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Jun 1, 2006 12:00 AM
Regular readers of this column should know that I am a strong proponent of industry users groups. They provide a great channel for communications between a vendor and its customers. What’s more, they offer valuable market research and networking capabilities for both parties. Earlier this year, I wrote about my trip to Las Vegas to attend the Indigo Customer Exchange (ICE) meeting. It was a most interesting meeting. After Hewlett-Packard’s Indigo division decided to withdraw its funding for the group, ICE’s leadership approached Eastman Kodak and Xerox for sponsorship. Those companies agreed, and the group voted to change its name to DICE (The Digital Customer Exchange). The DICE group is one of the most tightly-knit users groups I’ve ever seen.
From the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, I attended every one of the Scitex Graphic Arts Users Assn. (SGAUA) meetings. During that period, I wrote at least four articles on what a great meeting it was. In fact, I selected SGAUA as the father of all users groups.
So when I was invited to Connect, the Electronics for Imaging (EFI) users meeting in Las Vegas in early May, I readily accepted the invitation. And was I impressed. This event in early May was the seventh annual meeting, and it attracted a record attendance of approximately 1,300—about 1,000 EFI customers and the remainder EFI personnel, exhibitor personnel and invited guests. There were four general sessions and 120 seminars during the three-day meeting. Journalists from around the world were invited, and Connect was one big stage for EFI.
Presentations worthy of the venue
The opening session was spectacular. The event carried the tagline “Essential to Print,” and CEO and chairman Guy Gecht entertained and informed his audience about the future. He said we are entering an age of mass personalization. Although that might sound like an oxymoronic phrase, Gecht referred to his iPod and the fact that millions of people have their own personal selection of digital music. He identified cell phone ring tones as another example of mass personalization. He exhibited energy, passion and an understanding of his audience. It was a performance that rivaled other Las Vegas productions with great sound and spectacular lighting.
The second day opened with Marc Olin, senior vice president and GM, announcing the latest enhancements to the firm’s management systems and Web-to-print solutions.
I think the pièce de résistance was that evening, when Gecht interviewed Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen in a what was billed as a fireside chat. Both were seated on comfortable leather chairs, and Chizen asked Gecht where the fire was. Immediately, a banner was dropped with a huge photo of a library setting and a roaring fire. The two executives, who live a mile and a half apart, first met in a small neighborhood grocery while buying bananas. You could tell both had a great deal of respect for each other, and the conversation was most entertaining. You couldn’t find a better show in Vegas. Both were happy that Google was occupying Microsoft’s mindset. Perhaps the only flaw was when Gecht asked Chizen if Adobe was unstoppable. “If we continue to execute,” Chizen replied, “we might be.” Two days later, Adobe warned about its next quarter’s financial results.
Turning on a dime, or a chip
The most impressive action taken by EFI was its response to and execution of an idea I had. The Venetian had opened a new poker room a month before the meeting, and coincidently, my nephew, Lee, is the manager of the room. The day of the first evening reception, a full-page ad appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal promoting the poker room as the “New Face of Poker.” I had a brainstorm: How about the first annual EFI Poker Tournament? I approached Fred Rosenzweig, EFI’s president, who talked to his team. They loved the idea, and they turned on a dime to execute it.
The next morning, Tuecmantel met with my nephew to iron out the details, and by the opening session, the company had printed flyers and placed them on every seat in the massive ballroom. Two nights later, there was a huge poster outside the poker room. Nearly 100 entered, and the event was a huge success. It was amazing that a company so large could make a decision and execute it so quickly.
Next year’s Connect is scheduled for June 10-13 at Steve Wynn’s newest hotel. It’s probably the most opulent venue in Vegas. If you’re an EFI customer, you’ll want to be there. I’m sure they’ll organize another poker tournament.
M. Richard Vinocur is president of Footprint Communications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.