Virtual Fall Conference 2020: The Technical Content, Online Exhibit & Collaborative Theme

Back in March, FTA announced its Fall Conference 2020 as an in-person event. But a lot can change in six months.

Since that announcement, FTA’s annual autumn get-together has moved to a fully virtual event. Now known as Virtual Fall Conference 2020, the seemingly simplistic name swap hides a slew of changes. Among them: a completely rethought and replanned slate of technical presentations, a Virtual Exhibit that matches and exceeds the opportunity of a traditional face-to-face trade show, and an attendee experience backed by a suite of first-class technology platforms.

Here, Virtual Fall Conference 2020 Program Chair Paul Lancelle of Miraclon Corp talks to FTA Director of Education Joe Tuccitto about each session’s content, expanded exhibit, innovative attendee experience and overall themes.

Virtual Fall Conference 2020 Logo


The Event

Joe Tuccitto: Virtual Fall Conference 2020 is themed “Collaboration Achieves Perfect Vision.” Paul, why is collaboration such an important facet of a successful print operation?

Paul Lancelle: We all know “collaboration” is a term that can be considered quite trendy and often overused.

But in our world, and particularly in our industry, it’s been proven day after day that collaboration among the key players within the supply chain really does pave the path toward successful outcomes. And, as technology continues to evolve, it’s not just about the players, but also the various platforms available.

That’s what led to us agreeing on this theme for Virtual Fall Conference 2020. I think attendees will see and experience the ongoing commonality and examples of collaboration throughout the six sessions we’re putting on.

Tuccitto: What are the areas of a typical flexographic workflow that Virtual Fall Conference 2020’s session will touch on?

Lancelle: If you look at the history of Fall Conference, at one time this event was more or less known as the “Prepress Conference.” That theme somewhat morphed into “Ink and Color Management” over time, and then there were a few years where the content of Fall Conference was largely focused on FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances) methodology. In recent years, the sessions were largely built around a central “project” as their theme.

What we’ve attempted to do with this year’s agenda is learn from our past experiences in building an overall program that somewhat touches on each of those focal points, and provides an interest across most, if not all, market segments, as well as most of the operational areas including press, prepress and graphics, color management, quality control, and sales and marketing.

“Attendees will still have the opportunity to interact person-to-person with exhibitors. They’ll still be able to view product demos, get pricing information, hear testimonials and see examples—everything they can normally do.”

Paul Lancelle, FTA Virtual Fall Conference 2020 program chair

The Sessions

Tuccitto: There’s plenty of collaboration necessary when it comes to successful plate making, and the absence of that collaboration in the plateroom or on press can lead to consequences in the printed product. How will “Evaluation, Optimization, Control: The Complete Plate Making Package” address the components of successful plate making, and what do its speakers bring in the way of expertise?

Lancelle: Of course, Joe, you know this one is near and dear to my heart. Coming from the plate side of the industry, I can certainly attest that, while most of us as suppliers have historically been pretty good at explaining and training the “hows,” we all could probably do a more thorough job of backing that up with the “whys.” The more plate and pressroom staff understand about the “whys” of a particular process, the easier it becomes to identify when things start going out of whack, how to fix it when it does and, most importantly, how to avoid it in the first place. This session has been developed to largely address the “whys” of the plate making process.

The other key part being covered is how to handle the transition of the multiple plate and screening technologies available today, and how any change impacts legacy jobs and files. That really is a key issue for a lot of printers today, and Kevin Bourquin will be taking a deep dive into some of the options and considerations.

As far as the speaker roster: The session chairs have assembled a really strong group of presenters that covers the range from a technical trainer to plate manufacturer to prepress services provider and a printer end user. Each will be able to provide individual perspectives to a common theme—an excellent example of the “collaboration” theme we’ve chosen.

Tuccitto: Packaging is an essential business. Its need has only grown during the pandemic and as a result, companies in the flexographic industry have had to do more than ever while operating under the constraints presented by COVID-19. Why is it important to address the ways of effectively doing business in the “new normal” in “Moving Through Reality with Virtual Help”?

Lancelle: Well, as they say, “timing is everything,” good, bad or otherwise. This session’s chairs were on a completely different track with its theme originally. When COVID-19 hit, they put their heads together and reconfigured the direction of the session to focus specifically on conducting business in this “new normal.” I’m really excited about the content and I think that a vast majority of our attendees will be, too.

And, you’re right. Despite all of the additional challenges we now face on a daily basis, there are certain critical elements of just doing business—like training, interaction with customers, technical support and multiple HR issues—that can’t be put on the shelf until things get better. This session will provide some creative insights geared toward overcoming these obstacles, presented from varying viewpoints and perspectives.

Tuccitto: Print samples are a hallmark of FTA conferences and in “File Preparation for Successful Print Production,” every attendee will have two samples mailed to them: the same job, printed flexographically and printed digitally. The pair of presenters will then dive into the collaboration in prepress—the file preparation techniques done for each process—and production—the steps taken on press—that streamlined the process.

Lancelle: Absolutely; I couldn’t agree more. This is another session that emphasizes our conference theme of “collaboration.” We all know consistency across different print processes has become the expectation from brand owners. A larger and larger segment of our narrow web market, in particular, is faced daily with the challenge of matching packaging and labels produced both by flexography and digital, often under the same roof.

And that certainly doesn’t happen all by itself. Thanks largely to Steinhauser, we’re going to be able to break down and illustrate this process as well as provide our virtual attendees with the “touch and feel” aspect by having the actual print samples in their hands during the presentations. In addition to having their sleeves rolled up and hands on the actual production part of this project, both presenters are very dynamic speakers and are very passionate about what they do. This is going to be another good one.