robust commercial division, patents, intellectual property, licensing revenue, etc., so they have a great deal to work with.

According to an article I read, “The Company has made investments in digital and materials deposition technologies in recent years, generating approximately 75% of its revenue from digital businesses in 2011” That is a major shift.

Is Kodak down? Yes. Is it out? Absolutely not.  Don’t count this American icon out.

By the way, I recently purchased a Kodak printer for my office, and it does use less ink – per page 🙂

Skip Henk is president and CEO of Xplor International,  a worldwide, not-for-profit professional association that consists of thousands of users and suppliers of the products and services that create, modify and deliver customized information using a wide variety of document technologies. Further information is available at www.xplor.org

Why attend a pre-conference program?

Every year thousands of people attend conference programs looking to learn about the latest trends, best practices and technologies driving our industry.  Many attend as they also look at the  opportunity to expand their business and personal networks.

Everyone wants to walk away with that one idea, that one nugget, the contact that can drive revenue, reduce costs or solve a problem.

Conference attendance and education is an investment.  Registration, travel, hotel costs can add up but if you get that one idea, that one nugget or meet than one person, it can pay big dividends.

Hidden Gems

Often overlooked at these events are pre-conference programs. Whether you call it a program or intensive these half day (sometimes full day) events can pack a punch as they typically present  a lot of information in a relatively short period of time.

This year Xplor International is pleased to be hosting two very different pre-conference programs put on by acadami™ and Madison Advisors. Both programs are a half day and run from 1pm to 5:30/6:00 pm. If you are East of Dallas, you can catch an early flight, have lunch on the beach and be on time for the start of the program.

Two Very Different Programs

Madision Advisors, returning for their third year, will present the results of their latest market research on multi-channel delivery, business process assessments, service provider alternatives, and multi-channel solution options. The intensive will include real-world use cases on what leading organizations are doing to maintain a competitive edge with their customer communications. Madison will also discuss industry-leading services and technologies for customer communications in 2012 and beyond.

Madison is known for their great research and vendor independent approach. For more information http://tinyurl.com/777bvh4

acadami  will be presenting a ½ -day session which introduces the “Host to Post” processes and steps that gives the Xplor attendee a broad grounding in the terminology and processes that both users and vendors will be talking about over the course of the conference.

This is a GREAT program for people that are new to the industry or who even seasoned veterans who would like to better understand “the document lifecycle”.  For more information http://tinyurl.com/777bvh4

Putting it all together

The combination of the pre-conference programming and the three day Xplor Conference andVendor Forum WILL provide ideas, nuggets and contacts that will pay huge dividends. Listen to what the 2011 attendees have to say http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2inI3zeKXM

For more information on the acadami or Madison Advisors pre-conference program or the 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum please visit: 2012 Xplor Conference and Vendor Forum.

Hope to see you in beautiful St. Pete Beach in March.